Haddon Hall, Derbyshire

Haddon Hall is visited by over 50,000 people every summer.  Perched in Derbyshire’s Peak District, the medieval house has an air of permanence. Much of Haddon Hall dates from the 1170s when the Vernon family came to live here.  Even the strongest building materials do not last for ever and nine hundred years later, some parts of ancient Haddon are feeling their age.  The Historic Houses Foundation is funding the repair of two windows which have begun to succumb to the effects of centuries of wind, weather and subsidence. 

 

Who built Haddon Hall?

 

Haddon Hall is a survivor. When the Vernon family married into the Manners family of Belvoir Castle in 1563, they allied themselves with the future Dukes of Rutland.  John Manners preferred to live at the newly rebuilt Belvoir Castle, particularly after he was given a Dukedom by Queen Anne in 1703, leaving Haddon to a long period of somnolence.  Although Haddon was restored in the 1890s, the house was abandoned by the family until Lord Edward Manners and his family moved back in after 200 years in 2016.

 

Rare medieval stained glass

 

The medieval chapel includes Norman stonework from the earliest period of building at Haddon. The East Chancel of the chapel is lit by a stained glass window that dates from 1427-30.  The glass was designed and installed by the Coventry School of Glaziers, leaders in their craft for this important form of medieval artistic expression. It is rare for a medieval artist to be identified by name but this window is attributed to John Thornton of Coventry who also worked on the Great East Window at York Minster and the windows of the medieval cathedral in Coventry. The stonework of the chancel window is buckling due to the decay of the 500 year old internal ironwork.  The funds provided by the Historic Houses Foundation will cover both the cost of repairing the window structure and the restoration of the precious stained glass.

 

Enjoying the Long Gallery

 

The Long Gallery at Haddon is one of the rooms most loved by visitors today, with its views over the countryside of the Peak District.  Originally, it provided members of the family with a place to stroll and admire the great outdoors through the windows, protected from the weather and uneven ground in an era when restrictive clothing discouraged ladies from vigorous exertion.  The lady in question was Dorothy Vernon who is believed to have eloped against her father’s wishes with John Manners, second son of the 1st Earl of Rutland; she and her husband built the Long Gallery around 1570. The panelling is carved with boars’ heads and peacocks from the Vernon and Manners crests in honour of their marriage. The foundations of the bay window, which overlooks the Fountain Terrace, have shifted, threatening the early Venetian glazing, the decorative plasterwork of the ceiling and distorting the panelling. The Historic Houses Foundation’s contribution will allow restoration of the window bay to preserve the Elizabethan room which Dorothy and her husband enjoyed.

 

The grant provided for work at Haddon Hall shows how vital the timely provision of funds can be to secure the structural survival of an important medieval house, described by Simon Jenkins in 2003 as “the most perfect English house to survive the Middle Ages.”

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