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We are English Heritage members, so when the weather was forecast to be sunny for a change, I was looking for something we could do cheaply with the kids, and we decided to take a drive over to this property.
I am from Doncaster originally, but Brodsworth Hall is located to the North West of the town so I have never been before today as I lived in the South West of the town.. I was unsure what to expect.
We drove over in the car. We put the post code into our sat nav system and set off from our home in Rotherham by the M18 and then the A1M. We found that once we got off the motorway, there were brown tourist signs along the route, so it would have been easy to find anyway, even without the sat nav.
You can also get to the site by bus apparently using the local Wilfreda Beehive bus service, which I believe is the 203 route from the train station at Doncaster.
Arriving there the site was very busy because there was a special event on involving a brass band performance by Cawthorne brass band. There are similar events happening throughout this summer on Sunday afternoons, and if today's performance was an indication of the quality, then I highly recommend co-inciding your visit with this.
Parking on the site was free, and although it was busy, we were directed to a place to park by an attendant, and we were quickly able to park up and get ourselves onto the site. Entry was via a kiosk which was well staffed. Because we have membership, our entry today was free. I highly recommend membership as the cost for even one visit is quite high.
You can pay to go into just the garden, or the garden and house together. Both are something we got something out of today, though if we were to revisit with the children I think we would just go into the gardens as it was quite dull for them looking around the house, whereas they had a lot of fun in the gardens.
To enter the house and garden: Adults £9.30, Children (5-15) £5.60, concessions £8.40.
For just the garden, this is: Adults £5.70, children £3.40, concessions £5.30.
Compare this to EH membership of £47 for a single adult membership and £82 for a couple, and you only need to go to a couple of places like this to make your money back on the membership.
The house is open in the Summer between 1pm and 5pm. It is a Victorian style house created in the 1860s by the Thellusson family, with some modernisation that occured before the EH took over the upkeep of the house.
You enter the house via the main entrance and into the Entrance hall which has a grand staircase and marble effect walls. We weren't given long to admire this as we felt we were ushered rather quickly by the volunteers working on the site into the Morning Room. We then spent some time in the Billiard room and a grand downstairs room, before seeing the library and some of the rooms that had been more modernised in the house.
The volunteers were very knowledgable about the house and the family who had lived there, but we found them a little forceful. I prefer to wander around and peruse at my own convenience, pausing to look at what I want. Here, the staff were trying to educate us, and some of the staff had me feeling rather uneducated. I think it is good the staff are there if you want to ask any questions, but some of them came across as too eager. They were trying to make the history accessible to my children, but talking to them as though they were a lot older than their age. A slight misunderstanding as my children are so tall people assume they are older, but even when I mentioned their age, some staff were still very dry for the age group. It really made my children switch off.
We then went upstairs to see more of the same - bedrooms that were equipped with half-tester beds, a bedroom that had a boat inspired carved bed, with little steps going up to it. Here though, you couldn't help but feel shame that the family who had last lived here started to modernise it by installing proper sinks in the bedrooms making it harder to appreciate the historical features.
The servants quarters were perhaps most interesting for us to look at as these had not been modernised much at all, and we could see an old television set, a tailors dummy, an old sewing machine, and you just got a better feel for how the people lived there.
We then went down into the kitchen, cellar and pantry. The boys liked the kitchen best as they could see items like the range, and they could compare the items seen on the sides like the old fashioned pots, pans and utensils with the modern items we use at home. Down here, we were not as pestered as we had been in the main entrance and more plush quarters. Perhaps the staff were more worried about people touching the items in the more opulent sections.
There was a token room for the children to play in with a few toys on the floor, but my children just walked in and said oh it is messy in here, and they took one look at the toys and had little interest in them. After telling them not to touch everything else, they were not inspired to touch anything in here either.
Overall, there were lots of interesting items to look at in the house, and some bits were quite untouched, but I wasn't that over-awed by being there. It is not on the scale of grand houses like Chatsworth House, it was just a family home, so to me it was not quite as interesting as I could have found it. The paintings reflected the interests that family members had in sailing and horse racing, and the ornaments and trinkets seemed an odd combination to me. I think if I had been left to just wander and look in my own time I might have got more out of it.
