If you’re looking to see the best preserved example of an English medieval and Tudor home, head to the spectacular Haddon Hall. Haddon has been a fortified manor house whose walls were first raised up in 1195, but most of the battlements and towers were built in the late 14th century to be fashionable rather than to keep out attackers. Haddon was added onto in the early and late 1500’s, but the family deserted the home and left it uninhabited for over 200 years! In the 1920’s the 9th Duke realized the historical and architectural importance of Haddon and began restoration work that continues today. The Manners Family, who has owned Haddon Hall since 1584, continue to live there but welcome visitors, like you and me, to explore their dreamy medieval home.
We were there on a very rain and overcast day, so most of my photos didn’t come out as well as I would have liked. Walking through the Northwest Tower and into the courtyard of Haddon Hall, I got goose pimples because I felt like I had just stepped back in time. Off of the flowering vine and ivy covered courtyard, there are many rooms to explore, but we began our self-guided tour in the great hall, which in medieval and Tudor times, was the main communal living space. In those days, the only private bedroom, located above the main hall and usually called a solar, would have belonged to the lord and lady, so everyone else would have slept on the floor in the main hall or in the kitchens. Today, Haddon’s great hall is called the Banqueting Hall. Picture a huge table and fireplace, mounted horns of hunted animals, furs on the floor, tapestries on the walls, and a minstrel’s gallery above. Another interesting room is the long gallery, which was built in Elizabethan times to allow the family to walk along its long length in order to exercise when the weather was poor. Long galleries were also used to play games and to hold balls. Haddon’s long gallery overlooks the gorgeous Elizabethan knot garden which would have been planted with herbs and flowers that have medicinal purposes. Today, Haddon’s other gardens are planted in the Renaissance style on a series of terraces that descend down to the River Wye. They’re an ideal place for a fairytale wedding! Speaking of weddings, I imagine Haddon’s chapel has seen a fair share of them in its long history! Originally built in the 12th century and widened in the 1500’s, the chapel is dedicated to St. Nicholas and still functions as the local church of one of the smallest parishes in England. The chapel’s walls contain rare examples of medieval frescoes depicting the lives of St. Nicholas, St. Christopher, and St. Anne and of three skeletons that were part of a lesson on vanity. During the Protestant Reformation, almost all church frescoes like these were destroyed, but the ones in Haddon’s chapel were whitewashed over and then, later, carefully uncovered and restored in the early 20th century. Although the historian in me was intrigued by the chapel, my favorite part of Haddon Hall was its kitchens. Haddon Hall also has some of the best preserved, intact Tudor kitchen in all of England. Built in the 1300’s, the kitchen is actually a small complex of rooms including a main kitchen with a medieval water boiler and water trough system, great fireplace, and a 16th century carving table, a milk larder with 15th century cupboards that are considered the best preserved in the world, and a butchery with a 15th century trough for salting meat and 17th century game-hanging racks. I love places like the Tudor kitchens at Haddon because they allow us to have a glimpse into the lives of people in the past and to see how they did everyday things like preserve foods, cook, and bake. History can’t get more real and down-to-earth than that!
Location of Haddon Hall
Haddon Hall is located in the village of Blakewell in the country of Derbyshire in England. It’s approximately 1.5 hours outside of the city of Manchester. For specific directions, click on the map below. Haddon Hall is open seasonally, so be sure to check the hours on their website before going.
If you’ll also be visiting Chatsworth House and Estate, Haddon Hall makes a convenient side trip, as it’s only 20 minutes from Chatsworth. We combined both into a lovely day out. For more on Chatsworth, see my post “Chatsworth House: An Opulent Day Out in Derbyshire”.