Starting from Bakewell, walking over the hills first to Magpie Mine and then past two tumuli in a lonely field, we gradually approached Haddon Hall.
Described by Simon Jenkins in “1000 Best Houses” as “the most perfect house to survive from the middle ages”. Set in the heart of the beautiful Peak District National Park, parts of the house date from the 12th Century, sitting like a jewel in its Elizabethan terraced gardens, and overlooking the River Wye.
I can’t say I disagree with any of that. It survived mostly because the family went to live somewhere more grand, and only visited occasionally, thus preserving it from any destruction – reconstruction for purposes of even more arrogant display.
My favourite part was the Haddon Hall Chapel, white walls drawn upon in the 15th Century. the designs still enchant, and the whole is a lovely example of sacred peaceful space.
Reading Cullen or thinking about Alexander’s Pattern Language helped break down just what it is about this place that created such a sacred space far deeper than that simply created by putting a cross on a wall — the feeling of light and space given by high white walls — and the thickness of those walls, finely crafted windows as deep wells of stone letting in much light, old wood carved with love and skill, the beautiful timber ceiling, the seeming simplicity of the space, but broken up and framed in numerous ways by wooden partitions, these framings changing as your moved, and lovely corners you could not see without movement, the surprise they gave.
The beautiful and detailed drawings in black and white. The fashion for them long gone but these have survived. You feel you are glimsping a different way of relating to the world and a different vision of faith through their lines.
Haddon Hall itself was much the same. The courtyard is simply lovely, a place that invites you to spend time in it:
A little grand for me, but wood paneling brings such warmth to a room, and these stone steps were unique and wonderful:
I loved the blocks and the shape to this fireplace, and oh the wooden roofs. Maybe it’s having grown up with a roof of wood but there is something about them I think, that brings the natural world into a room and creates a feeling that your are being held somehow:
The older parts of the house have lovely thick walls, old battered doors, climbing roses and herbs. This entrance was rather swoony…
Beautiful strips of garden — I was just sad the kitchen gardens have not survived because those are what I love most of all:
But the mysteries of the kitchens remain:
Also remaining are fascinating spaces created over various periods of construction, like this one, created by the building of a defensive wall:
I also loved their little collection of things discovered hidden away long ago and left by their owners, inlcuding copious amounts of dice and some playing cards:
This is a beautiful, welcoming space. Wealth had much to do with that, of course, and there are some of the rooms where you just can’t forget that with their tiresome (though still beautifully crafted) repetitions of family crests — peacocks and boars dressed in frilly ruffs. Everywhere peacocks and boars, at their worst when monumental.
But given its age and organic growing over time, it is again a place of odd corners, sudden surprises, always beautiful craftsmenship of workers who seemed to love the works emerging through their labour. The tiny diamond window panes are shaped and curved to maximise the sun, I have never heard of such a wonderful thing. They frame the gardens and the view of the peaks.
Even the tapestries had some lovely touches, and I don’t usually care for tapestries.
Monkees and serpents and bagpipe monsters!