History, tourist information, and nearby accommodation
In the early 16th century Rev Richard Vernon came to Hanbury, and over the next 100 years or so his descendents accumulated land in the area. One of their purchases was a manor called Spernall Hall. In 1692 Thomas Vernon, a successful lawyer, inherited the family estates. Sometime around 1706 he built a grand red-brick house, incorporating bits of the earlier manor. This was the first Hanbury Hall. The house was set in formal gardens, continental in style, with gravelled walks and intricate geometric parterres.
When Henry Cecil, 1st Marquis of Essex, married the Vernon heiress Emma in 1776, he swept away the formal gardens in favour of informal English landscape gardens in the syle of Capability Brown. He had the interior renovated to create larger rooms, though thankfully he left the staircase murals untouched.
Henry died in 1804 and Emma moved back into Hanbury Hall with her third husband, John Phillips. The estate passed through several generations of Vernons, including Harry Vernon, created the 1st Baronet of Hanbury in 1885.
The most impressive feature of Hanbury is the extraordinary main staircase. This is truly a jaw-dropping work of art on a massive scale. Every surface of the walls lining the stair and the ceiling at the top of the staircase opening is covered in extraordinary murals illustrating scenes from Greek myth. The murals were painted by Sir James Thornhill (1675-1734), who was responsible for the Dome of St Paul's Cathedral, the Painted Hall at Greenwich, and the Great Hall of Blenheim Palace, among other high-profile works for wealthy patrons.
We were fortunate enough to visit on the day the Hall celebrated 60 years in the care of the National Trust, so the house and grounds were populated by guides in historical costume representing periods in the history of the house. The guides were extremely good and really managed to convey a sense of the people and time periods in an amusing and entertaining way. Also part of the celebrations were a horse and carriage which toook us from the entrance, up the drive, to the front door of the house. It sounds trite, but arriving in that way really did give us a sense of what it would have been like to be a visitor to Hanbury hundreds of years ago; for one thing, even the neatly gravelled drive jostled us about; I can't imagine how battered and bruised we'd have been travelling on ordinary roads of the day!
There are several circular walks around (and beyond) the estate outlined in the Hanbury Hall guide pamphlet that you get on entering the property. We took the walk to the nearby church, which you can clearly see dominating a nearby hilltop. It was only about 10-15 minutes, across pleasant fields, followed by a short but steep ascent of the hill. But it is worth the effort; the church is fascinating, with the major interest coming from the ornate tombs to the Vernons of Hanbury Hall in the south transept, including that of Thomas Vernon, builder of the Hall, and his spendthrift heir, Bowater.
About Hanbury Hall
Address: School Road, Hanbury, Droitwich, Worcestershire, England, WR9 7EA
Attraction Type: Historic House
Location: 4.5 miles east of Droitwich, 1 mile north of B4090 and 1.5 miles west of the B4091. From M5 junction 5 follow Droitwich signs
Website: Hanbury Hall
Phone: 01527 821 214
National Trust - see also: National Trust memberships (official website link)
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express
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Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low-exceptional) on historic interest
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