By Viv Wilson in Life at The Hall, Growing Up In a Stately Home | 27th July 2020
GHOSTBUSTERS! People were always coming to Hoar Cross Hall to either hire the place or to have a look around. In 1973, because of all the media interest in our ghosts, we had a couple of professional ghost hunters asking to stay over one night to try and find the source of the noises. They brought cases full of recording equipment and set it all up in one of the attic rooms. Rather them than me I thought! Then I had a brilliant idea and went off to tell my brother Gavin all about it. As mentioned in my first blog the attic and basement had a row of bells which the family used to summon the servants. Before the three men arrived we spent all day trying out all the bells to see which ones were which. We found that one of the bell pulls in the Chase Dressing Room made one of the bells in the attic ring. We also found that the bell pull in the Morrey Bedroom rang a bell in the basement and a bell in the attic rang a bell in the Long Gallery! Gosh, these people must have been hearing bells ring all day long!
Anyhow, the plan was that we would ring one of the bells right outside their room and when next day they told us about the noises we would tell them that the room for that bell was no longer there – it had been knocked down when the old kitchens had been demolished! Then they would realise that it must have been a ghost ringing the bell and listen to their recordings quivering in fear! Gavin and I were so excited we could hardly sleep that night. Before we went to bed we rang the bell quite a few times until we were satisfied that they had heard it then went to sleep. Next day we went up to see them expecting to hear all about the ringing bells but all they said was that they’d seen a fox running across the fields but nothing else! What a disappointment – our trick had failed even though they had all that fancy equipment to record any eerie sounds - perhaps they just fell asleep and forgot to switch it on. We still thought it was a good trick to play thou...
By Viv Wilson in Life at The Hall, Growing Up In a Stately Home | 19th July 2020
CALENDAR GIRLS AND FRONT COVERS: During our time at Hoar Cross Hall people would occasionally hire the house for a day’s filming or whatever. During the summer of 1973 a photographer from London hired the place for a day and he brought two models with him, one English and one German, and they were taking photos for a glamour calendar. We were told to keep right out of the way as they were taking photos in the gardens as well as the house. Naturally we wanted to see everything that was going on and my younger brother Gavin especially was very keen to watch – so much so that he found a pair of binoculars to follow all the proceedings! We managed to find all sorts of hiding places eventually settling in our attic room to keep tabs on everything. From the attic we could access the roof which was flat in places and meant that we could view all the grounds at the front of the house and the back. We often came up here to run around and explore and in the summer it was a great place to sun-bathe in private - not sure if our parents were aware that we did this!
The girls wore wigs and hair pieces and were being photographed in military jackets with swords and other accessories from the house. They posed either topless or scantily clad in the gardens and in front of a pair of wrought iron gates (by Robert Bakewell, renowned Derbyshire ironsmith) right at the bottom of the garden. These gates linked the Ha-Ha wall. This was a wall which bordered the grounds and had a small ditch on the other side – the reason was that the ditch stopped the deer from jumping the wall; for on the other side was a deer park, although the deer had long since run off and it was just a field when we were there. The Ha-Ha wall is a French invention, the idea being that the recessed design element gives an uninterrupted view of the landscape beyond, so a small wall above ground and the rest below ground next to the ditch which also stopped animals jumping into the garden. It was so calle...
By Viv Wilson in Life at The Hall, Growing Up In a Stately Home | 13th July 2020
HUNTIN’, SHOOTIN’ AND FISHIN’: Most stately homes have the obligatory hunting, shooting and fishing and Hoar Cross Hall was no exception during the Meynell family’s time there. We participated in none of these but the Meynell and South Staffs Hunt used to meet locally to do a spot of fox hunting. They would all gather at different venues around the area and enjoy a drink before setting off. One of their usual places was the Meynell Ingram Arms Public House at the bottom of the village. In February 1972 they had their ‘meet’ at the Hall. We, as the host family, got all dressed up to meet and greet them and local helpers served drinks, usually sherry. I had no interest in horses (unusual for a girl my age!) but the horses with their scarlet coated riders did look very impressive. The pack of hounds were everywhere, sniffing and panting and waiting for the off. My dad tried to make conversation with the Master of the Hounds by asking “So these are the dogs are they?” to which he received a curt “They’re hounds Mr Bickerton-Jones, not dogs!” Oh dear, mustn’t go upsetting the local gentry!
We hated the idea of a little fox being terrorised by a pack of dogs – sorry, hounds - and being ripped to pieces. Gavin and I were actually playing in the woods once when the hunt went by quite near to us – the fox literally ran right past us at such a speed it was incredible! We hoped he would get away and tried to think up all sorts of plans to divert the hunt away from the fox, finally pointing them in the wrong direction as they got near to us! Years later someone we knew rode in the hunt for the first time and came home with blood on her forehead – this was her initiation into joining up; the blood of the fox daubed all over her brow to show it was her first time! It seemed so barbaric.
Me and my family at the Meynell Hunt
The other ‘sport’ was shooting pheasants. This was something that was started by Henry VIII when guns becam...