On 9 August, 29 members and friends visited Haddon Hall, the third outing of the 2014 summer programme. We were again blessed with beautiful sunny weather. On arrival, we congregated in the restaurant, situated in the stable block, for tea or coffee and “home-made biscuits”.
Suitably refreshed we gathered on the steps to the house for a short photo shoot before splitting into two groups for a one and a half hour guided tour. Our guides Olwen Bailey and Mary Lloyd were superb.
Set in the heart of the beautiful Peak District National Park and described by Simon Jenkins in “1000 Best Houses” as “the most perfect house to survive from the Middle Ages” Haddon Hall sits like a jewel in its Elizabethan terraced gardens, overlooking the River Wye. It has welcomed visitors for hundreds of years and it’s beauty and atmosphere never fails to enchant; it is also probably the finest example of a fortified medieval manor house in existence.
The present-day Haddon Hall dates from the 12th Century to the early 17th Century, whereupon it lay dormant for over two hundred years from 1700 until the 1920s, when the 9th Duke and Duchess of Rutland restored the house and gardens, and once again made it habitable. Avoiding fire, warfare, family misfortune and changing fashions, little has changed since, and Haddon provides a unique view of early English life and history. It has been owned by the Manners’ family since the late 16th century and traditionally by the Dukes of Rutland. It is now owned by and is the home of Lord Edward Manners, the second son of the 10th Duke of Rutland.
In the Chapel is a copy of an effigy of Lord Haddon who died tragically and mysteriously on 28th September1894 at Cockayne Hall, the Manners family home in Hatley Cockayne, Bedfordshire, and on the birthday of his younger brother, John, who subsequently became the 9th Duke. This effigy was sculpted over time by his loving and indomitable mother, Violet, the 8th Duchess of Rutland.
After the tour, we repaired to the restaurant for lunch. In the afternoon, we were free to return to the house and refresh and consolidate what we had seen earlier and view the gardens we had only glimpsed during the guided tour. The gardens are accessed through the house, via the top floor down 11 stone steps or from the ground floor down 2 worn steps. There are two terraces and these are joined by a wide stone staircase consisting of 26 steps with stone balustrades on either side. The gardens are planted with flowers and shrubs in keeping with the history of the house.
We left Haddon shortly before 5.00 pm, tired but having enjoyed a wonderful day.