Friday, 28 April 2017

Scandalous Behaviour - The History Of Hanbury Hall



Fire up the camper! With less than a month until the festival season kicks off it was time to give Gilbert his first run of the year and, with the Easter Holidays over & the kids safely back at school, a National Trust visit was well overdue.



Today's destination was Hanbury Hall in Worcestershire.


Hanbury Hall was built in 1710 as a holiday home for millionaire lawyer and Whig MP for Worcestershire, Thomas Vernon (1654 -1721). The architect remains unknown.


The garden, including this splendid parterre, was designed by George London, who served his apprenticeship at the Palace of Versailles (and can't you tell?) However the rigid formality of the Baroque style of gardening soon fell out of fashion and the original parterre was grassed over until its restoration in 2006.



Hanbury Hall's pride and joy is the magnificent art by English painter James Thornhill (1676 - 1734) who was also commissioned to paint the dome of St Paul's Cathedral, Chatsworth House and the Royal Hospital at Greenwich. In 1720 he became the first British artist to be knighted.


Renowned for historical subjects, Thornhill's theme for Hanbury Hall was the life of Achilles.


He wasn't familiar with the cyclops, painting them with three eyes.


Thornhill was a testy character by all accounts and liked using his work to poke fun at people who'd pissed him off. The housekeeper who'd moaned about him making a mess was reduced to a cartoon on a cherub's handkerchief whilst Sarah (one of Winston's lot) Churchill's face was painted on to Achilles' body in the scene below (he's the chap in the red cloak, masquerading as a peddler).


Like all the best stately homes Hanbury Hall has more than its fair share of scandals. When Thomas Vernon died his will was said to have been a bit of a mess (a tad ironic considering his career) and the estate ended up in the hands of his feckless cousin, