Newest Review: ... the home of the aristocratic Willoughby family. More information about them can be found inside. Also in the hall are other artefacts and... more
Serenity In A City
Wollaton Hall (Nottingham)
Member Name: t4mof
Wollaton Hall (Nottingham)
Date: 15/07/04, updated on 15/07/04 (226 review reads)
Advantages: Cheap, Beautiful location
Disadvantages: Disabled access, Facilities could be better
The stately home was built in the 1580s for the Willoughby family and its light exterior gives the hall a welcoming atmosphere despite its age. It is no longer preserved as a Tudor house but instead has been transformed into Nottingham?s Natural Museum and each of the rooms over the two floors depicts a different aspect of wildlife.
Admission fees are very reasonable. Any weekday is free (although I suspect a charge may be made during school holidays) and there is a small charge at weekends and Bank Holidays of £1.50 for adults and 80p concessions. Family tickets (2 adults and 2 children) can be bought for £3.80. There is ample parking although it is pay and display. Charges are £1.00 (up to 2 hours) and £2.00 for the day.
Inside the museum, there are various highlights including George the Gorilla. Believed to be about 170 years old, George hangs from a branch in a glass cage. He was imported into England, already stuffed, in 1878 and Wollaton Hall has been his home for many years. Let?s just say that George hangs there in all his glory! On the ground floor you should also look out for a delicate matchstick model of the Hall. Completed in 1984, it consists of 49,149 matchsticks and took 3½ years of painstaking effort.
There are two wide staircases up to the first floor and each is surrounded by more natural history displays. One of these exhibits shows a variety of minibeasts in an authentic back garden which even includes the washing on the line. However, it is puzz
ling to think who may live in this house as the knickers hanging out to dry are the same size as the pillowcase! This has always made me giggle.
Climbing the stairs and turning right leads to a large ?hands-on? room very much aimed at the younger members of the family. Follow footprints of different animals, investigate the unique features of a badger and browse through a selection of animal books underneath the story tree.
You can also discover the world through fossils. The story is very much Nottinghamshire based and you are told of Mansfield baking as a hot desert and the county submerged underwater ? although I suspect this wasn?t at the same time!
Heading out to the south side of the building is home to a life-sized giraffe. Years ago this great exhibit was a magnificent centrepiece in the Grand Hall but in recent times has been moved upstairs to become part of the African Savannah display. You are invited to experience day and night scenes of the savannah and realistic sounds are played as night falls on the animals. It?s not exactly Disney but young children can get quite mesmerised by it.
Following the trail round you come to a room full of dazzling rocks, minerals and precious stones and an insect room containing bees hard at work in their honeycomb nest, stick insects, cockroaches and a busy ant colony. This exhibit is one area of the museum where the animals are live! This room also provides a stunning view of the parkland stretching out in front of the Hall.
As well as the Natural History Museum, Wollaton Park is also home to Nottingham?s Industrial Museum. The exact age of the building is not known, although clues point to the 1740s. The upper floor is likely to have been the servant?s quarters while the ground floor would have housed the stables, brewhouse and dairy. Up until
as recently as 1979 the stables were used for Nottingham?s police horses but when they moved out, the area was converted into a small refreshment area.
The Industrial Museum itself has been open to the public since 1971 and is home to several fascinating machines, many of them steeped in Nottingham history. There is a noticeable oily smell of industry throughout the museum where a cigarette vendor and a clocking in machine, both from the early 20th century, can be viewed.
It is a little known fact (well I didn?t know!) that the idea behind the video recorder was developed in Nottingham and the original device is on display alongside a now-dated 1980s version. Many of the lace and knitting machines used in local factories can also be admired here.
The Transport Gallery within the museum charts the journey of the bicycle and includes many examples of cycles throughout the ages (with heavy emphasis, of course, on the local Raleigh company, with its strong Nottingham connections). There are also two ancient carriages housed here. The English State Landau and the English Post Phaeton, both over 300 years old and believed to be two of the oldest of their kind in existence.
Outside the Industrial Museum is the Gin Yard which presents a huge horse gin, previously used at a nearby colliery. Also look out for an old gas street lamp damaged in a World War II air raid and an unusual post-box known as the anonymous post-box due to having no royal cipher.
Young children might not be as interested in the Industrial and Transport museums and I have only ever visited both areas once. They are worth going to see if you don?t have children to keep entertained while you are looking round. Sometimes there is another charge to enter the Industrial Museum which is the same price as e
ntering the Natural History Museum but if you?re lucky, they occasionally have a special offer where you pay to get into one museum and entry into the other is free.
The rest of the 500 acres of land is open parkland, perfect for picnicking or lazing about on a hot summer?s day and it is not uncommon to be sharing a leisurely stroll with the resident herd of deer. A large lake graces the west side of the Hall and the colourful grounds around an old Camellia House can be accessed. In the height of summer the scent from the hundreds of flowers really hits you.
As much as I love this place there is a word of warning. There are no lifts inside Wollaton Hall so disabled and pushchair access is restricted. I do believe that this is under review though and hopefully, a lift will be installed in the near future. If you have a wheelchair, it may be wise to ring in advance and find out what they can do for you. Pushchairs can be carried up the stairs but it is not easy.
Other facilities include toilets, a shop and an outdoor café with limited undercover seating. The café menu is also very basic, specialising mainly in toasties and drinks. If you are planning on staying all day taking a picnic and enjoying it in the beautiful surroundings is probably more advisable.
Overall, there is plenty to keep the family entertained here and all for a very reasonable price. There are many times we go along just to walk around the grounds or have a kick about with friends. And as a child I used to love running up the hill, on which the hall sits, and rolling back down the grass. And all this can be done just for the price of the parking. And throughout summer there are plenty of ice-cream vans and sometimes a bouncy castle for extra family entertainment.
Opening times are 11am-4pm November to March and 11am-5pm April to Oct
ober. It is open every day except Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Years Day.
So if you?re ever in Nottingham and fancy getting away from the hustle and bustle of the city centre, this is a place definitely worth seeking out.
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