Monday, 22 June 2015

Hanbury Hall

I always claim that I am above celebrity gossip. There's no Heat magazine for me, no Daily Mail website sidebar of shame keeping me informed on who faces marital ruin because of her cellulite. 

However, I will cheerfully admit that I love reading about National Trust properties like Hanbury Hall near Droitwich. Hanbury was passed down through generations of the Vernon family, who all look very sombre and had extremely officious jobs and made incredibly important improvements to the house and grounds that tell us a huge amount about 18th century horticulture, until Emma Vernon ELOPED WITH A CURATE, forcing HER HUSBAND to rename himself John Jones and live on a farm! That whooshing sound is Hanbury Hall flying up the scone blogger's destination list. I know.


Hanbury Hall

In fact, the story is even better than that:

  • Hanbury Hall was built at the beginning of the 18th century - externally, it hasn't really changed since 
  • It was commissioned by Thomas Vernon, a talented lawyer, who had inherited the estate from his father
  • Bowater Vernon, the son of Thomas's cousin, inherited everything from Thomas and set about spending all of the money as quickly as he could
  • Emma Vernon was Bowater's granddaughter
  • She married Henry Cecil, heir to the 9th Earl of Exeter, and they moved into Hanbury Hall 
  • Emma fell in love with the locate curate, William Sneyd
  • After a secret affair, she confessed all to Henry who gave her an ultimatum - if she renounced the curate they would say no more about it
  • However, when Henry took her to say her final goodbyes to her departing curate, she waited until Henry's back was turned and then escaped out of a window so she could run off to Portugal with Sneyd!
  • Henry was devastated and moved to a small-holding in Shropshire, calling himself John Jones
  • He fell in love with Sarah, a 16 year-old farmer's daughter, and married her - bigamously!
  • He later divorced Emma and remarried Sarah properly
  • Henry and Sarah moved to Burghley House when Henry's father died  
  • Sneyd and Emma also married but Sneyd died two years later
  • Emma returned to the Hanbury area, marrying a local lawyer - when Henry died, she moved back into Hanbury Hall.
There was no portrait of Emma in the house. If you're a fellow scandal fan, you should read about Ickworth - the woman who befriended the Duchess of Devonshire (Keira Knightley) and then stole her husband (Ralph Fiennes) was born at Ickworth and they have a picture of her looking all very innocent in a big hat. But nothing of Emma at Hanbury. Maybe her husband cut them all up or scribbled devil horns on them. 

Hanbury Hall itself is lovely. The highlight of the interior is the Great Staircase, which was painted by Sir James Thornhill for Thomas Vernon. It was good practice for Sir James, who went on to paint the cupola of St Paul's Cathedral.


Hanbury Hall staircase

The gardens are also lovely. There's a bowling green (the first time I've seen one of those) and a mushroom house (ditto).

Anyway. I wasn't feeling terribly positive about the scone situation at Hanbury today, mainly because my last scone mission had been a disaster. I was taught a very harsh lesson: there IS something worse than no scone and that's a stale scone. 

But I needn't have worried because the scone at Hanbury Hall was very good. I don't think it was fresh but it wasn't far off.

Hanbury Hall scone

I will end by continuing my series of Amazing Factoids That Get The Briefest of Mentions in National Trust Guidebooks. Today's nugget comes not from Hanbury Hall itself but from the local church. According to the guidebook, the bells of St Mary the Virgin can often be heard on Radio 4 as the bells of St Stephen's in Ambridge! I've never listened to a single episode of The Archers but I know a good factoid when I see one! Celebrity bells! Amazing! 

Hanbury Hall: 5 out of 5
Scones: 4.5 out of 5
Mushroom House: 5 out of 5

2 comments:

  1. If you visited on the 22nd the scone you would have had was baked (by me) around 8:00 that morning and so was definitely fresh that day. I only made one batch so depending on what time you ate it it was becoming increasingly less 'fresh from the oven '

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  2. Thanks for getting in touch, Alan! I stand corrected - I was there just after 1pm, so clearly I am not very good at guessing the age of a scone :(

    It was lovely though - great job!!

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