There are many National Trust properties that I’d like to visit with Hanbury Hall and Gardens having been on the list for a while. Late in the summer I made the journey through the lovely Warwickshire countryside and into Worcestershire where Hanbury Hall and Gardens is situated. I’d been invited to spend the day to find out what it takes to look after a National Trust property and I can tell you I was a little bit excited. Over a series of three posts I’ll be covering the house, conservation and the garden.
You don’t see the house until you turn the corner from the car park and there in front of you is the most magnificent country house. With a sweeping drive and big wrought iron gates it stands proud within the Worcestershire countryside.
To get a really good understanding of Hanbury Hall’s history I joined a tour given by, Tony, one of the many volunteers. We started the tour at the front door and were tantilised by a tale of scandal at Hanbury Hall. The story starts in 1701 when Thomas Vernon brought the Hanbury Hall estate to show people how well he had done. Thomas was a lawyer and MP who had amassed a considerable fortune. The dark wood of the main hall shows the style of the era.
He commissioned Sir James Thornhill, who decorated inside St Pauls Cathedral, to paint on the walls and ceiling of the staircase. Here he was showing off his knowledge and education of Greek mythology. The paintings have recently been restored by the National Trust in order to preserve them for many more years to come.
Thomas married but had no children so his estate was left to his second cousin Bowater Vernon. He doesn’t think twice about spending his inheritance. One valuable thing he did do was to commission a local surveyor to make records of the house and gardens. In 1730 Bowater becomes an MP through bribes and it takes five years before he is asked to leave his constituency. Emma Vernon, 17 years of age and the grand daughter of Bowater, inherits Hanbury Hall. Emma needed to find a husband and marries Sir Henry Cecil, below, who later becomes the Earl of Essex and owns Burley House.
Emma makes many changes to suit the now changes in fashion that were around in the 18th century. One of which was to demolish the gardens and create a flat lawned area. She created a Georgian room to host her female guests. But all was not as it seemed, Emma had an affair with William, the Parish curator, and after four years she told Henry. She runs off with William to Portugal and Henry stays at Hanbury Hall. He starts a relationship with Sarah Hoggins who herself was married, and she then gets a divorce. After Henry passes Emma returns to the house with her third husband and lives there till she passes at the age of 63. She is buried at the place where she and William used to meet.
We now leap forward to the 1920’s and the most colourful character and memorable Vernon within the family, who was also the last Vernon to live at Hanbury Hall. This was George Vernon the son of Sir Harry Foley and Lady Georgina Vernon.
George left Hanbury Hall to work on a farm in Argentina and on his return his parents give him some land. He later inherits Hanbury Hall. He meets Doris Allen, below, the heiress of Allen Shipbuilding, who provides the money to keep the house going. George is a philander and Doris eventually leaves him. Not on his own for long George meets Ruth who becomes his companion. In 1940, when George was in his 70′ he commits suicide. He leaves Hanbury Hall to the National Trust and his other properties to Ruth. Over it’s history Hanbury Hall has seen scandal and drama to rival any aristocratic family and going on a tour really brought it all to life.
In my next post I’ll be sharing the daily conservation work carried out at Hanbury Hall including other rooms within house.
If you’ve visited Hanbury Hall, what was your favourite part?