By Viv Wilson in Life at The Hall, Growing Up In a Stately Home | 2 days ago
When Hugo and Emily Meynell built Hoar Cross Hall it included a whole estate with it, namely kitchen gardens, greenhouses, stables, a farm and cottages. Old Hall (their original home) was also on the estate and was accessed via a private road, which ran from the main road. By the time the seventies came along the stable block and Old Hall were private houses and another part of Old Hall had been made into a children’s home. Emily Meynell had started this home in the Victorian days, calling it ‘The Home of the Good Shepherd’ but it was for boys only at that time. When we were there it was a mixed home and run by a husband and wife couple. They used to have fetes there in the summer and we would sometimes play there as they had lots of climbing frames and slides. At one of the fetes I was standing next to a crockery smashing stall and a piece of crockery cut my head open causing a huge gash. I ran all the way home screaming and crying with blood pouring down my face – no-one could stop me – and was taken to the nearby hospital to have it stitched up. I still have a huge scar from that cut but luckily no-one can see it!
The private road also joined up to our woods near the driveway and this is the road I walked along every day, up to the main road, to catch the bus to school. It was about half a mile but I hated walking through the woods, especially in the winter when the mornings were darker. I was growing up now and keeping different secrets from my parents than the previous escapades with my brothers, Gavin and Piers; I had started smoking! Going into Uttoxeter every day meant I could buy cigarettes for 30p a pack and smoke them on the way home. I often went up to our attic room to do my homework and write stories but also to have a crafty cigarette. I had also started to help myself to the odd bottle of mead from the banquet stock and kept it hidden in the attic – all typical teenage stuff!
One day, whilst walking round Uttoxeter at lunchtime, I saw a...
By Viv Wilson in Life at The Hall, Growing Up In a Stately Home | 18th July 2021
Life at Hoar Cross Hall was always busy but during the long summer holidays it was easy to get bored. As there was no public transport from Hoar Cross and no other families living nearby, we three children had to make our own entertainment and we were always having adventures and getting up to mischief – a bit like the Famous Five but without a dog! We would roam around the village or explore the basement. My dad was a hoarder and had kept all sorts of stuff over the years including gas masks and field phones from World War 2. The old Servants Hall was now my dad’s workshop and he spent a lot of time down there restoring antiques to sell. He had one of the field phones in his workshop and the other one was in our kitchen at the opposite end of the house. To operate them you would wind a handle on the side and a bell would ring on the phone at the other end. This was how my parents communicated especially when my mum wanted to tell my dad the dinner was ready! But we also had fun playing with them too and would often ring each other up or call my mum from the basement.
In the grounds was The Church of the Holy Angels. Emily Meynell Ingram commissioned Bodley to commence work on the church in 1872 in memory of her husband who had died the previous year. It was generally regarded as one of the finest Victorian churches in the country and was known locally as the “Cathedral of the Midlands”. It was indeed a huge church (for a village) and always open to the public so we would sometimes go and have a look inside. On one occasion there was no-one around so Gavin and I lit all the candles in the church as we thought it looked really pretty and brightened the place up a bit. Oh dear – that was definitely not the right thing to do! A strongly worded letter was sent to my dad from the vicar telling him in no uncertain terms that he should be disciplining his children a lot better than he was. My dad hit the roof about this as he didn’t like people telling him wha...
By Viv Wilson in Life at The Hall, Growing Up In Stately Home | 11th July 2021
It was the end of the summer season at Hoar Cross Hall in 1973 and rehearsals had started for the new venture of Mediaeval Banquets. All the cast would come round to the house each week for rehearsals and my mum and one or two other ladies were busy making the skirts and blouses for the wenches. My mum also made about 200 bibs which the guests were going to be wearing as eating five courses with a dagger can be quite messy! We had a King, a Jester, a Fire-eater, a Halberdier, an organist and various wenches and serving ladies. To launch the banquets my parents decided to hold a Press Reception about a month before and so we all gathered at the Hall one day in early September. There were lots of nibbles and quite a lot of champagne flowing and the newspapers and radio stations turned up to take lots of photos of us all in various poses and record interviews with the cast. It was a lovely, warm Autumn day and many of the photos were taken outdoors (see header photo). I remember it turning out to be quite a party, even though it started at 9.30 in the morning; as the day wore on the organist started playing a few of the songs we would be doing at the banquets, and everyone started dancing and singing along – it was 4pm by the time we finished!
And so arrived the day of the first banquet. All the furniture and costumes from the Chinese Room and Ballroom had been removed and put into storage elsewhere in the house. A local carpenter had made long tables and benches to seat about 200 guests in the Ballroom, which was now known as the Banqueting Hall. We had employed caterers to do the food and the Chinese Room was used as a food preparation area next to the kitchen/café. A bar had been built in the middle of the Long Gallery. I had to sew numbers onto the coat hangers for the cloakroom – it took all day to do 100 hangers! The afternoon was spent laying the tables with mugs, daggers and serviettes. Before 7pm we went to get changed into our mediaeval dresses; Myra (t...