Middleton Hall in North Warwickshire near Tamworth, may be small, but it has unique architectural features and its large walled garden and nature trails combine to provide a rewarding heritage experience.
As we approached Middleton Hall from the car park, the buildings appeared almost like a museum of architectural styles over the last thousand years.
With most historic houses, the property-owners have completely removed previous dwellings when erecting a new building in the latest style. But not with Middleton Hall, where medieval buildings co-exist with a Tudor house and the main Georgian building.
The Hall buildings were almost derelict in 1977. However from 1980 onwards, an army of volunteers organised by the Middleton Hall Trust have almost completely restored not just the buildings, but also the gardens.
When we visited in early September, the buildings and gardens were open after being closed for several months due to the coronavirus pandemic. Pre-booking was required as visitor numbers were limited. Social distancing within the hall, gardens and grounds was well organised.
Middleton Hall Buildings
We commenced our visit of the Middleton Hall buildings with the medieval Stone Building, the oldest domestic building in Warwickshire, dating back to 1285. Most of the beams in the unusual barrel-vaulted roof are original.
The nearby Tudor Jettied Building is to open as an exhibition of the life of the naturalist John Ray, but this had been delayed by the pandemic. Jettied, by the way, refers to fact that the upper floor of the building projects over the lower floor.
The main Georgian Building is entered via the Kitchen, which features a Georgian cooking range.
Several rooms in the Georgian building were open to the public, with exhibits providing interesting insights into the lives of the many owners of Middleton Hall.
In 1086, Middleton Hall was mentioned in the Domesday Book as the home of the de Grandmesnil family. Philip de Marmion was given ownership in 1285 and erected the Stone Building.
The Manor of Middleton was then held by the de Freville family until 1493 when the Willoughby (sometimes written as Willughby) family acquired it by marriage.
It is thought that Elizabeth I stayed at Middleton Hall (in the Jettied Building) when she visited to knight Sir Francis Willoughby in 1575.
A later Francis Willoughby lived in the Hall in the mid-17th Century and gained fame for his mathematical and naturalist skills, working with John Ray, who also resided at the Hall for a short time.
The Willoughbys ceased to live in the Hall in 1802 and leased it to tenants including John Peel cousin of Sir Robert Peel, the Prime Minister who founded the police force. There is a small Peel Museum, but unfortunately this was not open when we visited.
The final room on the tour of the main building is the impressive Great Hall with its 128 spindle staircase.
Following our tour of the Hall, we headed to the nearby Tudor Barn where there are several small independent retail businesses, including a coffee shop and a specialist gin store. We opted for the former on this visit.
The walled garden dates back to 1717 and was one of the first gardens in the country to have heated walls.
It has been restored very effectively in Georgian style with a wide range of flowering plants and has a water feature in the centre and an original Bothy building in the far corner.
The nearby Herb Garden has a Smithy which features demonstrations by a volunteer blacksmith on Wednesdays and special event days.
The large Orchard next to the Walled Garden had an abundance of fruit when we visited, with apples and pears almost falling into our pockets as we walked around!
There are two short Nature Trails both leading to Middleton Pool, which was man-made in the 16th Century by gravel extraction. There was a good range of bird-life at the pool when we visited, including two grey herons.
Both walks are well maintained and have no inclines. However they are relatively short, only a few hundred yards in each case.
For visitors who wish to exercise their legs further, then the RSPB Middleton Lakes entrance is just by the car park and offers walks of two or three miles or more in its 450 acre estate.
Middleton Hall and Gardens provided an excellent half-day heritage experience for us senior travellers. However it may not be so attractive to families, as there is little to interest children other than the Nature Trails.
Entry to Middleton Hall and Gardens is just £6 for adults. Under 16s are free. Check here for opening times.
If you take up annual membership with Historic Houses, you will get free entry to Middleton Hall, plus 300 other heritage sites. Enter our unique code STEW05 at ‘Add discount code’ and you will receive a £5 discount. This also applies if you wish to give annual membership as a gift.
We have reviewed several other properties under Historic Houses and see also: Historic Houses versus National Trust – Which to join?
POSTED 11th SEPTEMBER 2020 by STEVE HANSON. The photographs were taken by BARBARA HANSON.