A house of secrets…
One very hot afternoon last week, I headed up to Worcestershire to carry out a couple of family errands and to reward myself with a visit to my all-time-favourite historic house – Harvington Hall.
This isn’t the first time I’ve written about it. After a Christmas trip I wrote a post for Mists of Time explaining some of the historic background – which in essence is: Elizabethan moated manor, incorporating older hall section. Famous for having at least seven priest hiding holes, created by NIcholas Owen, none of which ever gave up their secrets during the time they were being used.
Oddly enough, in all the many years I’ve been going to Harvington, I don’t remember going before on a sunny day. I wondered how it would affect the atmosphere, because although I’ve always loved it, you couldn’t really call it a particularly warm house. The word I’d usually used to describe the Hall was brooding.
But I may have to revise my opinion after the latest trip.
I get the impression that Harvington is having a bit of a resurgence. Back in the 1960s when I started going, it felt as if it was only a few winters away from ruin, now it almost feels inhabitable!
And now instead of an overriding atmosphere of broodiness and secrets, it actually feels warm and welcoming. The creaking floorboards sound like people having a good time rather than ghosts shuffling across a room.
I’m going to stop waffling on now about how wonderful it is and just show you a few of the photos I took.
This is new – now you can really see how a Tudor kitchen might have looked.
I loved this little touch (although I think they should have some adult sizes too).
One of Harvington’s secrets here. This isn’t really a fireplace, just a dummy which conceals one of the hiding places – neat!
And there’s another hiding place here – but you can’t see it – a clue: the vertical panel on the top right rotates to give access to a hide. It would have been hidden behind a bookcase originally.
The herb garden has been created in a tiny space between the Hall and the moat, you can’t tell it’s there unless you know where to look – a green secret.
Years ago I couldn’t imagine wanting to spend the night at the Hall, but now, I’m not so sure.
The original staircase was stripped out and reused by the Throckmorton family at Coughton Court – this is a recreation. Oh and there’s a hide under the stairs too.
One of the new secrets about Harvington is that the food served there is absolutely wonderful. You can eat in the tearoom which is in the oldest part of the Hall, or take your lunch outside – beware the rapacious ducks.
The Elizabethans were singing and playing. I’m not generally a fan of this sort of thing, but on that afternoon it felt perfect. My eldest daughter says that if she were ever queen, she’d insist on being accompanied everywhere by minstrels…
And finally, the secret of the wall paintings. They’re very faint, you might want to click on the gallery to have a better look. Imagine just how amazing this old brick and timber house would have been in its painted hey-day.
Well, I couldn’t end without another window… looking out over the moat.
Harvington Hall is owned by the Catholic Archdiocese of Birmingham and obviously greatly loved and cared for by a host of devoted, friendly and enthusiastic people. It may not be the grandest house, it may not have any major works of international renown, it may not be on many visitors top-ten attractions list, but it is and always will be my favourite – summer and winter.
For visitor information, see this link here.
17 thoughts on “Harvington Hall, Worcestershire”
Would you believe I’ve never been? My children went to catholic schools in Worcester so they naturally have visited Harvington on school trips. What they don’t know about priest holes isn’t worth knowing.
I know what you mean, we live about 2 miles from Woburn Abbey and I’ve never been through the door in twenty years. Of all the houses I’ve been to with priest holes, this is by far the best – well I think so – but not very well known outside Worcestershire.
Lovely, Anny! It looks a fascinating place, especially with the wall paintings and the option of dressing up as an Elizabethan visitor! I love the herb garden, too, that looks beautifully designed.
It can feel like a time-warp place – although not so much last visit perhaps, but it has a certain atmosphere I think you’d like it very much.
Fascinating place – glad you enjoyed it in sunshine too.
It was quite a revelation I can tell you – I didn’t take many pictures of the proper garden I realised when we got home, but it’s very beautiful, someone obviously takes a lot of care of it these days.
Glad to see I’m not the only one who likes to try on the dressing up clothes – only when no-one else is around of course!
Oh wouldn’t it be wonderful to have the place to yourself and swan around in period costume – sighs.
Lovely! I’m going to have quite a list of places to visit on my next trip to the UK 😉
I’m sure I could make your list very long indeed! Give us the heads-up when you plan to come and I’m sure we could point you in plenty of suitable directions 🙂
It looks like a fascinating old house. But you were right the first time… I wouldn’t want to be staying there overnight either.
I know, it creaks in a pretty alarming manner, but if that didn’t put the wind up you, I’m sure the apparent lack of any indoor plumbing/bathrooms would clinch it for me.
Anny, we used to go to Harvington many years ago, and haven’t been for ages. You have reminded me of how wonderful it is, and of course we now plan a visit; many thanks.
It still exudes magic – and have a look in the moat for the enormous fish.
What a superb place! I would have loved to have vistered this place…but your text and photgraphs give such a good picture…
Oh thank you Helen, if you ever come over, I’d be happy to take you there!
Loveely blog you have here