Sunday 7 June 2015

Hatchlands Park

One of the downsides of being the National Trust Scone Blogger is that eventually the day will come when I will be asked to become chairman of the National Trust*. And I will have to decline the offer because although I care passionately about scones, I am less clued up on other areas of importance to the preservation of the nation's heritage, such as what to do about death watch beetles.

But there's one area of National Trust business that I absolutely avoid thinking about at all costs because it hurts my head and that is tenanted NT properties like Hatchlands Park in Surrey.  


The house at Hatchlands is not open to the public on Saturdays, and only from 2pm to 5.30pm on Sundays, because of agreements with the tenants that live there. I'll be honest: this is really annoying. 

It's also not very conducive to a pleasant visitor experience - at 2pm it was like Westfield Shopping Centre on Boxing Day. I should have been a bit more sensible and waited 15 minutes for the initial rush to subside, but the woman on the gate had warned me that a coach party was arriving at 2.30pm. This was really nice of her, but she'd told everyone else the same thing so it was a bit of a scrum.

I wasn't enjoying it much at all, until I got to the Music Room. There was a young girl in there playing the violin brilliantly without any music (I'm going to guess she was 13 but I'm absolutely terrible at ages - for all I know she was in her forties). It was beautiful - she was incredibly talented and the music showed off the acoustics of the room nicely.

The guidebook sheds a bit of light onto why the tenants insist on such limited access; Hatchlands Park was left to the National Trust in 1945 without any contents. In 1985, the Trust approached Alec Cobbe and his family with a proposal for them to move in and make it a family home, bringing furniture and art and heritage expertise with them.

The Cobbes have historic connections to Sir Anthony Browne and his wife Elizabeth, who were granted the estate in 1544. Hatchlands then passed through a number of families before coming back to the Cobbes, the most significant owner being Admiral and Mrs Boscawen who built the house as it stands today, with interiors designed by a young Robert Adam. 

Alec Cobbe collects keyboard instruments. In the Drawing Room is a pianoforte that belonged to Marie Antoinette, and there are other instruments either owned or played by Chopin, Mozart, Johann Christian Bach, Beethoven, Liszt, Elgar, and Mahler. The Cobbe art collection is also displayed throughout the house. It's a family home and the collection is private though, so no photographs are allowed.

The Hatchlands scone
But onto the scones. I'd heard that the scones weren't so great at Hatchlands, although they've had a new cafe installed since then. I'm not sure if they bake the scones on-site now (they didn't use to) but there were plenty of them and they were a nice size. It was a little bit on the dry side, but very tasty - I enjoyed it.

Hatchlands scones

So it's been an interesting weekend for the Scone Blogger - yesterday at Tatton Park, which is NT owned but run by Cheshire East Council, the result being that it's a bit more commercialised than most NT properties. And then today the other extreme; Hatchlands as a family home that only allows the public in for 3.5 hours at the weekend (it's also open at the same time on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays though - just to be clear on that). 

Anyway, I'm going to put 'tenanted properties and how they work' onto my list of Things To Ask Dame Helen Ghosh Over a Glass of Wine (Large).

Hatchlands: 4 out of 5
Scones: 4 out of 5
Amazing young girl playing the violin: 5 out of 5

*Just for the sake of clarity, I may not be 100% serious

1 comment:

  1. If the glorious day every comes and you do get offered the job of Chairman of the National Trust I'd be happy to write out a selection of statements you can pedal out to suit a variety of questions and issues. I got an A in A Level General Studies so I've always seen this as a qualification in waffle.