Visiting a National Trust property on a showery day can make sense, in that you can look around the house (or shop and tea room) when it is raining, and tour the gardens and parkland between the showers.
Well that was our idea when we visited Hanbury Hall in Worcestershire on a wet weekday in May, and our plan worked relatively well, although our parkland walk proved to be very damp underfoot. It was during the school half-term holidays, which usually results in crowds of visitors, but the inclement weather meant no queuing to visit the house or tea room.
The Hall and Gardens are close to the car parks, although if needed there is a buggy that runs between the Visitors Reception and the Hall.
The Hall itself was built in Queen Anne style in about 1706 for Thomas Vernon, a very successful London lawyer. It was in effect his ‘holiday home’, and he and his wife Mary were thought to have visited for only a few weeks a year, when they would entertain friends with lavish parties.
The main reception room is dominated by John Thornhill paintings on the walls and over the staircase. They focus on the life of Achilles, as we were helpfully informed by one of the National Trust volunteers. Indeed the volunteers in each of the rooms proved excellent, providing just the right amount of information along with interesting anecdotes about the Vernon family.
The Dining Room is particularly imposing, set out in opulent style for fourteen people and contrasting with the nearby small closet for one-to-one conversations.
I was fascinated with the large collection of William Hogarth engravings in one of the upstairs rooms, including a moralistic series called ‘Marriage á la Mode’.
The gardens are a very special feature of Hanbury Hall, having been designed by the eminent landscape architect George London for Thomas and Mary Vernon. He also designed the gardens at Hampton Court for Queen Anne.
The most striking part of the gardens is the Sunken Parterre with its neatly cropped box hedges. But don’t miss out on the Wilderness, the Fruit and Vegetable Gardens and the Grove with its tranquil aspect.
The Orangery has many potted and boxed citrus plants, kept inside during the winter months, but neatly arranged in front when we visited.
During a short rain shower, we visited the exhibition in the Long Gallery of works by the Japanese artist Takumasa Ono. He has been working with the National Trust for over nineteen years and has produced over hundred paintings of its properties, including Hanbury Hall itself. His unique style shows buildings with curved sides – quite a pleasing appearance when you get used to it.
There is no extra charge to enter the exhibition and it continues until November 17th, 2019.
A leaflet given out at the Visitors Reception shows three walks, 1, 1.2 and 2.2 miles in length. We opted for the long walk which circumnavigates the northern part of the estate, with a spur off to the parish church of St Mary the Virgin.
Although the walk was initially along a surfaced gravel path, it soon continued over grassland. The thick grass, interspersed with sheep droppings, was quite difficult to walk along and way markers were few and far between. So I have to admit we got a bit lost along the way and somehow managed to miss out the church.
On a dry day, this walk would be considered quite leisurely, with only shallow inclines, and we look forward to completing it successfully next time we visit Hanbury Hall.
A convenient place to stay is the Holiday Inn Express Droitwich Spa just by the M5 and only four miles from Hanbury Hall. Although the hotel could do with a bit of renovation, this was made up for in part by the helpful staff and good breakfast.
Other Heritage Sites in Worcestershire
Other National Trust properties in Worcestershire include Greyfriars’ House and Garden in Worcester and the half-timbered Fleece Inn in Evesham.
The main English Heritage property in Worcestershire is Witley Court and Gardens.
The house itself is a ruin after a fire in 1937, but the parterre gardens and monumental fountains make a visit well worthwhile.
POSTED 1st JUNE, 2019 by STEVE HANSON. Photographs were taken by BARBARA HANSON.