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Walking Over Haddon in The Peak District

I confess I'm a fair weather walker, which means I often want to walk on our holidays, but whether we go is always dependent on the weather. I have a Goretex jacket but it's like a talisman. I own it, but I don't want to wear it and I hope vainly that just by having spent so much on it an schlepping it with me that it's going to ward off the rain! As you can see my travel planning involves a good deal of "magical thinking!" In California our cultural exuberance (paired with low standards) means we shamelessly call anything a "hike"  - as if we've scaled Everest in an afternoon. Here in England I'm not sure I even qualify as a "walker" because that denotes a level of seriousness I've failed at previously. Minimally it means you're wearing boots  and have an Ordnance Survey map (and possibly a compass) in your back pocket. I guess I'm more of stroller to be honest and I've blogged about my strolls all over the world; m…

Haddon Hall - A Glorious Country Manor House

Visiting historic houses is one of my favorite things to do in England and Derbyshire is a county that  offers an  extraordinary triumvirate of sites; Hardwick's Elizabethan glamour, the palatial splendors of Chatsworth and Haddon Hall, described by Simon Jenkins as "the most perfect English house to survive from the Middle Ages."  The joy of a visit to Derbyshire is that in visiting all three you can see the English country house through a variety of lenses and periods. 
In his definitive tome, England's 1000 Best Houses Jenkins goes on to say of Haddon, "It has none of Hardwick's promiscuity or Chatsworth's bombast. It has not changed because it never needed to change". 
Indeed the house has remains in the hands of the Manners family since 1563 and is currently occupied by the Duke of Rutland's brother and his family. As they say on the website it has avoided, " fire; warfare;  family misfortune and changing fashions" and as such provides a "unique view of English life and history". Neglected by the family through the 18th and 19th centuries in favor of the grander seat at Belvoir Castle, Haddon escaped  "improvement" and "modernization" that may well have compromised or eradicated its medieval character. Architecturally it is all the better for having been ignored.
This fortified manor house is a charming spot and a delightful place to visit, I highly recommend it. In mid-June I was particularly happy to find the gardens in full bloom. 
It is a medieval and Elizabethan delight. The scale is comprehensible and familial, this is clearly a hall and not a castle or palace. The  current buildings date from the late twelfth till the fifteenth centuries as you can see in this map and as Jenkins suggests  history seems palpable here. Built around an two  courtyards, the earliest parts of the house are clustered around the lower courtyard which you enter from the North West tower gate. The first rooms on the ground floor include  a chapel, fortified wall, and historic kitchens
The chapel has some interesting frescoes, a modest serenity and beautiful light.
Below the  surprisingly intimate banqueting hall or Great Hall would have been the communal living space when it was constructed along with the extensive kitchens in 1370. 
The large kitchen complex with multiple  fireplaces (below) and a room dedicated for butchery and dairy, illustrates the large retinue of family, sevants and visitors that gathered at the Hall and had to be fed.
The family apartments and the surprisingly intimate Great Hall make it easy to imagine the domestic life of the period. 
There are dining  rooms and receiving rooms and upstairs are family apartments  from the 15th century with carved wood, large fireplaces and decorative ceilings.
 Below you can see a Tudor rose on the decorative ceiling...
In the earlier periods the house  was added to consecutively over many years and the later upstairs Elizabethan Long Gallery stands in contrast to the earlier ground floor construction. To me it has a serene, quiet charm. Jenkins says it "is not as spectacular as that at Hardwick" but I think it's a stunning room, light and somehow more relatable than the echoing grandeur of the enormous equivalent at Hardwick Hall. 
Here you can imagine the room filled with visitor and music from the three harpsichords. 
The space reverberates with history and yet it still appeals to the contemporary eye.  I think perhaps it's because the room has a plenty of symmetrical lines and open bright space without being cluttered. I particularly loved the small panes of leaded glass inserted a slight angles in the windows in order to catch the light. The Elizabethan additions to the earlier manor indicate the distinction and transition between fortified manor house and country mansion. This distinction illustrates a changing transformation of English society following the War of the Roses. There's also a shift towards the expansion of the private quarters in these homes. 
From the Long Gallery you enter into the romantic tiered gardens which are very much worth seeing. Unusually the gardens straddle the line between grand formality and the charm of a cottage garden. Deep herbaceous borders combine with attractive climbing roses covering both stone garden walls and the elegant facade of the house. The garden in its current incarnation is the work of garden designer Arne Maynard whose redesign commissioned in 2010, incorporates elements from the Elizabethan Age to the Roaring Twenties. The terraces, stone steps and balustrades remain from the original Elizabethan garden, and like architectural elements in the house they are the happy survivors from a diet of neglect.
 
The views back over the house and across the open fields are idyllic, there is just such a charm to the place. It's grander than your average manor house but far homier than the stately piles at Chatsworth or Hardwick Hall.
This is still very much a family home and a section of the house, and garden around the upper courtyard, remain occupied by  Lord Edward Manners  the brother of the current Duke of Rutland. 
If the house looks familiar that may be because you've seen it in television series like The Other Boleyn Girl and Wuthering Heights, or as Humperdinck's castle in the movie The Princess Bride. It is  used frequently for filming and there was a film crew making preparations in on the day we visited, though they wouldn't share what they would be filming. 
I'll be blogging about our visits to Chatsworth and Hardwick  as well as  a lovely circular walk we took from Haddon Hall. Starting from the car park  we went to Over Haddon and Bakewell before returning to  via the river path. I highly recommend a visit to Haddon Hall. This is a lovely part of the country and a delightful country house. I hope you've enjoyed the tour and if you have any country houses to recommend please leave me a comment. If you would like a longer introduction to Treasure House Hunting in Derbyshire and the houses mentioned here it might be worth checking out this article in the Washington Post.


Tip: Check with your hotel, we were able to buy prepaid tickets from them which reduced the entrance cost.


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