Hanbury Hall is a large stately home, built in the early 18th century, standing in parkland at Hanbury, Worcestershire. The main range has two storeys and is built of red brick in the Queen Anne style. It is a Grade I listed building. The associated Orangery and Long Gallery pavilion ranges are listed Grade II*. From the Norman Conquest onwards, the Hanbury estate was within the boundaries of the Royal Forest of Feckenham. Feckenham's royal status was lost in 1629 and local families like the Vernons bought up land to increase their own estates.
Hanbury Hall was built by the wealthy chancery lawyer Thomas Vernon in the early 18th century. Thomas Vernon was the great-grandson of the first Vernon to come to Hanbury, Worcestershire, Rev Richard Vernon (1549–1628). Rev Richard and his descendants slowly accumulated land in Hanbury, including the manor, bought by Edward Vernon in 1630, but it was Thomas, through his successful legal practice, who added most to estates, which amounted to nearly 8,000 acres (3,200 ha) in his successor Bowater Vernon’s day.
Hanbury Hall is thought to stand on the site of the previous mansion, Spernall Hall, and Thomas Vernon first describes himself as ‘of Hanbury Hall’ in 1706, and this and other evidence leads to a likely completion date of about 1706. The date of 1701 above the front door is thought to be a Victorian embellishment, but no building accounts are known to exist.
Although Hanbury Hall appears to be of a very uniform style, the rear wall is clearly of a different and rather earlier style, and may mark the first phase of a building campaign when Thomas Vernon and his wife Mary first came into possession of Spernall Hall in 1692 when his bachelor uncle John Vernon died.
A notable feature of Hanbury Hall is the painting of the staircase, hall ceiling, and other rooms by the English painter Sir James Thornhill. They include a small representation of Rev Henry Sacheverell being cast to the furies – this relates to an incident in 1710 when Sacheverell, a Tory, was put on trial for sedition by the Whig government, and dates the paintings to that year. The focus of the paintings around the stairwell is the life of the Greek hero Achilles, as told by a range of classical sources. They are surmounted by a large representation of the Olympian gods on the ceiling.
The original plan of the Hall had a large undivided central hall with the main staircase leading off it, with many rather small rooms in the corner pavilions and north range – the south range was given over mainly to service rooms. The 18th century Worcestershire historian Treadway Nash, in his Collections for the History of Worcestershire, wrote “Here is a large handsome house built by Counsellor Vernon about the year 1710 when a bad style of architecture prevailed; many windows and doors, rooms small, many closets, few arched cellars, large stables and offices in full view, are marks of that time”.
When the heiress Emma Vernon (1754–1818) married Henry Cecil, 1st Marquess of Exeter in 1776, Cecil clearly was of the same opinion, as he remodelled the interior (other than the great hall) creating larger rooms and enlarging the north east pavilion. On the south façade, having removed a doorway he repositioned all the windows to lie under their first floor equivalent. On the south side there had been large formal gardens, clearly shown in Dougharty’s perspective drawing contained in the estate maps of the 1730s, and Cecil swept all these away (including the farm buildings in front of the Hall) and landscaped the park in the fashion of the time – he would have had contact with Capability Brown when being brought up by his uncle 9th Earl of Exeter at Burghley House.
Following Henry and Emma’s divorce in 1791 the contents were all sold, and the house remained empty until Henry’s death in 1804, when Emma and her third husband, John Phillips, were able to regain possession. As the house had lain unoccupied for so long, many repairs had to be carried out at that time. Emma died in 1818 and left her second cousin, Thomas Shrawley Vernon (1759-1825), as the heir to her estate after the death of her husband John Phillips. Phillips married again and had two daughters in Hanbury before finally moving out in 1829.
From then, the eldest son of Emma's heir, Thomas Tayler Vernon (1792–1835), was able to occupy it. His grandson Harry Foley Vernon (1834–1920) MP, was created 1st Baronet of Hanbury in 1885, and was succeeded by his son Sir (Bowater) George Hamilton Vernon (1865–1940), 2nd Baronet. Sir George led an unhappy life, separating from his wife Doris, and spending his last 10 years living with his secretary and companion Ruth Horton, who later changed her name by deed poll to Vernon. During this time the agricultural depression led to a reduction in rental income, and Hanbury Hall suffered a lack of care.
