Monday, October 22, 2007

Bramall Hall and shameless touting for votes!

North West Libraries is running a programme called Time To Read and as part of a drive designed to get people fired up about books and libraries, they have a promotion titled Pure Passion. It's designed to showcase the breadth and depth of the best examples of Romantic Fiction and a selection of titles has been shortlisted for a public vote. The Scarlet Lion is one of the shortlisted titles and represents the scope of historical fiction. If anyone feels they want to vote for The Scarlet Lion (pretty please, grovel, grovel) then they can do so here: It's number 18 on the voting form

Anyway, so that this blog is not a piece of shameless self promotion, let me go on to say that as part of the programme, North West libraries has been holding a series of author visits and events for the region. Last month I was asked to give a talk about The Scarlet Lion at Bramall Hall just outside Stockport. I do come from that neck of the woods originally, but I left when I was very young, so I had no inkling that this wonderful place existed.
The hall itself dates back to the 14th Century, but the main effect is Tudor. It's a stunning building both from the outside as you can see here and the interior (below)

I gave my talk in the Great Hall, with the audience seated in the body of the hall and me standing in the fireplace! To the right of where I was standing, the original 13thC hall door is still in situ and it reminded me very much of William Marshal's doors at Chepstow on a smaller scale. (not in photo)

Upstairs, there was a fabulous chamber (now known as The Ballroom) covered in detailed wall paintings from the 15thC. My camera was playing up and no photographs were allowed anyway, but here is a picture from the guidebook. It doesn't do the room justice at all. The colours were far more vigorous than this. What you see as a dingy dun colour on the walls in this photo is actually a melange of rich autumnal colours and textures, including red and green. There were hunting scenes, mythical scenes, and a vignette of a man and woman at courtly play, the man with a lute and the woman graciously listening. It truly is stunning and a work of national importance.

In another room there was a display of a magnificent hand embroidered 'table carpet' dating to the Tudor period and worked with a design of poppies.
There is also a fabulous chapel which has decorations from several different eras, including the earlier medieval period.

If you are in the area do go and look around. It's now owned by the council and you'll have to check when it's open to the public, although I understand that the grounds (70 acres) are open on a general basis. It's a gem of a place.


Carla said...

Vote cast :-) Good luck!

The Hall looks wonderful. I used to work for a company in that area and vaguely recall seeing signs for it, but never visited.

How did a "table carpet" work? Was it essentially a tablecloth, or something different? I imagine it wouldn't be something you'd want to be at risk of spillages.

Elizabeth Chadwick said...

Carla, thanks for your post. I thought I'd authorised it the other day, but then found it in my in-box, so it's my admin at fault this time - sorry!
It is well worth visiting as I said in the main body of the post. I think the grounds are open more than the hall. I didn't get to see all the way around the hall as there wasn't time, but it was worth it just for the painted chamber. I would have put more in the post if I hadn't mislaid the guidebook somewhere!
Table carpet. Again, I'd need the guide book to be certain but essentially I think it was a decorative thing, too precious to be walked on. I don't think it was used as a cloth for dining off. Carpets when they were first introduced into the country were often put on tables or furniture as decoration rather than walked on. As and when I find where I've put the guide book, I'll have more info!
Thanks for the vote btw!!

Carla said...

Ah - that explains it! I was wondering if Blogger had eaten my comment yet again.

Presumably that means the table wasn't used when the table carpet was on it, or used only for display? Like a side table or a mantelpiece or something.

There's a line about carpets and how precious they were from TH White's Once and Future King, which goes something like, "...on the floor [of Guenever's chamber], a desperate and reprehensible luxury, there was a genuine carpet. It made people shy when they walked on it, since carpets were not originally intended for mere floors. Arthur used to walk round it."

Kemberlee said...

Bramall Hall is amazing! What a beautiful house. The interiour shots remind me of Plas Mawr in Conwy North Wales. I'd never been into a house like that before and it was so beautiful.

I voted for you. No fear there. Good luck.

Elizabeth Chadwick said...

Carla, I've added a post script about the table carpet (having now found the guide book again!)
Kemberlee, thanks for the vote, and yes, Bramall is stunning. I am just so amazed that I didn't know it existed because it's close to where I was born and I knew all about places such as Chatsworth and Haddon Hall, so why not this place? Anyway, I know now!

Kemberlee said...

We're never tourists in our own town so it's not hard to understand why you didn't know about Bramall Hall until now. So what an incredible find! And another reason to go back to your place of birth more often =-)