My visits to gardens and historic houses have been severely curtailed this year, for obvious reasons. However places are beginning to open up again, partially, at least. The National Trust is opening many of its gardens, although sadly the tea shops (a highlight of many a visit) are operating a limited take-away service only.
We picked Barrington Court for a day out as it is just over an hour’s drive from home, it had a nice garden, and we hadn’t visited it before. I didn’t realise how many similarities it had to my imaginary Birchanger Hall.
The current house was built at some time around the 1550s. The face in the photo has the classic E shape often used in buildings of that time – very much how I imagined Birchanger Hall, except without all the little pinnacles at the corners of the roofs. The brick building to the left was originally the stable block, and was later converted into a house.
The place passed through many hands, and by the beginning of the 20th century was a bit of a wreck. It was bought by the fledgling National Trust, but they didn’t have enough money to do it up.
Colonel Abram Arthur Lyle was wounded in the First World War and invalided out of the Army. Wanting something to do, he leased Barrington Court and began to do it up. If ‘Lyle’ sounds vaguely familiar, that’s because he was the grandson of the chap who invented Golden Syrup, so some of the money from the Tate & Lyle sugar business has been put to good use.
The building has been empty since 2008, but is worth a look inside anyway. According to this blog post I found, the Colonel was a keen collector of historic panelling, much of which was used in the restoration of the house. The panelling above is very much how I imagined some of the rooms at Birchanger. The image below is of a different kind of panelling – called linenfold panelling, because the carvings look like pieces of folded linen.
We’d really gone to visit the gardens – laid out by Gertude Jekyll during the restoration (afficionados of garden design will have heard of her). The gardens weren’t really at their best during our visit, as they had been looked after by a skeleton crew of gardeners during the lockdown, but still made for an enjoyable stroll. The weather during most of our visit was rather gloomy, so my garden pics aren’t too enticing, but this blog post has some nice shots, and also some good images of the interior
So the links with The Mrs MacKinnons were a nice little addition to the day out. Although Colonel Lyle had a lot more money than Matthew Southam, and already had a wife…