By Viv Wilson in Life at The Hall, Growing Up In a Stately Home | 2 days ago
OUR MANSION GETS A FACELIFT: We moved into Hoar Cross Hall during the summer holidays and my parents quickly realised that they had a lot of work on their hands to make the place habitable as well as to earn some money from it. As previously mentioned, there was an East Wing and a West Wing to the house. My dad decided to convert the first floor rooms of each wing into three separate apartments; he had done this at our previous house. This would generate income from rents until we got the main house open to the public. It wasn’t a big job to convert the rooms as the East Wing had four main rooms and two bathrooms already there, which would have been used as guest bedrooms in Victorian times. He made these into two one-bedroom apartments with a bit of stud walling here and there and made small kitchens in the spaces which connected the lounge and bedroom, probably once used as cupboard space. The spiral staircase with it’s green baize door opened onto the inner landing next to the apartments and this is how the servants would have accessed these rooms when bringing the family breakfast trays in the mornings. Where children were to be seen and not heard, servants were to be neither seen nor heard by members of the family and all the areas to the house were accessed via the spiral staircases and then inner hallways and corridors so they could go about their duties quickly and quietly.
My dad spent a lot of his time at auction houses buying and selling antiques and so he went back there again to source carpets and kitchen equipment. He also installed huge electric heaters to keep our new tenants warm. The West Wing was smaller than the East Wing so was made into a two-bedroomed apartment. The tenants entered the house through the basement entrance and used the spiral staircases to get to their homes – so they were a bit like the servants of old, neither seen nor heard by us!
The next change to make was to our own rooms so we cou...
By Viv Wilson in Life at The Hall, Growing Up In a Stately Home | 08th September 2019
THINGS THAT GO BUMP IN THE NIGHT! Going to sleep in a big old house is quite scary when you’re young but going to sleep in a big old house that’s haunted is even more scary!! That first winter at Hoar Cross Hall was like that. Every time there was a windy night I could hear a window banging in the attic – all night long it kept me awake. The next day I would go upstairs to close it but there would be no windows open or even loose. They were all tightly shut as they had been for 20 years. I remember standing there in the attic rooms feeling a tingling down my spine and goose bumps all over as I felt the atmosphere closing in on me - and I quickly legged it back downstairs!
On other nights I would hear people walking along the attic corridor (the attic was the floor right above our bedroom floor) and then at other times I could hear heavy furniture being dragged about – yet there was nothing up there as the rooms were all empty! Other members of the family heard it too and also people that stayed overnight, so it wasn’t the imaginings of a frightened child. There was also nobody else in the house at that point, apart from our family and they definitely weren’t walking about the house at 3am. I loved reading about old houses, mysteries and ghosts but when you’re actually in the middle of it in real life, it’s a bit different!
My parents also heard noises from their bedroom. It sounded like a room full of people talking, like at a party. They couldn’t work out if it was birds nesting under the eaves so they slept in another room down the corridor to see if they still heard it – and sure enough, they did! What was going on? Had we disturbed some lost souls forever wandering in the attics?
One night my mum was woken up by the sight of a little girl ‘floating’ over the bed. She said the girl was wearing a long nightdress and mop cap and seemed to be stretching her arms out to my mum as if she was askin...
By Viv Wilson in Life at The Hall, Growing Up In a Stately Home | 01st September 2019
MOVING HOUSE TO A MANSION: My parents took vacant possession of Hoar Cross Hall in 1970 and the whole process of moving house was done over the summer months. We lived about 20 miles away in an old vicarage with a large garden and lots of outbuildings. This house was about 200 years old and they say Bonnie Prince Charlie marched past it on his way to battle back in the day, for all you history buffs out there! Actually I love history and I think my interest was fuelled by living in these historic houses as a child. My dad used to be a racing driver in the 1950s and before that he did motorcycle racing, often at nearby Donington Park. During the 1960s he ran his own team, Shardlow Motor Racing, travelling all over Europe to race at all the famous circuits, so the outbuildings were always full of bits of racing cars and their engines! All this stuff had to be moved and my dad did most of it by travelling back and forth each day with vans and trailers full of the contents of our house and outbuildings – an enormous undertaking!
My parents with the student helpers on moving day
He knew some students and used to pick them up en route to help and they also stayed on to help tame the gardens which were very overgrown, the grass standing about 2 feet high. As I’m sure you can imagine, after nearly 20 years of neglect, the gardens were a sorry sight having once been very grand. Apparently, when the house was built, there were 20 gardners and the head gardner was pushed around in his wheelchair inspecting all the borders and paths; if he saw a weed it was quickly removed! I couldn’t imagine the grounds ever looking as good as they used to but we certainly had a good try and started attacking the hedges and grass as soon as we moved in. If anyone saw the Chester Zoo mini-series in 2014 about an ordinary family moving into a huge old house to start a zoo then that is exactly what it was like for us. When I saw that programme i...