Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Harewood House in an Ancient Landscape

Here in the UK, early May hosts a Bank Holiday and this Bank Holiday Monday, we decided to go and visit Harewood House, just north of Leeds in sunny Yorkshire. I absolutely abhor sitting in Bank Holiday traffic, so we set off at the crack of dawn (well 9 am anyway) and got there just after opening.
Harewood House
Readers will know I like to visit country houses because it's my history as an Englishman, it's part of my national heritage. Despite Harewood only being just over an hour away, I've never visited but passed it many times.

Despite its grandeur, it's a relatively junior house to some of its brothers and sisters being an 18th century addition to a very ancient landscape where 4000 years ago, we know people lived on this land.

Restored Chippendale State bed
After William the Conqueror turned up uninvited in 1066, the three Saxon Chieftains, owners of the land at Harewood, the wonderfully named Tor, Sprot and Grim forfeited their land because they didn't support William and the land passed to the Norman noblemen.
One side of the gallery. The red window drapes (in the distance) are made of wood
A castle was built on the land but by the mid 1650s it had become ruined and uninhabitable. Gowthorpe Estate and the Harewood estate was next to one another so the Lascelles family bought it all, the Gowthorpe Hall was pulled down and in 1771, Harewood House was built in its stead and it has dominated the landscape ever since..
A Macaw in the bird garden

The Lascelles were a French family and there is a town of Laselle in Normandy from whence they came. The past can't be changed, but the wealth of the family then came from slavery and its associated trades. The landscape is by Capability Brown and among others, Chippendale and Adam effectively created Harewood and today houses the biggest single collection of Chippendale furniture.
A range in the below stairs kitchen
From the first Earl of Harewood in the 1700s to the present Earl, David, three hundred years of history lies in the house. Today, the house is in trust and has museum status which allows it to get grants for conservation work. The family in the past had lost so much in paying death duties, but that will not happen any more. Although the Lascelles family live on the estate farm now, they still take a big part in the trust, the house is now preserved for generations to come. The Dowager Duchess lives in a rented apartment in the hosue.

The house has a massive parkland and estate, a bird garden for visitors, a cafe and access to the whole house, upstairs with their wonderful state rooms, downstairs and gardens are open most of the summer months. Volunteer guides are on hand to explain the history and we found them warm, welcoming and knowledgeable.
Just one angle of a beautiful landscape
Disabled access is very good although it is a little hilly between the house and the bird garden. The cost is okay, average for this type of attraction and two for one entrance deals can be found all over the place to reduce costs. Parking is expertly managed and a two minute walk to the house.

The weather was wonderful, particularly after we'd had a wash out on the Sunday and the traffic was manageable. A great day out.

Chat soon