“ The British non profit organisation concerns itself with the preservation of privately owned country houses. The HHA represents 1,500 privately owned historic houses, castles and gardens which are open to the public for viewing, weddings and other special events. „
At first glance the Historic Houses Association could easily be dismissed as an upper class club, a society for the elite to show off their castles and estates to their equally super rich wealthy piers; the Lords and Ladies. But as we all know first glances can often be misleading, and in this case that analogy could not be further from the truth.
What is the HHA?
The HHA supports 1,500 privately owned historic houses, castles and gardens throughout the UK. Around 350 of these houses are open to the public throughout the year. There are more privately owned houses supported by the HHA and open to the public than the National Trust, English Heritage and their equivalent in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, put together.
What the HHA has to offer
For anyone in the position of owning a grade 1 or 2 listed building, then Full membership can be applied for. As this is a somewhat small proportion of the population, I shall not elaborate further on this one. For the average person the best thing the HHA has to offer is its excellent Friends of HHA Membership. This is open to anyone and provides free access during normal opening hours to over 300 historic houses and gardens owned by members of the Association.
Friend of HHA Membership prices
£37 single membership
£60 double membership
£18 additional family member
Children do count in the additional family category, and each property may class the free age group differently, i.e. Newby Hall classes under 3s' free while Ripley Castle classes under 4s' free. So basically if your kids fall into this age group it is worth doing some research as to whether you will need to buy the membership or not.
So basically an average family of four would cost £96 for annual membership. To put this into context if you take an annual membership of a typical historic house in our area which has its own membership scheme, the equivalent cost would be £108. If you add in the choice of over 300 estates to choose from and it soon becomes clear that this scheme provides incredible value for money.
Members also receive a quarterly magazine, the annual booklet; Houses and Gardens which members may visit, amongst other things.
Where can I visit?
For a full list of properties see below link to the HHA website, but to give you an example, in the Yorkshire area alone there are currently twenty properties. We have personally visited the following this year, some more than once:
At this point it is worth pointing out something; to be completely fair and impartial if you are planning to visit one particular property on a regular or exclusive basis then you really should consider using the property's own membership scheme. There can be other benefits for individual property membership such as discounts in shops and cafes, exclusive member events and other promotions throughout the year.
How does the HHA provide support?
The HHA supports historic houses in many ways which include:
- Lobbying on their behalf at all levels from Government down to local council level, supporting businesses, families and the employees they support.
- Supports the 'History matters - Pass it on' campaign.
- Works closely with the Union of European Houses Association.
- Provides technical and specialist advice, seminars and information to its house owning Full members.
- Provides advice for members wishing to offer learning and outreach at their houses.
- Supports the work of the Heritage Conservation Trust, who restore art works within houses.
- Provides a Friends of the HHA Membership to members of the public who wish to support the estates by visiting their properties.
For further in depth information including an excellent UK map search facility to locate properties in your local area visit the website at www.hha.org.uk.
I have just touched briefly here on what the HHA has to offer, and it is heavily weighted from our experience of the Friends of the HHA annual membership scheme. I make no apologies for this as I believe that for the average family this is most significant aspect of what the HHA has to offer. With the beginning of the summer holidays stretched out in front of us like a great void waiting to be filled, finding an economical way of treating the family to some healthy, historic and educational as well as just good fun, can be achieved for the small fee of an annual membership to the HHA.