By Viv Wilson in Life at The Hall, Growing Up In a Stately Home | 7 days ago
THE GRAND OPENING: And so we move into 1971 and the preparation of Hoar Cross Hall so we could open it to the public by Easter. During the run up to buying the house my dad had been buying furniture, carpets and paintings like crazy and I remember our previous home being jam packed with chaise longues, sideboards and carved chests as well as all the suits of armour that he already had. This furniture was now set out in all the rooms. My mum’s collection of Victorian costumes were on display in the Ballroom as well as my dad’s collection of silver plated ‘display’ armour, which hung around the panelled walls; the suits of armour and the many paintings they had lined the Long Gallery and other rooms. The old Dining Room was renamed The Chinese Room as my dad had quite a collection of Chinese armour, swords and wall hangings – and even a Burmese Palace Chair. Display cabinets bought in sale rooms showed off smaller items. The biggest excitement though was seeing our house advertised on the local TV channel!
The Damask Room was turned into Lady Dorothy’s Boudoir complete with an 18th century four poster bed, an original bed complete with canopy and hanging curtains slept in by aristocrats throughout the centuries. I used to love lying on the bed with the curtains closed imagining myself in another era – once I lay down on the bed and fell asleep. When I awoke and climbed out from behind the drapes it was to a roomful of visitors staring open mouthed at me!
In another room my dad had his racing car surrounded by displays and photos of his racing career. The Entrance Hall was turned into a café area next to the kitchen, which had once been the old Butler’s Pantry, and my job was to bake scones and make sandwiches for the hungry visitors and groups that often came for a day out. Although I would make the scones earlier in the day, we would always leave a few in the oven so that there was a lovely smell of home baking floating around the place – ...
By Viv Wilson in Life at The Hall, Growing Up In a Stately Home | 28th June 2020
DOING UP A STATELY HOME: 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 could move dow...
By Viv Wilson in Life at The Hall, Growing Up In a Stately Home | 22nd June 2020
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?
The haunted attic corridor
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 asking ...