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.