Many people pass very close to Brodsworth Hall and Cusworth Hall when travelling along the A1 through South Yorkshire, but few pause to visit. A great pity!
Brodsworth Hall is one of the finest examples in England of a Victorian country house and is surrounded by gardens that have been restored to their Victorian splendour.
Cusworth Hall, just 4 miles away to the south-east across the A1, is an equally fine country house, but from the Georgian period. It is home to an interesting museum of local life and overlooks attractive lakeside parkland.
I always visit Brodsworth before Cusworth. Maybe I like the idea of travelling back in time: initially 150 years to Brodsworth, which is virtually unchanged since it was built and furnished in the 1860s, then another 120 years to Cusworth, which was constructed in the 1740s.
Brodsworth Hall and Gardens
The Hall was built in an Italianate style for businessman Charles Thellusson, replacing a previous Georgian house. The 30 room two-storey house, with nine bays, is built in limestone with a tiled roof.
What I find of most interest when visiting the house is not the grand reception rooms with their original Victorian furnishings, but the much more basic servants’ quarters and kitchen. The interactions between the family and staff are well illustrated – who needs the fiction of Downton Abbey.
Surrounding the house is a series of traditional Victorian gardens in miniature, including a rose garden and rock garden in a gulley.
Cusworth Hall, Museum and Park
The Hall was built for local landholder William Wrightson with no expense spared in its construction. There are several interesting rooms to see, including the Italianate chapel, with its magnificent ceiling paintings, the kitchen, bake-house and the laundry.
Many of the reception rooms now contain museum exhibits illustrating local life, and include everyday items such as household equipment and costumes and accessories. I find it amusing that many of the ‘historic objects’ on display featured in the earlier years of my life!
The parkland slopes steeply from the Hall past well-maintained gardens to three lakes which form a rich wildlife habitat.
Opening Times and Entry Charges
Brodsworth Hall and Gardens are open every day from April to September. During the rest of the year, only the Gardens are open and then only at weekends. The site is managed by English Heritage and Seniors 60+ get a 10% discount on entry charges. More details are given on the Brodsworth Hall website.
If you are likely to visit more than three English Heritage properties in a year, then it is well worth taking out Annual Membership with up to 30% discount for Seniors 60+.
Cusworth Hall, Museum and Park are managed by Doncaster Council and are open almost every day of the year, except Fridays. There are no entry charges; all you pay for is car parking. More details are given on the Cusworth Hall website.
Both houses have tea rooms which serve a range of drinks, snacks and light meals. I personally prefer the small tea room in the old stables at Cusworth – the staff are very helpful and the cakes delicious.
On some Bank Holiday weekends, Brodsworth Church, accessed from the Brodsworth Gardens, is open to the public and offers teas and coffees along with home-made cakes.
Take the Grandchildren
Both Brodsworth and Cusworth are very children friendly. The houses themselves have several features that appeal to children including collections of historic toys and games. The grounds are small enough for young children to walk around, with some places where they can run about freely.
However my grandchildren prefer the playgrounds, found at both of the Halls, and particularly enjoy the wooden boats and climbing frames at Brodsworth.
As an English Heritage member, I can take my grandchildren to Brodsworth free of charge and, as mentioned above, there is no entry charge at Cusworth.
(The photograph of Cusworth Hall is courtesy of Doncaster Museum Service, Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council)