Newest Review: ... the modern day visitor, Haddon Hall offers an almost unique opportunity to see a Tudor/Stuart era house that has remained virtually ... more
Haddock Hall? Sounds a bit fishy to me
Haddon Hall (Bakewell)
Member Name: SWSt
Haddon Hall (Bakewell)
Date: 17/05/12, updated on 17/05/12 (86 review reads)
Advantages: A house untouched by history for 300+ years
Disadvantages: Car parking fee not included in admission price
Even if you've never been to Haddon Hall, the chances you may recognise parts of it because it has featured in a whole host of TV shows and films. Why? Because if you're looking for that authentic "olde worlde" history, there's nowhere else comes close.
Haddon Hall is a major tourist attraction in the Peak District (probably second only to Chatsworth) and so is nice and easy to find. Simply head for Bakewell and Haddon Hall is well signed from there. An official car park with plenty of spaces is available on the opposite side of the road to the property which is a leisurely 5 minute walk away. The car park is pay and display since it can also be used as a base for some lovely walks around the area, which is a little bit annoying for those genuinely visiting the property (more on this later).
Haddon Hall History
The reason Haddon Hall is so beloved of film and TV producers is because it is a rare example of a Tudor hall which remains more or less as it was in the 17th century. Originally built by the Vernon Family, Treasurer to Henry VII, it has been passed down more or less unbroken through just two families -the Vernons and the Manners (related by marriage) and is still owned by the Manners family today. This is one of the chief reasons the hall remains so well-preserved. The other is that the Manners family was so powerful in Derbyshire that it was able to keep the whole county neutral during the Civil War - ensuring Haddon was never attacked.
Haddon Hall Today
For the modern day visitor, Haddon Hall offers an almost unique opportunity to see a Tudor/Stuart era house that has remained virtually unchanged for over 300 years. The actual site itself is even older and features a stunning medieval chapel (complete with biblical wall paintings and a Norman font) that will take your breath away and is quite unlike any chapel you are likely to have seen before. There is even a section of wall (still integrated into the house) which dates from the reign of King John and the signing of the Magna Carta. A truly historical house, indeed!
Much of the property though dates from Tudor and Stuart times and features the clever use of stone and wood which marked Tudor craftsmen. Beyond a few simple pieces of furniture and some spectacular (if faded) tapestries (some of which date from the Middle Ages; one was given to the Vernon family by Henry VII), there is relatively little furniture. If you're the type who likes to see lots of period style furniture, then Haddon may disappoint you. Personally, I think the Spartan look property is far more evocative and helps you to appreciate the architecture.
Where furniture is present, it has a genuine connection to the house. The kitchens, for example, feature an old chopping block that was used at Haddon to chop up chunks of meat, whilst all the furniture in other rooms have been in use at the house at some point. Going around Haddon there is a real sense of history and continuity. Every picture that you see or story that you read is directly connected to either the Vernon or the Manners family. This makes the story of Haddon a very personal one and you soon find yourself fascinated by the lives of these two influential families.
Each room has at least one (often more) information board in it, giving you details of the history and development of that particular room and pointing out some of the key features. It's also one of the properties where it's worth buying a guidebook (separately priced at £3.50) as this contains a lot of really interesting extra information about the house and its occupants.
Going around the property will easily take you around at least 75 minutes (and that's if you don't stop too much!) and once you've finished, you can look around the small, ornate gardens which offer some superb views over the surrounding Derbyshire countryside. The tour ends with a small, but interesting museum which displays some of the objects which have been discovered around Haddon.
Although Haddon is very well preserved and has some good pathways, its unparalleled level of historical accuracy might cause a few problems for the less mobile. Significant areas (including the spectacular Long Gallery) is on the upper level and can only be reached by a series of stone steps. These are fairly wide and easy to climb, but if you are infirm you might struggle. Similarly, because many of the pathways and rooms in the property have been well-trodden over the years there are areas where the flooring is a little uneven.
Haddon Hall is one of the more expensive properties, with an adult admission for 2012 costing £9.50 (concessions £8.50, children £5.50). However, given what you get to see, this is exceptionally good value for money. I was more annoyed by the extra £1.50 for the car park, which effectively raises the admission price for one person to £11. I appreciate that this is because you can get into the cafe and surrounding walks without paying the admission fee, but it would have been nice to offer a refund of the parking fee when you buy a ticket to the house? Still, I'm being slightly churlish because even at £11, this spectacular property is worth it. If you live nearby, the regular visitor pass (which allows unlimited entry in anyone year) is tremendous value at just £18.
Facilities at Haddon are pretty standard. There is the usual gift shop, a cafe offering a reasonable selection of basic snacks (although we only had a drink, so can't vouch for its quality; anway, we probably won't be allowed back as Mrs SWSt decided to re-decorate the table with her drink). There are some very clean toilets on the approach to the Hall (there is another ladies toilet just inside the entrance to the Hall, although curiously, none for men). For anything else, you need to go into Bakewell, but this is less than five minutes' drive away.
Mrs SWSt had been banging on for ages about how lovely Haddon Hall was. Now that I've been myself, I can see why. If you are a fan of stunning, atmospheric buildings that drip with history, then you really need to add Haddon Hall to your list of places to visit.
(c) Copyright SWSt 2012
Summary: A unique glimpse of the past