At home in Haddon Hall with Lady Edward Manners
- Credit: Ashley Franklin
Jane Travis interviews Lady Edward Manners of Haddon Hall, near Bakewell
2014 marks a very significant year at Haddon Hall, near Bakewell, which is one of the most important remaining medieval houses in the country and has been the property of the Manners family since 1567. New members of the family are now in residence at the picturesque estate on the banks of the River Wye. Lord and Lady Edward Manners and their young twin sons, Alfred and Vesey, are the first members of the family to live on the Haddon Estate since 1700.
The boys were born last November and are already getting used to life in the heart of Derbyshire’s Peak District, as is Lady Edward, who moved to Haddon at the end of last year from a very different life in London.
‘When I met Edward in London I had heard he had a “nice house” in the countryside, but nothing prepared me for what I would experience on my first visit here,’ describes Lady Edward. ‘I had seen several photographs of details of the house that Edward had sent me – showing mysterious crenulations, misty shots of the garden and ancient stone, all a little bit eerie if I am honest – but I’d seen nothing of the house in full, so I had no idea what to expect.
‘We arrived at Haddon one evening in December and I could see very little in the pitch black winter night. It was only the following morning when we went for a walk in the winter sun that I saw the full, extraordinary sight of the hall and its setting. I will never forget that moment.’
Lady Edward first experienced Haddon Hall just over three years ago, but it wasn’t her first visit to Derbyshire. As founder of Beau Bra lingerie company which she ran for eleven years from her headquarters in London, Lady Edward had dealings with the Wirksworth area where she had a small factory unit, utilising the skilled workforce who had been employed by the region’s famous designer, Janet Reger.
‘I was very eager to use the greatly skilled people from this area with its history of centuries of fabric manufacturing,’ Lady Edward explains. ‘The local skill around hosiery, for example, is outstanding in Derbyshire and I would love to be able to turn again to this skilled workforce in some form in the future.’
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Clearly an entrepreneur, Lady Edward takes a very keen interest in the running of Haddon Hall and its place on the tourism map of the UK. Aware of the great significance of this medieval manor house – heralded by writer Simon Jenkins as ‘the most important English house to survive from the Middle Ages’ – Lady Edward wants to see Haddon establish a more prominent position in UK tourism – not least in Derbyshire itself.
‘There is so much more we can make of the wider offer here at Haddon,’ she observes. ‘Not just the seasonal visitors who are crucial to the upkeep of the estate, but everything from the fishing to the skilled craftsmen who maintain the hall and make garden furniture for the likes of garden designer Arne Maynard. Both Edward and I see Haddon much busier in the years to come. We have just been granted the licence for civil ceremonies which is a big statement for the regional wedding industry. What more of an atmospheric place is there to get married than at Haddon Hall?
‘We have a full season ahead, with plenty of events planned to get people coming through the doors and I am sure these events will enhance the visit to the house. When I came to the hall as Edward’s wife, I thought I would be dealing more with the private side of living here, but in fact it’s the public side which is taking my primary interest,’ Lady Edward concludes.
Lady Edward has helped her husband research Haddon Hall and has spent several months delving into the archives to learn about life at Haddon centuries ago. She describes it as ‘rehabilitating the hall to the way it was originally used, so it can be presented as such today; bringing the medieval use and history of Haddon into the 21st century.’
Lady Edward’s lasting plans are to make ancient Haddon Hall into a home whilst ensuring it remains a hugely important, historic house: ‘We would like to think we will move into the main hall one day soon as a family; it’s about being sensitive to the past but bringing the house into the present,’ comments Lady Edward. ‘We will use colour schemes found in the archives to bring back the true style of the hall. The house was so sensitively restored in the late 19th century and is a rare example of a large, historic building that managed to avoid Victorian “improvement” and remain almost untouched for over 300 years.’
As well as working in partnership with Lord Edward, Lady Edward has been able to put her own stamp on areas of the estate, for example the Cutting Garden – a part of the historic garden that’s been given over to Lady Edward where she and her gardener are establishing a beautiful yet practical space – cultivating flowers with origins in the Elizabethan era, when the garden was originally created.
‘It’s been a real pleasure to regenerate this part of the garden at Haddon and working with plants we know existed here centuries ago. I plan to supply the hall and the nearby Peacock Hotel with the flowers this summer,’ says industrious Lady Edward.
Back to that first winter’s morning visit to Haddon Hall, and Lady Edward describes how on entering the house it was like ‘a romantic step back in time. The house was completely silent, the tapestries hanging on the walls in the same position for hundreds of years. It was a sleeping beauty,’ she describes.
‘I was struck by the two sides to the hall. It has a strong fortress-like exterior which is very masculine in appearance, but step inside and the interiors with their twinkling windows and delicate details couldn’t be more feminine. It’s a wildly romantic place which changes with the seasons and the moods of the weather,’ Lady Edward concludes.
Lady Edward’s description of the masculine and feminine constitution of this ancient place is an apt reflection of how at Haddon Hall, for the first time in 300 years, there is again a union of male and female residing there, bringing up their young family.
2014 event highlights include:
The Tudor Group – 10th and 11th May, 21st and 22nd June, 13th and 14th September
Proms in the Garden – 19th July (doors open 5.30pm)
Summer Holiday Children’s Weekend – 16th, 17th August
Folk Night with Piva – 2nd October (7.30pm)
Haddon at Halloween – 31st October, 1st November (7pm)
April: Saturday, Sunday and Monday (inc. Easter - 18th to 22nd April), noon to 5pm
May to September: daily, from noon to 5pm (closed 11th, 12th, 13th July). Also open on Thursday evenings until 8pm
October: Saturday, Sunday and Monday, from noon to 5pm
December: 6th to 17th inclusive, for Haddon Hall’s Christmas opening, 10.30-4pm
For full details and updates on 2014 openings and events, visit: www.haddonhall.co.uk