AT HOME AMONGST THE GHOSTS
Berrington Hall, near Leominster, Herefordshire
The austere exterior of Berrington Hall belies an interior that is stunningly ornate, resplendent with wonderful painted ceilings, sumptuous plasterwork and exquisite furnishings.
The house dates back to 1778, when Thomas Harley, who had made a fortune supplying pay and clothing to the British Army, decided that his family needed a new home that would live up to the esteem in which they held themselves.
He therefore commissioned his son-in-law, the fashionable architect Henry Holland, to design a house in which generations of Harley’s could live in palatial splendour.
Determined to have the best that money could buy, Harley also commissioned the leading landscape architect of the day, Lancelot "Capability" Brown, to design the splendid grounds that surround the property and which afford sweeping views of the Black Mountains of Wales.
But Berrington Hall also provides visitors with a glimpse of how the other half lived in that, in addition to being able to gape in open mouthed wonder at its dazzling interior, they can also see what life was like “below stairs” with visits to the Laundry, Butler’s pantry and Dairy.
An intriguing aspect of the gardens is the Drying Ground, a lawned section where the washing could be aired without being seen by the family who didn’t wish the elegance of their lifestyle and their enjoyment of their surroundings to be spoiled by such commonplace items as sheets and towels.
Thomas Harley’s daughter, Anne, married the son of the famous naval commander Admiral Rodney and, since Harley didn’t have a son, the hall passed into the Rodney family who lived there for ninety five years before George, the seventh Lord Rodney, decided to gamble away the family fortune.
In 1901 he was forced to sell the hall to Frederick Cawley, who had made his fortune from cotton.
In 1957 mounting Death Duties led to the Cawley family handing the house over to the National Trust who now run it and open it to the public.
Although there was talk in the 1980’s of a ghostly figure being seen in the south wing of the house, although who it was nobody was able to ascertain for certain.
More recently the house’s ghostly activity appears to have confined itself to the outbuildings of the house where a ghostly figure has been seen unlocking the door of the stables, even though the key has been missing for years.
Phantom horses have also been seen inside the stables even though it has been many years since any horses were, in fact, stabled in them.