Haddon Hall is one of the most beautiful and well-preserved Tudor houses in the country. It was originally built in the 12th century, and was occupied right up until the 1700’s. Its history is vast and overwhelming, and you could literally spend a day there, learning about the house’s occupants. During the Tudor period however, the house was owned by a favourite of Henry VII; a nobleman called Henry Vernon. The house has passed down his family line ever since.
During the War of the Roses, Henry Vernon proved himself to be a rather clever bloke. The throne changed hands more that the bed sheets in a knocking shop and so, like any wise nobleman of the time, Henry learned to keep his nose clean and just say ‘yes’ when needed. He was however a Yorkist supporter at heart, so quite how he ended a favourite of Henry Tudor is a bit of an oddity.
There are probably a few contributing factors to Vernon’s rise. Firstly, he managed to avoid most of the battle-fields during the wars of the Roses. He was also summoned by Richard III to attend Bosworth, but there is no evidence of him either being there, nor of him sending any troops. Had Richard won, Vernon would’ve royally fucked himself with this act of defiance. Luckily for Vernon, Richard got his arse handed to him, and Henry Tudor nicked his throne.
It would’ve also helped Vernon’s cause that he was married to Anne Talbot; the daughter of the Earl of Shrewsbury, who was a staunch Lancastrian. He was at Bosworth, and kicked the shit out of the Yorkists on behalf of Henry VII, who would’ve rewarded him and his family after his ascension. Henry VII was also in the forgiving game after Bosworth, and those who had now ditched their Yorkist ways and pledged allegiance to him, were pardoned. Henry VII needed pals after all.
Now the country seemed settled, and the wars were apparently over, Henry Vernon apparently leapt at the chance to embrace the stability that the new crown offered, and set to making his house the Tudor jewel that it is today. Vernon was so well thought of by Henry VII, that he was made the treasurer and governor to Henry VII’s son, Prince Arthur. His son George was also appointed as Arthur’s tutor, and Arthur was apparently a frequent visitor to the house. In fact, Henry Vernon was so loved by Henry VII that he was knighted, and even invited to Arthur’s wedding to Katherine of Aragon, and allowed to locally go by the title of ‘King of the Peak’, (Peak referring to the Peak district…obvs).
The Vernon family stayed in favour with the Tudors throughout their reign, and seemed to manoeuvre their way through shit like the reformation, and Mary Tudors attempts to thwart the Protestants, relatively unscathed.
One of the most famous events that (possibly) happened at Haddon was the scandalous marriage of Henry Vernons great-granddaughter, Dorothy. As the legend goes, in 1563, Dorothy Vernon did a legger and ran off with a bloke by the name of John Manners. It’s thought that Dorothy’s father, George, disapproved of Dorothy’s love for John, who was the son of the Earl of Rutland – the smallest county in England.
Dorothy, clearly not giving two shits what her dad thought, left Haddon amidst a great ball that kept the occupants of the house distracted long enough for her to leave the house and meet her beloved John. The couple then fucked the party right off and went and ‘eloped’, much to George’s dismay. I say ‘eloped’ in that sarcastic way because according to records, they were either married in Haddon chapel, which is about 20 meters from the banqueting hall where the great feast was happening, or the village of Bakewell, which is about 2 miles away.
All must have been forgiven, because two years later, George Vernon died; Dorothy and John inherited the house and, in similar style to her great-grandfather, went to town decorating the shit out of it, and putting both hers and John’s family sigils on just about every bit of wood and plaster in the place. Credit to them though because it looks mint.
The house has been home to the Earl of Rutland from then on, with many of its Tudor features remaining intact. Because the house is so fucking amazing, it’s used in pretty much any and every TV program and film about the Tudors, and it’s not hard to see why. It’s bloody gorgeous and if you get the chance to go, you totally should. However, in case you can’t go, here is a special Tudorials tour of the place, with facts and crappy mobile pictures, and all.
The chapel is the oldest part of the house, with parts of it being built during William the Conquerors reign. It’s chatted about in the doomsday book, when Bakewell village had a fucking huge population of 32 – I am informed that this was actually massive for a village of that time.
The chapel has the most impressive medieval wall drawings that I have ever seen. They’re understated, intricate and beautiful, and were painted in the 15th century. They were painted in a special kind of mould-proof powder, and later painted over during the reformation. Over the years, as the covering paint came away, the mould-proof powder protected the works, which is why we see them in all their original glory today.
The Banqueting Hall
The banqueting hall at Haddon is just full of stories. When Dorothy and John Manners inherited the hall, they built a minstrel gallery for the performers to entertain their guests, at one end of the hall. The minstrel gallery is basically a posh balcony that would’ve faced the head table, which is raised from the other tables by a daïs. The daïs was basically a small, passive aggressive step whose purpose was solely to point out the fact that those sat on it are wealthy and important, and those not sat on it were a bunch of shit-houses who should know their place.
