If you’ve visited us at Hatchlands, there’s a good chance you would have stuck your head into our old stable in the courtyard. In its heyday the courtyard would have been a bustling hub of activity with servants running back and forth between the kitchen, the horses, the coach houses, the engine room and the coal hole. The old stable is our last little bit of that “working” area that has not really moved into the modern world!
This winter we’ve been trying to spruce up the stable and make it a bit more of a feature of the courtyard, and that’s where you might be able to help us! In one corner of the stable is a curious little cubby hole, once used for storing hay. It lost its sliding door many moons ago, and has just remained a curious hole with no purpose.
We’re now trying to give it a purpose. Our hope is that that this curious little cubby hole will become a snug little nook for some of our smaller visitors to hide away in and relax for a few minutes in our cosy little quiet corner. Lit from above and lined with cushions, it is just missing that extra little something… and that’s where you come in!
See that empty panel at the back? We don’t like empty panels. We’d like to fill it with a beautiful scene. Maybe a view of tranquil parkland? A window into Fairy-land? A glimpse into the past? We’re open to suggestions. If you have an idea that you think you could pull off, get in touch with us. (E-mail email@example.com) All we need at this stage is to hear your concept. The Hatchlands team will then pick the idea we like best and take it from there!
Please note, we wouldn’t be able to pay you for this, it would hopefully just be a fun project for you to sink your teeth into. We could pay reasonable expenses within an agreed limit.
If you’re up for the challenge, or know somebody who might be, get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org and do spread the word!
Happy New Year, readers! I’m hoping that January is not too late for you to tolerate one last little bit of Christmas. It was only just over a month ago, after all. We had a great Christmas here at Hatchlands and I hope you all did too. One Sunday in mid-December we had great fun, with a visit from Miller’s Ark Animals and a certain jolly fellow dressed in red, so here are a few pictures for you to enjoy, courtesy of our wonderful volunteer photographer, James Duffy.
By Christmas 2015, Hatchlands will have undergone a bit of a change. From Sunday 15 February (just a couple of weeks away!) the parkland, shop and cafe will then be open every day of the year, with the exception of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. This is a really exciting shift for us and we can’t wait to have visitors here all year round. It does of course mean that next Christmas we have the opportunity to do something a little more than we’ve done previously. If you have any suggestions of what you’d like to see, we’d love to hear them! Until, keep the Christmas spirit going, and we’ll see you in a couple of weeks!
In October, things always get a little quiet here at Hatchlands. The house closes for the season at the end of the month, and with the miserable weather outside it never seems to be a great time for people to visit, so we do see our afternoons getting a bit quieter than usual. This year we decided to do something a little different and experiment during that quiet time, testing out a few things that we could do in future, while giving our visitors who come at the end of the season the chance to see some thing a they might not have done otherwise.
On Thursday afternoons throughout October, we’ve been experimenting with lighting our main showrooms by candlelight. The first week we lit the house entirely by candlelight, and although it looked stunning, it was too dark. So this week we went for an “evening light” vibe. Shutters and curtains were still closed, but electric lamps were on, augmented by the candlelight. I’m pleased to say I think this worked really well, invoking a wonderful atmosphere (the open fires in two of our cosy rooms helped improve matters as well, on a wet, cold Autumn day) and we had some very positive feedback. Here is just one comment I’d like to share with you:
“The candlelight has really enhanced the atmopshere of the house. I have noticed paintings and chandeliers that have passed me by before, but now they glisten.”
These photos were taken by our excellent volunteer photographer, James Duffy, but don’t miss the chance to come and see the rooms for yourself. You’ve got two more weeks to see the house like this, on Thursdays 16th and 23rd October. Do let us know what you think, and whether you’d like us to try again next year…
This autumn we’re carrying out some repairs and redecorations to our house. If you visit us in September and early October you’ll see scaffolding along the west front of the house. You’ll also see some scaffolding in the courtyard where we’re carrying out essential repairs to the chimneys right at the top of the house.
This is all part of a rolling programme of repairs to make sure that we keep the house looking beautiful. This type of programme ensures that any repairs to the fabric of the building will be picked up before they become a problem. We are committed to preserving this historic building as well as the collections inside it. You’ll probably see this sort of thing happening a lot in National Trust places up and down the country. We’ll do this front of the house this year, then over the next few years we work our way round the different faces, have a few years off then start all over again! This is the first time the west front has been done while I’ve been here (it had just been done the year before I started, I believe) so I’m looking forward to the most striking part of the house all looking shiny and new again. We’ve also flagged up a few problems which will have to be planned in for the future. Did you know that the six windows facing you down the right hand side of the house (if you’re looking towards it) are all fake? There’s a reason behind that which I’ll save for another day, but they’re not visible from the inside of the house at all – which makes repairs to them a little bit tricky, so lucky that they’ve been identified as a problem now, ready to sort them out over the next few years.
