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East Midlands Haddon Hall, Derbyshire

A virtually unchanged fortified manor house and a much loved family home of the Manners family

Haddon Hall is one of the nicest stately homes we have visited. It is only a short distance from Chatsworth House, but is completely different. Set high on a cliff overlooking the River Wye, it is a virtually unchanged medieval fortified manor house. It is one of the seats of the Dukes of Rutland. Between 1700-1912, they lived in Belvoir Castle and Haddon was left unlived in and untouched. In 1912, the family moved back into Haddon and began work on the restoration of the hall and gardens.

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The first building on the site dates from the C11th and belonged to the Peveril family, and was passed on to one of their tenants, William Avenal. In 1170 it was acquired by Richard Vernon who married Avenal’s daughter. The Vernons were responsible for most of the buildings apart from the Peveril tower and parts of the chapel which were already there. In 1558, the heir to the manor, Dorothy Vernon eloped with and married John Manners and the hall has been in the hands of the Manners family ever since. They later became the Dukes of Rutland. It is still their family home, although the medieval rooms are open to the public.

It is a lovely walk from the car park on the A6, through wild flower meadows and over a bridge across the River Wye to the hall, reached up a flight of stone steps leading to the north west tower. A gateway leads into the outer courtyard.


Near the entrance is a small MUSEUM with old coins, keys, padlocks, wrought iron window hinges, pieces of old glass, clay pipes, lead shot, dice, playing cards and the clock mechanism. There is the death mask of Lady Grace Manners, the daughter of William Cavendish and Bess of Hardwick, who founded the Lady Manners School to provide free education for poor boys in Bakewell and Rowsley.

Haddon Hall is a very attractive long low crenellated stone building set around two courtyards with the great hall separating the two. The best time to visit is June when the lovely old roses which scramble up the stone walls are in flower.


The house is surrounded by attractive gardens, which stay open until 8pm on Thursday nights in June and July.

The lower garden below the long gallery has a centre square of grass with a small ornamental pond.


Along two sides is a wild flower border full of yellow rattle, red campion, ox-eye daisies, buttercups, plantains and ragged robin. The walls of the house are covered with old fashioned climbing roses and in front is a herbaceous border with poppies, cranesbill, violas and foxgloves.

Steps lead to the terraced upper garden with lovely views across the Wye valley. It is planted with hostas, Solomen’s seal, Jacob’s ladder, lavender, mullein and irises. In a corner is a small parterre garden.



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Haddon Hall cont - the chapel

The CHAPEL is in the corner of the lower courtyard with steps leading down into it.

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It is an attractive oblong building with simple nave and south aisle, dating from the C12th. A carved wooden screen separates the chancel with the family pews from the nave with simple wooden pews which would be used by the servants.


On the north wall of the nave is a two decker pulpit with readers desk below.


There is a stone slab altar in the chancel with a beautiful carved alabaster reredos with scenes of the crucifixion on it.



In the windows are pieces of medieval glass. The east window has the crucifixion with the Virgin Mary and St John.

In the nave is a replica of the lovely alabaster monument to Robert Charles John Manners who died in 1894 aged 9. The original is in the chapel at Belvoir Castle. He was the eldest son of Henry John Brinsley Manners, Marquis of Gransby and his wife Violet, who designed the tomb. On the base are cameos of Henry and Violet as well as their other children.

The walls are covered with wall paintings.


On the west wall is a design of leaves and flowers which is immediately recognisable from the Haddon Hall Minton china so popular in the 1960s and 70s.

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At the back of the south aisle are three skeletons, in black outline.


On the south wall is St Christopher.


On the north wall and in the chancel are smaller pictures showing scenes from the life of St Nicholas including blessing passengers in a small ship and another of small three small children in a tub with kneeling figures receiving a blessing.

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Haddon Hall cont..