The gardens on the otherhand, were an absolute joy to visit for our family. We really did enjoy ourselves from the moment we arrived, and the children were desperate to stay as long as we could let them. They open at 10am, and close at 5:30. We arrived at about 1 and left not long after 5.
The bit that grabbed their attention most was the Children's play park. This featured a large boat that they could climb on and pretend to sail, some smaller wooden boats suspended so you could wobble in them and really pretend to be on the sea, a large climbing frame, an activity centre with a rolling log walk and balance beams, and some horses you could pretend to race which were mounted on springs and wobbled back and forth. Aimed at under 7s, I felt it was not the best park I had ever seen, but my children really did enjoy playing there. We were happy to let them as there were picnic benches and it was all fenced off and safe for the boys to run free playing.
We then explored the gardens. The gardens are quite large, but it is possible to walk round them in a couple of hours. We managed to cover about 80% of it in the time we were there today. We enjoyed the rose garden which features a tunnel of roses which were grown round supportive arches. We also had fun exploring the summer house and rock gardens that were on different heights so you got an excellent view. The archery area and target house were also a fun place to have a look around.
The garden was busy on our visit, but because it was large and their were little secluded benches, we did feel that we were not overcrowded and could explore in our own time. The wild meadow allowed us to spot some rarer flowers and grasses that you don't spot in tended gardens.
The main lawn featured very well sculptured plants and flower beds, so the visual contrast between the different areas was very apparent to me and I am not the world's most observant or knowledgeable person when it comes to spotting plants and appreciating differences between the garden types.
The boys were in their element as there were plenty of trees to hide behind, and pine cones littering the floor for them to collect and save for later.
I would love to go back and see this garden in other seasons. It was certainly flourishing in the wet summer we have been having.
On site, there is a toilet block that is seperate to the house. I personally didn't visit the facilities but my husband took the kids in while we were there a couple of times, and there was no wait and the facilities were clean and well maintained.
There is also a tea room which we didn't use, but a lot of people seemed to be having hot and cold drinks and pieces of cake.
There is a small gift shop which we walked through leaving the house. It seemed to be the usual sweets and expensive toys that you get in this type of venue.
We did purchase from the ice cream van that was parked on site. This was quite expensive at £2 for a chocolate ice cream cone, but this was a huge ice cream, and it was a luxurious and locally made brand so it was not that bad really.
We really did enjoy sitting on the main lawn listening to the band. The performance went on for about 2 hours from 3pm. It was certainly very busy for this reason, and I would be interested to see if it was as busy on a normal weekend with nothing like this on.
We did enjoy our visit. The grounds had a lot more appeal for our family than the house, but I would say if you are going only once, you might as well see both if you are there. I want to go back at some other time in the year like the autumn to see how it looks when the leaves change colour. I am also tempted by the Enchanted Garden event that they do where the garden is lit up in the evening in October and you can explore it. However, this is not free for me as a member, and would prove to be quite expensive for us to do so I can't see me managing to go along to this.
Children do seem to enjoy the garden more than the house. There has been some attempt both in the house and the garden to make it a little child friendly, but I found the number of volunteers in the house today were a little bit much, and I would have preferred being left alone a bit more to browse and do things at my own pace.
It is worth checking out the English Heritage website before a visit to see if there is anything on at the venue on the day you are going.
Historic houses are one of my passions and in the spring and summer months it is good to jump into the car and head off to see just how the other used to half live. Castles, monuments, abbeys and ruins are fabulous but I do feel that when you visit the grand homes of our forefathers you are able to gain more of an insight into how they lived their day to day lives.
Brodsworth Hall is a huge Victorian English Heritage property near to Doncaster and it is only nine miles from Conisbrough Castle.
Brodsworth Hall is set in 15 acres of ground and when you are on the pathway looking up to the front of the house it is an architectural treat, the hall was built in an Italianate style which was one of Queen Victoria's favoured styles. The hall is constructed from pale stone which looks superb, the face of the hall is filled with large Victorian sash windows, on top of the roof there is an elegant and intricate stone parapet running all of the way around and to the East of the building they have built a porticoed porch, the massive stone pillars are a sight to behold.
