The finest example of a medieval manor house in England.

Haddon Hall is situated around 1.5 miles south of Bakewell, a small market-town in Derbyshire. It stands at the top of a wooded limestone outcrop, with views over the nearby River Wye and its surrounding water meadows. I was taken to a ridiculous number of stately homes when I was a child, yet this one, even to a stroppy eleven-year-old, was fascinating.

A history of the house:

It is known that a dwelling stood on the site of Haddon Hall since well before the Domesday survey of 1087. At this time, the property was in the hands of Peverel, the illegitimate son of William the Conqueror. He was granted the land by his father, and had a home built for himself. All that remains today of this initial construction are parts of the Eagle Tower and the Chapel. The Hall remained in the hands of Perevel's family for around 100 years.

In 1170 the house passed into the hands of the Vernon family, and this date marked the beginning of a long bout of serious construction. In 1195, Richard de Vernon received permission to build a twelve-foot high wall around his home, which at the time consisted of little more than a Chapel and some dwelling quarters. Over the next two hundred years the Hall was added-to repeatedly, until it came to resemble the manor house we see today. The main instigators of this construction work were Richard de Vernon in the fourteenth century, and his descendant Sir Henry Vernon in the sixteenth.

In 1567 the Hall left the Vernons through marriage, and became the property of the Manners family. For this we have to thank Dorothy Vernon, who eloped with her lover, John Manners. It is said that she fled from the house during a ball held to celebrate her sister's engagament. The door through which she is said to have escaped is now named after her. Dorothy and John later married, meaning that she and her husband inherited Haddon Hall. The Manners still own the house to this day.

In 1703, the Manners were granted the Dukedom of Rutland. They then moved to the Belvoir estate in Nottinghamshire, leaving Haddon to fall into disrepair. It was not until almost two hundred years later that the 9th Duke of Rutland decided that his ancestral home deserved to be restored to its former splendour. Along with his architect Harold Brakspear, he made Haddon Hall habitable once again, whilst retaining the romantic medieval and Renaissance feel of the buildings. Today the Hall and its gardens are open to the public and a gift shop and restaurant have been opened.

Rooms worthy of particular note:

The vast kitchen has kept its air of warmth and bustle, despite having remained unused since the eighteenth century. Its great wooden tables are scarred with knife-marks which have been accumulating since medieval times apparently. In its heyday the kitchen was used to cater for huge banquets. A door leads through to the larder which includes a dole cupboard, where the left-overs from such feasts would be stored before being doled out the poor and needy.

The Long Gallery is the room which made the biggest impression on me when I visited Haddon Hall. It dates back to the early 17th century, and served as a showcase for the family's rich collection of tapestries and paintings. Another use for the room was that it enabled family-members to take exercise without having to brave the East Midlands climate. What struck me most was the beautiful light in this corridor-like room. This comes from the clear glass diamond-shaped panes in the windows. This maximises the sunlight in the room during the daytime, and creates a spectacular lantern effect when viewed from the outside at night. The furnishings and artwork are predominantly Tudor, although there is a painting hanging above the fireplace by Rex Whistler, dated 1932, which commemorates the completion of the Hall's restoration.

The Banqueting Hall dates from the fourteenth century, and was the hub of life at the manor. It seated around fifty diners. Its roof was replaced during the renovations of the 1920s, using timber from the Haddon and Belvoir estates. There is a pair of antlers mounted on the wall which are believed to date back to the reign of Charles II, as well as a beautiful tapestry. The Hall was once full of tapestries, but many were destroyed in a fire in 1925. Nevertheless, there remains an important collection of English, French and Flemish works. Around the Banqueting Hall is a Minstrels' Gallery which was added in about 1600.

The Chapel, like the rest of the house, contains a mix of architectural styles, having been added to over a period of around 500 years. Parts of it originate in the eleventh or twelfth century. The North Aisle was added in the fourteenth century, and the chancel was constructed in the sixteenth century. The beautiful wall paintings were originally frescoes of vivid colour in the fourteenth century, before being whitewashed during The Reformation. As part of the Hall's restoration, they were revealed once again, although their colour is nowhere near as vibrant as in the past.

The gardens:

The basic terraced layout of Haddon's gardens originates in the seventeenth century, which places them among the oldest surviving gardens in an English stately home. Some of the earliest work was carried out by John Manners in the late sixteenth century. This garden was left to grow wild when the Manners family abandoned the estate with their move to Belvoir. The gardens we see today are, on the whole, due to the efforts of the 9th Duchess. When she and her husband returned to the Hall at the beginning of the twentieth century, she was shocked by the state of the grounds, and made it her mission to restore them, while her husband concentrated on the house itself. A massive clear-out took place. The creeping ivy was replaced with climbing roses. The planting is cleverly done to ensure both colour and scent throughout the summer months. There are over 150 different varieties of rose and clematis, and many of these plants are over seventy years old. In addition to accomplished herbacious borders and neat lawns, there are yew topiaries representing the boar of the Vernon crest and the peacock of the Manners crest.


Haddon Hall is so very well-preserved due to the centuries when it was left untouched that it has often been used for the filming of period dramas. In 1996 it was used for Franco Zeffirelli's Jane Eyre; in 1999 the Hall hosted Elizabeth; and it has most recently been called upon for the upcoming film adaptation of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. Haddon was also used during the filming of the BBC's The Prince and the Pauper, and Granada Television's Moll Flanders. Wertperch tells me The Princess Bride was also shot at Haddon.

My childhood visit, which, amazingly, has stuck in my memory.

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