Steps lead up from the lower courtyard to an archway into the SCREENS PASSAGE with a stone flag floor and wooden panelling on the right separating the C14th Banqueting Hall. There is a Roman altar in honour of a local god identified with Mars.


On the left are the MEDIEVAL KITCHENS which are some of the best preserved in the country.


On either side are the pantry and buttery. At the end is the kitchen with a king pin beam supporting the roof. This has two large fireplaces with big boxes to hold the wood used on the fire. One was the boiling fireplace. The other was the roasting fireplace with spits for cooking meat. These were turned either by a young boy or a dog. There is also an alcove with a large iron boiling pot heated by a fire below which was used for making soups and broths. Beyond, in a separate room was the oven. There are plain wood work tables and a huge chopping block. Large stone tanks held water and were fed by a spring. In a small room off is a selection of dole cupboards, used to store bread to be distributed among the poor.


The BANQUETING HALL is C14th and separated from screens passage by a wooden screen. Above is the minstrels gallery


Originally there would have been a central fireplace with a louvred opening above. Now there is a large fireplace on one wall. The hall has a wood beamed ceiling and panelled walls with antlers. On a raised dais at one end is a massive table made from two planks of elm sitting on legs with splayed feet. On the wall behind is a late C15th tapestry.


Behind is the PARLOUR which was a private family room.


The panelling dates from 1545 and there is a lovely carved frieze round the top with shields of the Vernon family and the boar’s head which is the family crest.


The wood ceiling is painted with small black and white squares and larger squares with the Vernon shield, Talbot dog and Tudor rose.


Two carvings in the window recess are Henry VII and his wife, Elizabeth of York.


Above the fireplace is carved ‘Drede God and Honour the Kyng’. There is a long dining table which is still used by the family, with carved oak cupboards on the walls.

A passage leads out into the gardens.



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Haddon Hall cont..

Steps from the banqueting hall lead to the GREAT CHAMBER above, which was originally a solar.


This is a lovely room with wood beamed ceiling and panelling round the fireplace. The bay windows were added in the 1540s. The broad plaster frieze round the top of the wall was added by John Manners in 1567.


On the walls are Flemish tapestries with woodland scenes. There are two wooden tables with carved high back chairs. In a corner is a small harpsichord. There is a lovely old wood carving set in an alcove, but there was no information about it.


A step leads down into the EARL’S APARTMENTS. A panelled screen separates the long narrow room into an antechamber or dressing room with a small corner fireplace, old chest, chair and tables.



The far room was the EARL'S BEDROOM. There are Flemish tapestries on the walls and a tortoise shell mirror over the fireplace. It is furnished with C17th furniture.


Up more stairs is the LONG GALLERY which was one of the last rooms to be built and was finished about 1600. It replaced three smaller chambers and was designed for exercise. It is a glorious room and the highlight of Haddon Hall.


It is a very long and light room with three large bay windows with diamond panes of glass overlooking the gardens. The rush matting running down the centre of the room accentuates the length. The panelled walls are covered with the arms of the Vernon and Manner’s families, with the boar’s head of the Vernon family and the peacock of the Manner’s.


This theme is continued on the plaster ceiling.


Along the walls are chairs and stools. At the far end is a huge oak chest. Above the fireplace is a large painting of Haddon Hall by Rex Whistler in 1933, with the 9th Duke of Rutland and his son looking across the valley.

A small wooden doorway with steps up leads from the long gallery lead up to the ANTEROOM and STATE BEDROOM.


The anteroom is a simple panelled room with two tables and a beautifully carved oak cupboard.


Steps lead down into the garden. The state bedroom beyond is now the video room. On the walls are more tapestries. Above the fireplace is a splendid overmantle carved with Orpheus charming the beasts, with large telamones on either side.

Haddon Hall is a very rewarding place to visit with its air of timelessness. It is lovingly cared for and a pleasure to walk round. Visits are free flow and you wander and enjoy at your own speed. We first visited about ten years ago and it made a big impression on us. It still does.


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