The grounds and hall cater for everyone, so don't think that if you have small family you are ruled out of visiting. You can still enjoy the activities within the grounds of the hall, the large open play area has some mini-rocking horses and a full sized boat docked in it. The hall was once owned by the Thellasson family who were a sporting family, so the mini-horses and the boat keep that sporting theme alive and kicking.
If the weather is kind then the children can enjoy a game of `Hide and Seek` there are lots of interesting nooks and crannies to hide away in. Lets put it this way, if the children are going to be chasing around in acres of playground then the chances are that you will get a bit of peace at the end of the day!
If by any chance the weather cannot make its mind up there are a couple of indoor playrooms, for the older children there is a room where they can use interactive tools that will offer them valuable information.
The history of Brodsworth Hall is fascinating, the Thellusson family kept it for many years and it was taken over by English Heritage in 1990.
English Heritage decided to try to restore the hall and to keep it looking exactly as it would have looked all of those years ago and they have succeeded. Once you step inside of the hall it looks `lived in` and loved but some parts look well worn, you can sense that in the past it was a much loved home.
Because the hall is home to lots of mementoes and possessions you could look upon the interior as rather an eclectic mix, here and there you will spot the odd retro piece in amongst the Victoriana.
The salmon pink drawing room is nothing less than spectacular, massive white pillars, enormous crystal chandeliers and furniture that has a patina that could tell so many tales if only it could speak.
But not only will you gain insight into how the previous owners lived you will also learn how their servants lived and what tasks they carried out in their day to day routine.
You will also see bedrooms, the old kitchen ( which looks like it is still being used !) and a collection of other fine rooms whose walls are flanked with wonderful statues.
The gardens at Brodsworth Hall are in pefect keeping with the Victorian era and the grounds are splendid.
You can walk through the fern dell and take a trip through the rose dell, you are surrounded by such precision and beauty. The hedges are exquisitely trimmed and this I know has to be a painstaking task.
There is so much to see in such a short space of time, there is a plethora of plant life and the banks are alive with greenery.
My Mum adores ferns and the fern dell is one of her favourite areas within the garden.
You will also see many statues in the grounds so make a note of them.
I think that the gardens are going to be extra special this year because at the end of 2009 they planted hundreds of new flower bulbs which include bluebells, aconites and snowdrops - so the combination of white, blue and yellow should be quite stunning.
One thing that is really admirable is that the garden has restored to its former glory, they are perfectly in keeping with the hall and there are plants that originate from all over the world in that well cared for soil.
Once you have seen the Hall and walked around the garden you may feel like a drink and hot and cold drinks, light snacks, cake and biscuits are all available in the tearooms - which was once the servants quarters.
Of course the grounds are the perfect place to picnic and we usually take our own drink along and enjoy it outside if the weather permits.
Brodsworth Hall loves to see visitors but I am afraid that baby carriers and prams are not invited in ! But the staff can find you a soft pushchair if you want to go around the house with a toddler.
Sadly no indoor photography is allowed but you can snap away to your hearts content when you are in the grounds.
The toilet facilities are good and very accessible for all and above all they are beautifully clean.
The car park is not too far from the hall but if you are disabled you can park in front of the building and there is an electric buggy that runs back and forth.
There are plenty of seats about in the grounds but there may be some parts of the garden that could be challenging if you are not too fleet of foot.
The shop and the tearoom are accessible to all.
On to the opening times and the charges.
The hall and gardens are open from 1 April - 30th September..1pm until 5pm.
Adult admission averages £8.30 .concession £7.10 and children £4.20 .
English Heritage members get in free.
Entrance to the grounds and gardens is slightly less, Adults £5, concessions £4.30 and children £2.70.
The historic homes are fascinating but maybe the children would not think so.
But at Brodsworth you can have a good family afternoon out in the gardens and grounds and I feel that it is worth a visit if you are in the area.
I first discovered Brodsworth Hall quite by chance. I was visiting nearby Cusworth Hall and took a wrong turn, but faced with a huge country mansion in front of me I didn't actually realise for a while that I was heading towards another hall. Once I realised my mistake I headed off in the right direction to Cusworth Hall but the image of this hall nearby always stayed with me.
