By Viv Wilson in Life at The Hall, Growing Up In a Stately Home | 5 days ago
ARISTOCRATIC TRAVELS: Emily Charlotte Meynell, the original owner of Hoar Cross Hall, was probably one of the wealthiest independent women of the late 19th century in Britain. Her property included country estates around the Midlands, a London house in Eaton Square and a villa in Florence. For many years she owned a yacht, the latter a fully-crewed schooner of 380 tons. The family had large financial resources in addition to their estate income, through which they were sustained until well into the 20th century.
Emily cruised the Mediterranean every springtime in her yacht and occasionally crossed the North Sea to the Netherlands and Germany in the summer. During these trips she collected items of beauty and interest with which to decorate and embellish Hoar Cross and the Church of the Holy Angels, which she had built in memory of her late husband.
In 1890 Emily went on a painting trip up the Nile, accompanied by her brother Frederick and his wife Lady Mary plus two friends. She was an accomplished water-colour artist having been a prolific painter since childhood. Much of her adult work was done during her cruises, on her schooner Ariadne, which was acquired by Emily in 1886. It was one of the largest schooners afloat - its scale can be appreciated by the number of crew on board: 20 hands on deck and six under deck. That's nearly as many staff as she had at home! Emily was also devoutly high church and even took the vicar of Hoar Cross on regular cruises with her, having had a small chapel installed aboard.
These two pictures were taken in Africa, possibly from her Nile trip, although there are other photos showing members of the family in foreign climes. Emily cruised the Mediterranean, the North Sea, the Baltic and around the British Isles between 1886 and 1897 - all her trips were recorded in ten leather bound volumes of diaries and logs, all beautifully illustrated with paintings, sketches, and photographs. If ...
By Viv Wilson in Life at The Hall, Growing Up In a Stately Home | 08th July 2019
THE WAR YEARS AND BEYOND: During the Second World War, life in country houses changed dramatically. It was no different at Hoar Cross. The flower borders on the main lawns were turfed over to reduce maintenance and vegetables were grown in areas formerly restricted to flowers. Evacuees from Birmingham came to stay for the duration of the war and they lived in the basement, as it was considered to be the safest place. I imagine that they must have been in the care of the servants as they were living amongst them but it must also have been quite exciting for them to move from a bombed out city to the relative safety of the countryside, although they must have missed their parents of course. Many children in those days never left the cities and towns where they lived and often didn’t know what a cow looked like in real life! To see all the lawns and woods at the Hall must have been incredible for them although I’m not sure if they were allowed to wander around the grounds.
Two of these youngsters returned to the Hall in the mid-1980s and spoke to my mum about the kindness they received from the family. They also told her about the ‘secret airfield’ hidden away in a copse behind the ha-ha wall (the wall separating the bottom of the grounds and the deer park). Apparently aircraft were kept here in readiness for action, it being a Satellite Landing Ground (SLG) site serving Fradley aerodrome, near Lichfield. The Hall was also offered as an Auxiliary Red Cross Hospital during the war but nothing came of this, probably owing to the lack of mains water. However, during the First World War, the Meynell home in London was offered to the War Office and the Red Cross and became a Military Hospital for officers, being used by Francis Meynell himself who was wounded in action.
The deer park, where the secret airfield was hidden
One feature at the Hall was the daily barometric readings; these had been taken since 1880 up u...
By Viv Wilson in Life at The Hall, Growing Up In a Stately Home | 30th June 2019
GARDENERS’ WORLD AT HOAR CROSS: In it’s heyday Hoar Cross Hall had around 28 people employed to keep the 20 acres of grounds tidy and weed free. In Victorian England the most common of all male servants was the gardener. At Hoar Cross the head gardener had numerous under-gardeners known affectionately as ‘digging slaves’! They were responsible for producing fruit, vegetables and growing luxury items in and out of season, much of it under glass. Adjacent to the house was the carp pool and greenhouse area along with a palm house; next to these was a walled kitchen garden. This supplied the house with all its fruit, vegetables and herbs. The palm house produced palms and pot plants along with flowers for the house; these would be brought across to decorate the main rooms when an important function was on.
The ‘bothy’ house was in one corner of the kitchen garden. (A bothy is a simple dwelling on an estate, usually used for gardeners and other workmen). Here lived the ‘bothy boys’ who were young under-gardeners. Their job was simply to sweep the pathways all day and keep the leaves at bay!
There were two elderly chaps, Mr Knight and Mr Dukes, who were solely responsible for the south garden – however, their task was complicated by the fact that they couldn’t get on with one another! Grass was cut by a horse drawn mower, a task carried out by the chauffeur of all people! One of the family told us that back in the early days the head gardener was pushed around in a wheelchair when he was older, inspecting the lawns – apparently if he saw a weed amongst the grass blades he would tell one of the gardeners to pluck it out straightaway!
Emily Meynell Ingram employed a Mr Rowley especially to carry out her plans of planting the yew hedges, of which there were many. At each side of the garden was a long walk bordered by yew hedges down to the ha-ha wall at the bottom. Across the bottom of the gardens were sm...