On Boxing Day (26 December) last year, I wanted to get out of the house and so we visited a VERY cold Beningbrough Hall, just outside York.
Most of the shutters were closed, the interior was perishingly cold, and the gardens were soggy and bare. However, there was a smattering of festive decoration, including a Georgian dining table.
Opening during Christmas is part of a recent National Trust incentive to extend the visiting period, with many houses now closing in late October but then reopening for December, before closing for the “deep clean” during January and February. Other country houses have also followed this idea and so, while house such as Castle Howard always made a show of their Christmas spectacular (including real, lit coal fires bringing life to the interior), increasingly other privately-0wned houses are decorating their interiors with the joy of Christmas.
During 2013, we have taken advantage the opportunity presented by Christmas openings to extend our own visiting. We visited Burton Agnes Hall, Burton Constable Hall and Polesden Lacy.
I thought I’d do a “run-down”, starting with the least impressive show (Beningbrough) and building up to best.
I do, however, really like Beningbrough’s “interactive attic”: as the house was left to the trust without contents, rather uniquely it houses a collection of portraits from the National Portrait Gallery. Upstairs, one can put themselves into various paintings and “interact” with the collection. There is also an impressive galleried entrance hall, reminiscent of The Queen’s House.
Beningbrough dates from the first decade of the 1700s but the NT have had it since 1957, so it has more than an air of “museum” about it. That said, it does have a nice enfilade, which I’ve so far failed to picture without other visitors in it. So I’ve borrowed one from the NT’s own website:
When visited: December 2012
Theme tune: www.youtube.com/watch?v=2FlgVN03fNM