Historic Houses Derbyshire: Renishaw Hall and Gardens

Renishaw Hall is situated on the edge of the Peak District between Sheffield and Chesterfield. It has been the home of the Sitwell family for almost 400 years having been built in 1625 by George Sitwell, a High Sheriff of Derbyshire.

Renishaw Hall South Front
Renishaw Hall South Front

The Hall was substantially expanded and the gardens developed based on fortunes built up by the Sitwells as colliery and ironwork owners in the local area.

We visited Renishaw in April 2021 during the pandemic lockdown, so the Hall itself was closed to visitors, as was the Sitwell Museum. However with 7 acres of gardens and 300 acres of parkland to explore, we found plenty to see in an afternoon, with refreshments along the way in the courtyard Café.

We hope to tour the Hall once it reopens and see some its magnificent rooms and collections of furniture and art acquired over the years by the Sitwells.

The Gardens

Renishaw: Top Lawn
Candle Statue by the Middle Lawn

The Gardens were originally laid out in an Italianate style by George Sitwell over a hundred years ago, but have since been much developed and expanded.

It is very true to speak in terms of ‘Gardens’ rather than ‘Garden’, in that there are several gardens, divided by yew hedges and pathways, with each having its own character and many containing classical statues and other eye-catching structures.

We started our exploration at the Middle Lawn by the South Front of the Hall. This has a formal design with borders crammed with a wide range of flowers and shrubs, framed by neatly trimmed yew borders. On descending the steps at the bottom of the garden, we found two attractive water features, named rather disparagingly as the Swimming Pool and the Fish Pond.

Renishaw: The Gothick Temple on the Top Lawn
The Gothick Aviary on the Top Lawn

To the west of the formal gardens, the Top Lawn contains the imposing Gothick Aviary, dating back to 1808, and used originally as a conservatory, then an aviary and finally a dog cemetery.

This leads down to the Orangery which now contains the National Collection of Yuccas – impressive in its way, even though it only contains about 40 different species. Apparently the first yucca in the collection was purchased from Tesco Stores in 1979.

A pathway called Lady Ida’s Walk slopes down to a woodland area which contains a small Children’s Play Area. There are various ‘statues’ along this pathway including an elephant and a giraffe and a Mary Poppins silhouette.

Renishaw: Laburnum Walk
Laburnum Walk

To the east of the formal gardens, we headed through the Laburnum Walk to the woodland gardens which were awash with bluebells and wild garlic. A striking central feature is the Classic Temple. There are masses of camellias and magnolias in this woodland area, but unfortunately recent frosts had damaged many of the flowers.

The entry to the Lakeside Walk starts from here, but before descending to the lakes, we exited the gardens area for refreshments at the Café. There are no catering facilities or toilets in the Gardens and you are asked not to take any picnics into that area.

The Lakeside Walk

Lakeside Walk
Lakeside Walk

A word of warning for less nimble seniors. The descent from the Gardens to the lakes is via either a long series of steps or a fairly steep pathway.

But once at the lakes level, we found the paths around the lakes to be wide, flat and well kept, although unfortunately lacking in seats.

The distance around both lakes is about a mile. There are views back towards the house and plenty of ducks, geese and swans to add interest. We noticed a large pike hovering in the smaller of the two lakes.

The Renishaw Vineyard

Along the Vineyard Walk
Along the Vineyard Walk

The Vineyard is a short walk west of the main Gardens entrance. Of course at the time of the year when we visited there was little to see, but we look forward to returning later in the year and taking a tour around the vineyard and sampling some of the still and sparkling wines.

Overall Impressions

Even without being able to visit the Hall, our afternoon visit was very enjoyable The contrast between the formal Italianate gardens and the much wilder woodland and lakeside walks was particularly stark and interesting. In total we walked almost four miles, but hardly noticed it, other than the steep walk back up from the lakes.

Entry to the Gardens at Renishaw Hall is £8.00 for adults, £7.00 for seniors and £3.50 for children. However if you take up annual membership with Historic Houses, you will get free entry to the Gardens, plus free entry to 300 other heritage sites. Enter our unique code STEW05 at ‘Add discount code’ and new members will receive a £5 discount. This also applies if you wish to give annual membership as a gift.

When Hall tours resume, they cost an additional £6.50 per person. They normally take place on Fridays, plus Saturdays and Sundays during August.

We have reviewed several other properties under Historic Houses and see also: Historic Houses versus National Trust – Which to join?

Additional Photographs of Renishaw Hall and Gardens

Renishaw Hall North Front
Renishaw Hall North Front
Yucca Collection in the Orangery
Yucca Collection in the Orangery
Children's Play Area
Children’s Play Area
The Classic Temple
The Classic Temple
Lakeside Walk
Lakeside Walk
Golden Elm by the Lake
Blossom on a Golden Elm tree by the Vineyard

POSTED 29th APRIL 2021 by STEVE HANSON. The photographs were taken by BARBARA HANSON.