When you head around the back of the house, you’ll see more scaffolding in the courtyard. This time we’re fixing a chimney. Earlier in the year it became apparent there was a problem with it, so scaffolding was put up in the courtyard to catch any small bricks that might fall (but we’re pleased to say it hasn’t!) and we sent up a drone to do a survey of all the chimneys and rooftops. I have to say that was great fun watching that fly around, and the pictures we’ve got from it are quite something!
You might think it’s odd that we don’t wait until the property has closed at the end of October. Unfortunately this type of work always needs to take place in the warmer September weather. It’s important that the paint and the mortar has a chance to dry and we can be certain that all jobs are completed before autumn frosts begin. If you’re visiting us this time of year, hopefully it won’t detract from your visit. We’ve got lots going on inside the house to make up for it, like our musical tours and candlelight opening. Check our website for details, and come back again when we’re all finished to see for yourself the results for yourself!
If you’ve visited Hatchlands, you’ll probably know that we have lots of paintings in the house. In fact if you’ve been in the house at all, you couldn’t fail to notice! One painting, which is in the first room you visit, is particularly striking, and people often ask about her. This is Catherine Cobbe, an ancestor of our tenants, daughter of Thomas and Lady Betty Cobbe. Catherine Cobbe made her society debut at Dublin Castle in 1777, where she was described by Lady Louisa Conolly as ‘not so beautiful as, but vastly in the style of’ Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire. Curiously, to achieve her stunning figure, the young Miss Cobbe used to hang herself from an iron staple fixed to a the ceiling, so that her maid could lace her bodice as tightly as possible!
Catherine was appointed one of the Bedchamber women to Princess Caroline following her marriage to the Prince of Wales, later George IV. She was dismissed from this position however, as the Princess feared Catherine was much too friendly with one of the Prince’s former mistresses. Also in the Drawing Room are portraits of George IV, and his mother Queen Charlotte, which brings me nicely on to where I went last weekend!
About five years ago I attended a National Trust conference, where one of the speakers was a representative from Historic Royal Palaces, telling us all about the refurbishment project that had taken place at Kew Palace (among many other exciting topics!) It has been on my list of places to visit ever since, and I finally made it last weekend.
Kew Palace is situated within Kew Gardens. Entry is free to the Palace, the royal kitchens, and Queen Charlotte’s Cottage, but you do have to pay the entry fee to get into Kew Gardens before you can get to any of these places. I think my favourite of the three was Queen Charlotte’s cottage, where she would sit and have picnics, overlooking the wild kangaroos hopping about outside, isn’t that just brilliant? Visiting Kew Palace then tries to put you almost inside the head of Queen Charlotte, as she tells you about all her (many) children, and you wander around the bedrooms overhearing snippets of conversations between the royal family. It is nicely done – simple but effective. I could tell you lots more about it, but I don’t want to stray too far from Hatchlands!
In short, a visit to Kew Palace lets you find out a bit more about the people behind some of those paintings hanging on our walls. I will try and find other places to visit that might do the same…
Over the August Bank Holiday weekend I attended a service in Guildford in honour of Captain Francis Grenfell, one of Hatchlands’ very own war heroes.
Francis Grenfell and his twin brother Riversdale were born at Hatchlands in 1880 while their parents rented the house. If you want to find out what the owners of Hatchlands, the Sumner family, were up to at this time, and why they were renting out the house, you can read all about it in a previous blog post.
The service was part of a nationwide movement to honour those who were awarded the Victoria Cross during the Great War, with a plaque unveiled in each of their home towns. As Captain Grenfell was born here at Hatchlands, just outside of Guildford, I met up with representatives from Guildford Borough Council some time ago, and collectively agreed that it would be nice to honour him in Guildford town centre rather than just at Hatchlands, where his plaque will be seen by many more people hopefully for many years to come. Captain Grenfell was apparently the third soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross during the Great War. This service, 100 years to the day later, would have been one of the first of its kind happening up and down the country, so it was an honour to be there representing Hatchlands and the National Trust.
From the day’s Order of Service:
Captain Grenfell was awarded the Victoria Cross for bravery while helping to cover the withdrawal from Mons, the British Army’s opening battle of the First World War, on 24 August 1914. Twice wounded and brought back home to recover, each time he returned to the Western Front. Francis was killed in action at Hooge in the Ypres salient on 24 May 1915; he was 34 years old. His Regiment carried his body 5 miles out of the lines, to bury him in Vlamertinghe churchyard, today a site of reflection and tranquillity.
King George V wrote to the twin’s guardian and uncle: “The Queen and I are grieved beyond words that your gallant nephew has fallen in battle. I was proud to give him his nobly earned Victoria Cross and trusted that he might live to wear it for many years. Our heartfelt sympathy.”