Warwickshire’s Ragley Hall
A Muddy Guide to Warwickshire's beautiful Ragley Hall. Summer highlights include Camper Calling and #FamilyFriday extended opening hours.
I came to explore the parkland grounds on a family day out with some friends on the May Bank Holiday weekend. When we left home the heaven’s opened, but as soon as we rocked up at Ragley the sun came out, as you can see from my photos. Ragley Hall is a Jacobean stately home in Alcester, Warwickshire, dating back to 1680 set in spacious Capability Brown landscaped gardens, with Baroque state rooms and superb countryside walks. The 9th Marquess and Marchioness of Hertford and their four children still live on the top floor. They are part of the historic Seymour family – one of their most famous ancestors being Jane Seymour, third wife of Henry VIII.
I’d popped in for an earlier visit in the week when Ragley Hall’s social media guy Sean Blyth gave me an insightful, informal behind-the-scenes tour of the house, including the rather quirky stunning, modern family mural, The Temptation, in the South Staircase Hall by artist Graham Rust. It took 14 years to paint complete and features several family members, a spaceship and some rather usual pets.
A little like Downton Abbey the 8th Marquess and Marchioness, made the decision to open Ragley to the public in the 1950s. Lord and Lady Hertford worked incredibly hard to restore the house, the gardens and farm, which had not been fully lived-in since 1912 and was used as a hospital during the Second World War. Sean said they recently contacted by the family of a lady who worked as a nurse at the hospital during the war and wished to donate her photo album.
Some of the most famous British architects of the of the Jacobean and classical revival periods worked on the property. James Gibbs designed the baroque plasterwork in the Great Hall in 1750 and James Wyatt added the portico, as well as decorating the Red Saloon and Mauve Room, in 1780. The house has provided a backdrop for an episode of Dr Who, the 2013 BBC 1930’s jazz drama Dancing on The Edge and a 1982 TV film The Scarlet Pimpernel starring Antony Andrew, Jane Seymour and Ian McKellen.
There’s lots of open space for children to explore, and for picnics as well as a boating lake. The children in our group, aged between 5 and 16, really enjoyed the adventure playground, 3D maze and visiting the stables.
Head Gardener Mark Morrell gives regular garden tours, including snowdrop and bluebell walks. Capability Brown laid out the 400 acres of parkland in the 18th century and in 1873, Robert Marnock designed a formal flower garden. Abandoned by the family in 1912, Ragley Gardens remained in this sad state until the late 1950s when the 8th Marquess turned the formal Victorian flower beds into a Rose Garden.
One of Warwickshire’s ‘must-see’ gardens Ragley now boasts a spring-bulb bank, summer meadow and prairie garden, winter garden and ‘fumpary’. A stumpery is a garden feature similar to a rockery, but made with parts of dead trees such as stumps and logs. They were especially popular with Victorian gardeners. But the stumpery at Ragley Hall is called the ‘Fumpary’ – a perfect way of recycling old tree stumps, beautifying a dry, shady area of the garden and providing valuable wildlife habitat.
Over the summer there will be extended #FamilyFriday opening hours if the weather’s looking good. So keep an eye out on Twitter@Ragley Hall and Facebook that the park will stay open til 7pm with half price entry after 3pm.
Ragley Hall, Alcester, Warwickshire, B49 5NJ, ragley.co.uk, Tel: 01789 762090