Stories galore at Biddulph
A presentation by Nigel Daley at the Staffs Moorlands Restoration conference in September 2015 about the renovation of Biddulph Old Hall from a rundown ruin to a “des res”, proved so popular that it prompted the organisation of an NWR visit.
On a fine but blustery July day, 40 members from groups in Shropshire, Staffordshire and Cheshire drove up a rutted farm track to be rewarded with the sight of a solid pink stone building with a tall Elizabethan tower nestled into the surrounding hillside with extensive views over the valley.
Nigel regaled the group with wide ranging tales of the Hall’s history and its inhabitants, while taking in swathes of English history along the way. A sensory highlight was the heart of the old hall, destroyed by cannons in the Civil War, but now turned into a romantic white garden with roses growing up and over the battlements and scenting the air. The house has given up many secrets during the renovations, the most recent being the discovery of a fantastical priest’s hole.
In the late 1800s the Hall was occupied by a little known, but fascinating, Pre-Raphaelite painter, Robert Bateman. This prompted another line of research for the owners and resulted in the publication of a book, The Lost Pre-Raphaelite: The Secret Life & Loves of Robert Bateman. The huge portrait from the cover of the book, seen below, now hangs in the hall, but thereby hangs another tale!
Tea and cakes were taken in Robert Bateman’s former studio, still undergoing restoration. We will organise another visit when the six storey Elizabethan tower has a staircase and then we will enjoy the extensive views whilst partaking of sweetmeats, washed down with spiced wine!
The restoration of Biddulph Old Hall is a labour of love. Its walls could tell so many stories spanning many centuries, so how wonderful it is that the present owners, Brian and Nigel, are passionate about discovering its history. I read Nigel's book, The Lost Pre-Raphaelite: The Secret Life & Loves of Robert Bateman, and was riveted. I thoroughly recommend it to anyone interested in the unravelling of mysteries. Sorry I couldn't join you n this recent visit but hope to make the next one!
PS I tried to give this blog post 5 stars but for some reason I couldn't click on all five stars.