In poor health, Sir George Vernon took his own life in 1940. There were no further heirs to the Baronetcy which became extinct. Sir George's estranged wife was able to move back in after his death, dying there in 1962. In the meantime, negotiations had led to the National Trust having the reversion, and after making essential repairs on Lady Vernon’s death, the hall was let to tenants and opened to the public on a restricted basis. In recent years the hall has been managed more commercially and is now open daily.
** – The Gardens – **
Hanbury Hall is the very essence of a countryside retreat; impressive yet intimate and welcoming. It owes much of that feeling to its beautiful, recreated eighteenth century gardens. The original gardens were designed in 1705 by George London, predecessor to other renowned designers Kent, Brown and Nash. He was the most celebrated garden designer of his time creating gardens for royalty and nobility at Chatsworth, Hampton Court and Kensington Palace.
The English garden was influenced heavily by Dutch, William of Orange’s Gardens at Palais Het Loo as well as those of Louis XIV at Versailles. In their interpretation by George London, garden designs became softer and more incorporative of the surrounding English Landscape. London created gardens where his patrons could escape the tumultuous early eighteenth-century world within his formal designs, using mathematical precision and newly discovered and imported plants; he created a safe haven for drama, fun and recreation.
Later, as the Landscape movement gained momentum through the mid-1700s, formal Parterres and closely trimmed topiary gave way to more relaxed, Brownian landscapes. Towards the end of the eighteenth century, the gardens at Hanbury were also swept away, replaced with wide open spaces and uninterrupted views. They remained as such for the next 200 years.
The formal designs of George London were mostly lost due to the changing fashions in garden design at the time. Perhaps only one original garden remains, at Melbourne Hall in Derbyshire but other London gardens have been faithfully recreated, first at Hampton Court Palace in the Privy Garden and then at Hanbury Hall in the Great Garden.
In the early 1990’s work began on the recreation of London’s garden at Hanbury Hall. Not a trace of the original garden remained but using London’s original 1705 plans along with other historic plans and drawings, the National Trust's Gardens and Park Manager, Neil worked with a team of experts to determine the layout of the topiary and hedge framework that made up the stunning structure of the Great Garden. Historic planting guides were also used to select appropriate plants to fill the parterre and surrounding borders with colour and scent throughout the seasons.
"It has been a privilege seeing the garden develop over the last twenty one years it seems like only yesterday that the grand opening took place. Like all great gardens they change and develop over the years, their character matures but like Peter Pans they never really grow up."
On 28th July 1995, the gardens were officially opened and since then, the gardening team at Hanbury have lovingly and patiently maintained this recreated historic gem. Hanbury’s garden is now one of just three of its kind in the country. So whilst we continue to celebrate Brown’s momentous achievements in landscape design, let’s also remember to celebrate the quiet perfectionist gardens of George London at Hanbury.
After the foggy mornings and dark evenings of winter, enjoy the beginnings of spring as life returns to Hanbury’s gardens. From beds of colourful tulips to buds of delicate blossom, our gardens are finally waking up. Spring is the ideal time to explore Hanbury’s gardens. From mid-February onwards we start to see early signs, as the trees begin to show hints of green once again, the buds start appearing in the borders and the first of the new lambs arrive out in the park.
The first signs of spring come with the appearance of swathes of snowdrops around the gardens. Typically the best display is lining Cedar Walk from the Great Garden all the way down to the Ice House. Daffodils typically follow in March and April - quintessential sign of spring with their bright-coloured blooms; see them at their finest down in Kytes Orchard.
Elsewhere, look out for the signs of the Parterre’s ribbon border returning to life. The explosions of stunning, bright colour are carefully planned with thousands of bulbs planted every autumn ready for the following spring. With a colourful array of tulips, daffodils and hyacinths the parterre is sure to be filled with impressive colour and scent. The lovely old Walled Orchard is also a must see, here their gardeners grow 56 varieties of apples including Golden Pippin, Howgate Wonder and the traditional Bramley. In spring, they are always assured a stunning display of pink-tinged apple blossom on the branches. Be sure to stop and take a look at the trees heavy and laden with blossom in May!
