The Music Room, Billiard Room and Conservatory added to 17th century Hasfield Court in Gloucestershire in 1885 provided the Victorian Baker family with all the fashionable rooms required for cultured living. Repairs to the lantern roof of the conservatory, with a grant from the Historic Houses Foundation, will stop water ingress damaging the interior.
Civilised living Victorian style
When William Meath Baker (his mother was the daughter of the Bishop of Meath) inherited Hasfield Court from his uncle in 1865, the house was a fine country seat for a gentleman whose fortunes were founded in the Stoke-on-Trent potteries, but it lacked space to enjoy some of the finer pursuits of a wealthy Victorian gentleman. Employing the architect, Frederick Sandham Waller, Meath Baker commissioned a Billiard Room, Music Room and adjoining Conservatory. The Music Room and Conservatory were adorned with fine stained glass, appropriately featuring musical instruments in the Music Room and apple and rose trees in the Conservatory. The Conservatory is lit by a glass lantern roof and the restoration, with help from the Historic Houses Foundation, is part of a larger plan by the family for the restoration of these rooms and of the surrounding gardens. Outside as well, the gardens give a good indication of the style of Victorian living at Hasfield with a walled kitchen garden, beech maze, croquet lawn and far reaching views from the terrace across the Severn vale to the Cotswold escarpment.
Music and friendship
William Meath Baker was a close friend of the composer Edward Elgar who often stayed at Hasfield Court, joining in family life and certainly enjoying the Music Room. Meath Baker was a keen fan of Richard Wagner and was Steward of West Midlands’ Three Choirs Festival in 1898 when Elgar was also staying with them. When Elgar had his greatest success with the performance of Enigma Variations in 1899, he explained that he had dedicated the music to his friends including several members of the Meath Baker family
“I've labelled them with the nicknames of my particular friends ..... and have written what I think they would have written – if they were asses enough to compose"
The lantern roof construction and the large round headed windows of the conservatory allowed for the cultivation of a range of exotic plants indoors, a popular pursuit not just inside the house but as part of the development of the gardens in response to the introduction of many new plant varieties. The restoration of the Victorian rooms and gardens at Hasfield Court will recapture a golden age for the house when it was filled with music and family life.