When David and I were down in Birmingham last weekend, we made a trip to Aston Hall (which is located in the area called Aston about 20 minutes from the center of Birmingham. As an aside, Aston was also the birthplace of HP sauce back in the day...). This magnificent building is built in Jacobean architectural style, which basically means it was built during the reign of King James the VI of Scotland and King James I of England (i.e. early 1600s). I think I have found my FAVOURITE architectural style--seriously, I want to go and visit every other Jacobean style building in the UK!!
Aston Hall was built primarily as a deer hunting estate and private lodging for a super rich noble, Sir Thomas Holte. This is definitely the most impressive historical mansion I have seen. There are a large number of rooms open for viewing. I think I was most in awe of how much of the architectural detail is original to the time the hall was built, like the beautiful staircase:
If you love historical ceiling plasterwork, this is the place for you! All of these ceilings are originals! Such amazing condition and the details are overwhelming:
Despite visiting the Hall on a Sunday, there was hardly anyone there (which is a shame, really). But it did allow us to get some great shots of the house (they allow photography inside).
One of the most awe-inspiring rooms is the Great Hall. What you can't see from the photo below are the intricate details in the wood panelling, the impressive hand carved original marble fireplace, the original floors and another amazing plasterwork ceiling.
I wore my 1937 'Birthday Dress Suit' (McCall 9156) and my matching 1930s hat. I definitely felt like I had walked onto the set of Downton Abbey!
This is the beautiful window at the opposite end of the Great Hall:
The history of the house is fascinating--it saw battle (the Great Siege of Christmas Eve) and even had cannon fire that destroyed a part of the staircase. This was from the battle between the King and Parliament with Sir Thomas Holte pledging loyalty to the King.
Sir Thomas Holte had 15 children but he died after most of his children and didn't have an heir. The house passed onto another relative and then was sold off to an antiquarian--which is probably why it has been preserved so well. While many of the rooms remain in Jacobean style, there are several rooms, like the library, that are in a later style:
During the Victorian era, Aston Hall became the first historical country house to pass into municipal ownership. It was converted into a museum in true Victorian style, complete with giant stuffed lions, giraffes and other oddities throughout the house. The grounds saw tightrope walkers (without nets!), magicians, musicians, you name it! Queen Victoria herself came and opened the museum to the public. The museum also threw special events for the holidays:
Aston Hall is now a community museum managed by the Birmingham Museums Trust. I highly recommend a visit if you are ever in the Birmingham area--it's just a short taxi ride from the main part of town. It's so beautiful and well maintained. A real hidden gem!
I now have a new obsession...I want to check out all the other Jacobean style mansions/houses in the UK. Here's a few links to some I've found so far:
Blickling Estate (Norwich)
Bramshill House (Hampshire)
Hatfield House (Hertfordshire)
Knole House (near Sevenoakes in Kent)
Plas Teg (Wales)
And check out this neat article by Britain magazine with some photos of Jacobean houses in the UK.
Have you been to Aston Hall? What's your favourite historical house?