Harvington Hall in Worcestershire
This new Tudor Stuff page is devoted to Harvington Hall. Over the next few months it is intended to tell the story of the Hall. You will find out about the Hall’s fascinating history and also get an insight about what happens there today. Don’t forget to check back to see the regular updates – better still, use the RSS feed for this blog.
An introduction to the Hall.
The Hall is situated in the English Midlands – in countryside between the Towns of Bromsgrove and Kidderminster. Most of the Hall was built in the 1580′s by Humphrey Packington, who built on the site of an earlier Medieval Hall.
After Humphrey died in 1631, the Hall passed to his daughter Mary Yate. Mary lived here until her own death aged 1696 aged 85. After Mary’s death, the Hall passed through marriage into the hands of the Throckmorton family who still own Coughton Court near Alcester. For nearly 200 years the Hall was left to deteriorate. Panelling, pictures, books and even the great staircase were stripped out. In places the roof fell in and allowed the elements, ivy and vandals to do their work.
Fortunately, in 1923 the Hall was bought by Mrs Ellen Ryan Ferris and given to the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Birmingham who started the restoration process that continues to this day.
Humphrey Packington was a Catholic in an age when it was forbidden to practise this faith. Despite official disapproval, Humphrey (in common with many others) continued not only to attend Catholic Mass but to also harbour Priests.
Harvington was used as a centre to receive Priests who were trained on the continent of Europe before being smuggled into England. Penalties for these Priests could be extremely severe and households sheltering them were also punished.
Houses could be searched by Priest hunters called ‘Pursuivants’ who would try to catch households unawares in an attempt to capture Priests. It was for this reason that a great many houses had special hides or ‘Priest Holes’ built within them to be used in case of a search. Many of these hides can still be seen across the country but Harvington has the finest set of hides remaining anywhere. It is thought that many of these were made by the master hide builder – Nicholas Owen ( there will be more about this in weeks to come).
As well as the hides, there are many Elizabethan wall paintings – these were hidden under whitewash until they were discovered in 1936.
Nowadays, the Hall is a quiet and peaceful place – it is hard to imagine that it is associated with such a dramatic and often bloody period of English history. The Hall is enjoyed by it’s visitors who come to learn about it’s history through a guided tour or perhaps to enjoy the regular series of ‘living history’ days when the house is brought to life by teams of re-enactors.
The latest part of the Hall’s restoration opened this Easter – the Malt House in the garden to the rear of the Hall has been renovated and opened to the public. Visitors can now learn more about the people who inhabited and worked in the Hall in the past as well as to find out more about how the Malt House was used in brewing.
Of course, all of this is a very quick introduction to the Hall – keep a eye out for updates which will tell more about the Hall. Even better – come and see the Hall for yourself ! click here for details.
(P.S. The Hall featured in the BBC programme ‘ How we built Britain’ – the film taken at the Hall can be seen by following this link.)
May 1st 2009 – See the latest Harvington Hall update here