I have such a weakness for Tudor architecture and interiors, and Shibden Hall on the outskirts of Halifax is fast becoming one of my favourite local historical places.
Dating back to around 1420, the 600 years of the house's existence layers upon layers of lives have reflected upon the hall in the many drastic changes that have impacted the building. The history of Shibden Hall is a wonderful and fascinating one; from it's beginnings as the home of William Otes, a wool merchant, (it is the stunning timber framing on the front of the house that he is responsible for) to being the home of Anne Lister in the early 19th Century, a well known diarist and lesbian who seems absolutely compelling (I mean to get a hold of her published diaries, which were deciphered from code in the early 1930's) who's story ends rather sadly in an unexpected death and an asylum.
Set in the gloriously picturesque Shibden Park, Shibden Hall is a dream with its medieval timber frames and gothic tower; stretched out in the terrace infront of the hall is the 'Paisley Shawl' garden, designed by Joshua Major in the 1850's, which has been lovingly restored. Perhaps I'm growing old, but gardens do bring me rather a lot of joy and I could quite happily spend an afternoon wandering around smelling the flowers and cooing over the plants.
I have visited Shibden Hall three or four times since moving to Calderdale last October, and during one of my visits, I was hugely lucky enough to have a little extra sneak about the house under the guidance of one of the incredibly knowledgeable tour guides, who revealed to us the extent of the changes the house has undergone throughout the years, from secret passageways, to little openings within the oak panelling to reveal hidden fireplaces, to some of the original timber framing which was so exquisitely decorated but now sadly now hidden by wall panels. It was like a magical dolls house that we got to see the secret inner workings of; it felt really special.
The Tudor Kitchen: This is my dream hearth! Imagine cooking up delicious winter stews and witchy brews in that cauldron, stoking the fire at Midwinter and drying herbs above the embers.
The 'Housebody' is the main hall and the heart of the home. Unfortunately, in all of the swooning, I failed to take any photographs of the room; but suffice to say, it's magnificent. I did, however manage to capture a few of my favourite details, including an amazing chandelier, which I would love to smuggle out of here and hang in my Belfry, thank you very much, and the just incredible oak table which dates from about 1595. (I want to fill my house with heavily carved dark oak Tudor furniture)
Once a bedroom which housed two tester beds, the dining room is one of my favourite rooms, with heavy oak wood panelling and intricately craved fire surround. It was in the room that the lovely tour guide showed us the secret original decorated wall beneath a secret hinged wall panel, and if you ever get the chance to visit Shibden, I'd urge you to find a member of staff and beg them to see it, because it is such a treat!
There are beautiful carvings on so much of the furniture, some of the most impressive and intricate being on the settle in the Buttery; they make me want to learn how to carve little beasties and cover my walls with them!
As I mentioned a little earlier, we were incredibly lucky in that a member of staff gave us little experienced access to a little of the home; the Tower Landing, which leads, up the spiral staircase to the room commissioned by Anne Lister, who sadly died before it could be completed, which houses the panelled library and is not generally open to the public. The Tower Landing is home to the most incredible set of furniture, and I have spent many a visit pressed up against the glass that usually separates the landing from the rest of the house, practically crying over it, so I was so very excited to finally get to see it up close. It's the perfect goblin desk and chair, featuring carved beasties and what is clearly Pan. The legs are carved into hooves and it feels as though it's about to come alive any moment and join the Wild Hunt! Can you even believe that such a thing exists!?
There are a few bedrooms on the first floor of Shibden Hall, but the prettiest is The Red Room; the master bedroom is named after the red stencilled frieze which adorns the top of the wood panelled walls. The tester bed, dating from 1630, is once again heavily carved, and I could very much love a bedroom like this! I don't know about you, but when I explore a historical home, I spend much of the time imagining that I live there, or dreaming up ways to incorporate elements of it into my own house.
Leaving the hall leads you through to The Herb Garden and the original barn and outbuildings which now house the Shibden Folk Museum displays, from agricultural tools, to transport to a blacksmithy. It's a wonderful exhibit, and gives you a really fascinating glimpse into the life of the folk from the West Yorkshire Pennines. There's a little peek below, but again, if you can make the trip, there's so much more to see.
An exquisite Victorian horse-drawn glass funeral hearse. Cart me off in this upon my death, please. I require six black horses with black funerary plumes to pull and heaps of poisonous flowers to be placed atop the hearse. There was also a beautifully painted vardo caravan which I would have loved to have a sneak into.
Do you have a favourite historical home?