Saturday 18 July 2015

Beningbrough Hall

The Scone Sidekick has a workmate who lives in Slough. A few years ago, this workmate went on holiday for a week, travelling 100 miles or so down to Dorset. While he was there, he decided to go on one of those magical mystery coach tour things. Don't ask me why - I for one have never found that there is anything remotely magical about getting on a coach, never mind getting on a coach when you don't know where it's going. But each to their own. Anyway - Scone Sidekick Workmate ended up on a magical mystery tour that took him to Windsor Castle for the day, which is all very lovely but it's roughly 2 miles from his house in Slough.

This tale has a very tenuous link with my visit to Beningbrough Hall near York today. 

Beningbrough Hall

Beningbrough's claim to fame is its partnership with the National Portrait Gallery, which means that the NPG regularly lends Beningbrough works of art to display on their extensive walls. This is an undoubtedly brilliant idea and very wonderful for Beningbrough and the people of York, who get to share some of the nation's artworks without having to schlep down to London. However, I work near the National Portrait Gallery and can access their entire collection every day of my life - my favourite picture is the one of Bobby Charlton.

But of course I don't go to the National Portrait Gallery every day of my life. In fact, I last set foot in the National Portrait Gallery in 2006. Bobby Charlton has probably been replaced by Jedward. I should be ashamed of myself.

So I swallowed my 'I could see this anytime' snobbery and had a very lovely time looking round Beningbrough Hall.

The Hall
  • Beningbrough was known as 'Benniburg' in the Domesday Book 
  • Ralph Bourchier inherited the estate in 1556
  • It was passed down through numerous Bourchiers until it reached John Bourchier at the beginning of the 18th century
  • He had been on the Grand Tour and decided to build a fine new baroque house - this is the Hall we see today
  • The Bourchiers died out in 1827
  • The estate passed to the Dawnay family who sold up in 1916
  • Lady Chesterfield bought the Hall, moving out in 1941 for the RAF
  • She died in 1957 and the place was passed to the National Trust

The art
Beningbrough has my most favourite thing in the world: an audio guide. It provided a lot of background about the rooms and the art that you can see throughout the house.

I realised pretty quickly that the partnership with the National Portrait Gallery isn't just a random 'what can we send them this week?' affair. Many of the artworks on display are in keeping with the history of the house. 

For example, the pictures you see below belong to a set of celebrated portraits painted by Sir Godfrey Kneller. Each portrait is of a member of the Kit-Cat Club, an influential group formed in the late 17th century by supporters of the Whig party. There are around 40 of these portraits and half of them are at Beningbrough:

Kit Kat portraits

The exhibition running at the moment is of the Royal Family. In the Great Hall there's an enormous portrait of five generations of royal people with Prince William in the foreground:

Beningbrough Great Hall

In the Saloon, modern and traditional art is mixed together:

Beningbrough saloon

My favourite piece of art, however, was in Lady Chesterfield's bedroom. Right next to the bed is a picture of Margaret Woffington, the Irish actress, from the 1700s. It stopped me in my tracks because it shows her lying in bed looking very sick - and it turns out that she had indeed collapsed and was paralysed. Not the most cheery of pictures to have in your bedroom, it must be said.

Margaret Woffington

The scones
Beningbrough was the 89th stop on the National Trust Scone Odyssey and the third property I had visited in York. I had had one of the greatest National Trust scones of all time at Treasurers House back in November - when most people hear Nat King Cole singing Unforgettable, they think of their husband or wife; I think of the Christmas Pudding Scone at Treasurers House - and today I also fitted in a trip to Goddards, home of Noel Terry of Chocolate Orange fame. The Goddards scone was fantastic too. Could Beningbrough secure the hat-trick for York?

Well, yes it could and yes it did. The Beningbrough scone was delicious. It was fresh and soft inside, with a slightly crunchy exterior. It was the perfect size too. A triumph.

Beningbrough scones

I've been thinking and I may have been a little hasty in my dismissal of magical mystery coach tours. This could be a real money spinner for the Scone Blogger. I could buy myself a bus and run mystery scone trips to National Trust properties. You're all invited but can I advise you to only come on the National Trust Mystery Scone Tour once, as I am famously bad at directions and so I will probably just keep going back to the same place every week and hope nobody notices. Thank you all!

Beningbrough Hall: 4.5 out of 5

Scones: 5 out of 5
Art: 5 out of 5

1 comment:

  1. One of my most favouritist (yes that is a word) places. In fact we held a giant picnic there (with NT permission) for my 40th birthday *cough* years ago.