The kitchens at Haddon freak me out. There is something about them – you can just imagine a maniacal Tudor cook coming running at you with a butcher’s hook and a dead swan, threatening to burn you alive if you don’t turn the spit. Ok, Ok, they’re not that scary, but still, you get the picture.
The most terrifying of the kitchen rooms is the butchery, with its blood drain and meat hooks. However, in the actual main kitchen itself sits a trough used to keep live trout for the house. This particularly freaks me out because I hate fish; they are slimy little fuckers with beady eyes, so the thought of having big fucking trout ambling about my kitchen on one side and cows being literally murdered alive on the other makes me want to shit with fear.
- Fun Fact: During feasts, the whole of the kitchen and banqueting hall would have been draped in fine clothes, as this showed how rich the family was. During a feast, servants would wash the hands of the top table prior to their meal and then place their napkins over their left shoulders. They did this because the Tudors didn’t use forks, just their knives and hands, so when their hands were soaked in food grease, they could easily just wipe them clean on their cloths without cutting into too much scoffing food time.
- Another fun fact: women servers were not allowed in the banqueting hall at all during the feast, in typical Tudor misogynistic bullshit style.
- A third fun fact: Tudors ate early so they didn’t have to sit in the dark. Makes sense really
The Great Chamber
This room is absolutely draped in Tudor arse-kissery. There are wall-to-wall carvings and paintings of Tudor roses and portraits. Above the fireplace is a carving of the Tudor coat of arms, with the initials ‘E.P.’ serving as a little fanboy nod to Henry VIII’s son, Prince Edward. Henry Vernon was no stupid man, he clearly realised that by praising the apple of Henrys eye, he would obviously score favour with the big man. There are also some small carvings on the wall of Henry VII and Elizabeth or York, and also, rather curiously, one of Will Somers; Henry VIII’s court fool.
Now, I don’t like gardens that much so I didn’t take any pictures of them. This is for a couple of reasons; the first being that they mean that I have to go out in the cold. Secondly, they are constantly being changed, and dug up and moved, and thirdly, if I take pictures of flowers, I will be expected to name them, and I don’t have time for that shit. I can barely point out daisy’s so would stand no chance with the proper shit they have in stately homes and such.
Having said that, the gardens at Haddon are well worth a visit. They seem to have a lot of Rosemary, (which is morbid really given the trois mort in the chapel), but they are really pretty, and people seem to like to go and paint them. Since I didn’t take any picture of the gardens, I thought I would treat you to some shots of the exterior of the hall, which is fucking great as well.
The parts of Haddon that are open to the public are tiny in comparison to the full size of the house. The house was only reclaimed by the Rutlands in the 1920’s, and they have been living there since then so vast parts of it are no go areas. There are only a few rooms open upstairs, and none of them are bedrooms, (though I swear I went in the bedrooms there as a kid which makes me wonder why they are now out of bounds… how much house do the Rutlands need!?).
Of the rooms that are up there, the Long Gallery is the most impressive – the other rooms are ace, but this one really is shit hot. The chances are that if you go to Haddon, and you have seen literally anything Tudor based ever, you will recognise this room. It seems to be THE ONLY place to film court scenes, but it’s not hard to see why. It’s reputedly built by Smythson, who built Hardwick Hall. I say reputedly because there is no actual evidence, but you just have to have 5 minutes nerding out about the plaster work and design of both houses to see that it clearly WAS built by him.
In Elizabethan times, it was popular to have a long gallery in your house, not only for entertaining, but also for ‘exercise’ (mincing about), when it was raining or cold outside. The Long Gallery at Haddon is chock full of peacocks and boars – in fact, who am I kidding – the whole house is. These were the family sigils of the Vernons and the Manners, and Dorothy and John had them created and stuck up to show their love and unity. It’s sweet really.
There is an absolute shit-tonne of stuff I have left out of this piece, because to be quite honest, I could write about Haddon all day. You will just have to either visit it yourself, or drop me a message, and I will geek out trying to answer any questions.
The house itself is just outside the village of Bakewell in Derbyshire. Bakewell itself is worth a visit because you can grab yourself a proper Bakewell tart, which is not anything like that Mr. Kipling bullshit that masquerades as one, and is made in fucking Stoke or some nonsense.
Also, if you go to Bakewell, you can pop into the church and see the rather grand grave of Dorothy and John Manners.
Haddon Hall’s admission is around £15 adult, free to under 16’s, and £3 for the car park. Please check opening hours before you go, as it operates on a seasonal calendar and may close for weddings etc. You can have a look at the website here. I should also say too, that the staff at Haddon are amazing.
Bakewell’s All saints Parish Church is open every day, 9-5 and is free to visit. You can view their web page