Ragley Hall could fade into the mists of my brain were it not for two things:
(1) the long vista has a stripe of red and a stripe of green trees. Ingenious; and
(2) the family has redecorated the main stair with murals by Graham Rust (which took 14 years to complete, Rust travelling up to Ragley on the weekends). Brave. Bold. A sign that this family intends to remain in its seat.
For me, the remainder of the hall was run of the mill despite James Gibbs & James Wyatt interiors. Perhaps the mission started in the 1950s to restore the house simply hasn’t reached full fruition yet (there is, for example, still a brown carpet in the dining room). In fact, the other stair is painted very badly in ?1970s decor, dragged down further by a questionable and monumental piece of modern art, only defendable by the fact that this is a family home and they can paint and decorate it however they like.
The house is home to the Marquess of Herford
The attraction at Radley seems to be the activity playground (which looked like good fun but I fear big kids weren’t allowed in without a small one, which we lacked), entrance to the house only being £2 more than to the grounds (but free for HHA cardholders).
I asked myself what was lacking and why this story all seemed familiar. It’s the art. That beating heart is absent. Any why? Are you familiar with Hertford House? Well of course you are, it’s the Wallace Collection. The house didn’t keep it, it having passed to the Marquess’ art-loving illegitimate son, Richard Wallace, who rivalled the Prince of Wales’ collection. By contrast the spectacle of the murals in the staircase, the absence elsewhere is highlighted.
Notably absent, however, was a gift shop (and clear EXIT directions from the car park). The leaflet we were given suggested the shop was in the basement of the house but alas, nothing. I’m assured a shop will soon appear but given there was a perfectly functioning and large cafe, I wonder what is holding the family back from installing a couple of Welsh dressers with some cups, biscuits & tea towels on it? We wanted to buy something (given entry was completely free thanks to the HHA cards) but had to settle for another cream tea on the terrace. This rate I’ll never get into my wardrobe!
When visited: May 2014