Although our recent road trip revolved around our stay at Malmaison Birmingham, we actually spent more time outside the city, visiting some wonderful stately homes in the region.
There are a surprising number of historical properties to visit in Worcestershire, within half hour of Birmingham, but having visited Croome Court on our journey up, we decided to stick with the National Trust theme and chose Hanbury Hall and Gardens as our next day trip.
The history of Hanbury Hall
Hanbury Hall is a “William and Mary” style country house that was built in 1701 by Thomas Vernon. Beautiful to explore both inside and out, recent restoration and redecoration work means everything looks in tiptop condition.
There’s a wonderful short walk you take to get to the house, which has restricted open hours (usually open in the afternoons I believe), and we were luckily enough to time our arrival with one of the special morning tours that take place before the building is officially opened to the public.
I’m so glad we decided to tag along to the tour, which was given by one of the staff, as we got a great insight into the history of the house and its owners as well as some rather funny stories! We heard about the loves and losses of the Vernon family through the generations, learning all about the black sheep gambler and the forbidden love affair, really bringing the place to life. I think you get so much more from a place by tours such as these, as they draw you into the history of the people behind the building much more than just reading a plaque on a wall.
For example I learnt that the amazing staircase paintings were the work of Sir James Thornhill, whose art can also be found on the Painted Hall at the Royal Hospital in Greenwich and the dome of St Paul’s in London.
Our guide pointed out a hilarious error though. Whoever was involved in painting the Cyclops didn’t really understand what they were, as they painted a man with three eyes rather than one. Oops!
Thomas Vernon, the man behind Hanbury Hall was a well-to-do gentleman in the area, working as a lawyer and a whig MP for Worcestershire. Again thanks to some great, unplanned, timing, we visited the Hall just before the UK General Election and so the National Trust had a special theme running during our visit around politics back in the time of Vernon.
By this point, just days before the election I was pretty sick of politics, but their special event was actually really fun, with staff wearing Vote Vernon rosettes and talking about what campaigning back then was really like. I also learnt something interesting – did you know that the word ‘canvassing’ comes from the days of Vernon, when campaigners would travel round talking to the public carrying their big canvas banners? There’s a little fun fact for you!
A lot of ground to cover
After the tour ended and the house officially opened we wandered outside to check out some of the gardens – we didn’t see it all as there’s a total of 20 acres of gardens and 400 acres of parkland, but I particularly loved walking around the walled garden and the parterre, as well as exploring the orchard and vegetable garden.
Take tea in your own period drama
We finished our stay at Hanbury Hall and Gardens with a trip to the Chambers Tea Room for a cream tea. With all it’s period decor I felt like I was in a different time and with our window seat it was a wonderful place to watch the world go by. The staff were both fun and entertaining really adding to the experience, and I dare anyone to walk past that cake tray without giving in to a sweet treat – especially since a lot of the ingredients come straight from the gardens, such as the rhubarb cake!
Have you ever visited Hanbury Hall and Gardens, or any other stately homes around Birmingham? If not, has our write up whetted your appetite? Let us know in the comments below!