It was about a year later when I was thinking about somewhere to take some friends when I remembered this other hall and off we set. Brodsworth Hall claimed to be one of the best preserved English manor houses in existence but this is a boast that I had heard many times before so when I arrived my expectations were not all that high. First impressions however are usually a good sign and I was right to presume that something that looked so good from the outside couldn't disappoint on the inside.
The hall stands in 15 acres of beautifully landscaped gardens and a couple of hours could quite easily be spent just exploring the gardens. Highlights for me included the miniature Victorian garden and the Rose Garden where there were hundreds of different types of roses in all shapes, sizes and colours. There is a ticket option available that just allows access to the gardens but to be honest it would be a bit of a waste to come here and not explore the house as well.
The house was designed in the 19th century by the Italian architect, Chevalier Casentini. It was built as the family home of Charles Sabine Augustus Thellusson. He inherited the estate in 1859 and the house was built for his family to live in. It continued to be occupied by this family until 1988 when the last owner, Sylvia Grant-Dalton, a direct descendant of Charles Sabine Augustus Thellusson died. She had lived here for 56 years but the rising costs to upkeep such a large house had meant that she has shut off several rooms and these had begun to fall into a state of disrepair. Following the death of Sylvia Grant-Dalton Brodsworth Hall was acquired by English Heritage. It was assumed that money would be spent returning the house to its former glory but in fact a decision was made to spend very little money. Essential repairs to a leaking roof were carried out and the gardens were tidied up but it quickly became evident that the real charm of this place was that it had been preserved in a way that depicted the changing fortunes of a wealthy Victorian family. This was something that could never be recreated so the rooms were left more or less as they had been found.
From the moment that I entered the lobby I realised that there was a warm ambience to this place. So many houses like this have been turned into formal museums and feel cold and slightly inhospitable. Brodsworth Hall still feels lived in and more importantly it still feels loved. This might have something to do with the fact that the present descendants of the family still live on this estate in another private house, but they visit here regularly and no decisions regarding the house are made by English heritage without their consent.
Inside the house there are over 30 different rooms to explore. To preserve the items on display it is not possible to wander freely around the majority of these rooms as these are roped off but there are walkways through the rooms that allow you to see everything there. The two things that stick in my mind most vividly are the huge chandeliers that seem to be in almost every room and the excessive use of silk, which includes silk curtains, cushions and tapestries.
The grandest rooms are of course the large reception rooms but my favourite rooms of the house were the library and the grand master bedroom and the contrasting plainness of the servant's quarters. The library was one of the areas of the house that was closed off in the years following the Second World War and this is perhaps why it feels like one of the oldest most dated rooms in the house. The reception rooms on the other hand were always a show of strength even when the family's fortunes dwindled and some of the large gold gilt framed mirrors were moved into these rooms from elsewhere along with other items giving some of these areas a rather cluttered appearance that is over the top and doesn't really fit in with the general laid back feel of the rest of the rooms.
Brodsworth Hall is located approximately 5 miles (8 kilometres) to the north west of Doncaster town centre. It is sign posted and easily accessible by car but it is not served by public transport. There is a large car parking area just inside the entrance.
Both the hall and gardens are open daily (except Mondays) between March and September when they are open between 1pm and 5pm. During October they are only open on Saturday and Sundays between 10am and 4pm. During the period November to February the main hall is closed, except for the servant's wing. This, and the gardens are open on Saturdays and Sundays between 10am and 4pm.
Admission charges for the hall and gardens are:
Adults - £8.50 (13 Euros)
Children - £4.30 (7 Euros)
Concessions - £6.80 (10 Euros)
Charges for the gardens only are:
Adults - £5.00 (7.5 Euros)
Children - £2.50 (3.75 Euros)
Concessions - £4.00 (6 Euros)
Entry is free for English Heritage members.
Telephone: (01302) 724969
Fax: (01302) 337165
Overall I think Brodsworth Hall makes for a great day out. It is always good to see how the other half live (or lived).
A beautiful Victorian country house errected around 1860 offers a stunning garden where more than oft enchanted garden and summer band concerts are taking place.