It’s a great time for wildlife watching too. Hanbury provides the ideal habitat for birds, insects and a whole host of other animals and is a great place to watch the wildlife go by. After the long winter, migrating birds return to spend summer in the garden. The return of the birdsong dawn chorus is a sure sign that spring is on the way. Spot chiffchaffs from mid-March, swallows and house martins from mid-April and swifts in late April or early May. Also, look closely and you may spot a small brown bird blending in with the bark of a tree - as it creeps upwards, reaching the treetop canopy before flying back down again, know that you've spied a treecreeper. One of the favourite sights in the spring is the new ducklings. They’re frequently seen down at the Mirror Pool or following mum around the gardens and Stableyard.
Spread over one and a half acres, the productive Walled Garden is certified organic by the Soil Association. The spring months are some of the most productive here with a bountiful harvest of winter leeks, kale, cabbages and rhubarb. Top of their gardener’s to do list at this time of year is to harvest the early produce for use in the tearooms and for sale at the produce stall in the garden for you to enjoy at home.
Over in the tearoom, delicious warming soups are made with Hanbury grown produce. Rhubarb from the Mushroom House is used in their freshly baked cakes and crumbles. Even the eggs are fresh from the chickens which live down in the Walled Garden too. The Walled Garden has also been home to their chickens since 2010. They currently have Bantams, Pekin and Dutch Gold as well as White Leghorn chickens and four Cheshire Blues. They usually feed the chickens between 1.30 and 2pm each day, so stop by and say hello. You’ll also find our bee hives in the garden too which are looked after and cared for by their volunteer beekeepers, Tim and Lucy.
** – Historic Walk – **
Starting and finishing at Hanbury Hall's gardens, this leisurely walk takes you around Hanbury Park, where you'll find a variety of trees and wildlife. The walk is classified as Easy and is one and a third miles long. It should take around 45 minutes. Free parking is 150 yards, toilets, shop and tearoom available.
** – Black Walk – **
If you want to explore further than the Hanbury estate, this trail offers walkers the option of detouring slightly to the Hanbury village church. The walk is classified as Easy and is one and a half miles long. It should take around 45 minutes. Tea-rooms serving light lunches, hot and cold drinks and cake. Toilets including baby change unit and disabled access. There is a shop and there are water bowls and dog waste bins. This is a dog-friendly walk.
Start: Hanbury Hall and Gardens car park
** – Visiting – **
There are plenty of places to enjoy good food at Hanbury Hall. From their hearty lunches in the Servants’ Hall to delicious afternoon tea served in Chambers, you’re sure to be spoilt for choice. Here at Hanbury they are proud to use home-grown, organic seasonal produce from their very own Walled Garden. The fantastic team of dedicated gardeners work hard to provide many of the delicious fruits and vegetables they use.
Pick up a good read. Visit their new second-hand bookshop in the summer house in the stableyard and pick up a bargain. All money raised goes towards the upkeep of Hanbury Hall and Gardens. They always need donations, so why not have a clear out and bring books along on your next visit?
** – Facilities – **
Location : Hanbury Hall, School Road, Hanbury, Droitwich Spa, Worcestershire, WR9 7EA
Transport: Droitwich Spa (National Rail) then bus or taxi - 4 miles. Bus routes: Worcester to Birmingham 354 (passing close Droitwich Spa train station), alight Wychbold, 2 miles.
Opening Times Park: Daily, 09:00 to 17:00; Earlier in the winter.
Opening Times House: Daily, 11:00 to 17:00; Until dusk in the winter.
Tickets Whole Property: Adult $12.00; Children £6.00.; Under 5 free
Tickets Whole Property Group: Adult $11.00; Minimum 15 people.
Tickets Park + Gardens : Adult $8.00; Children £4.00.
Tel: 01527 821214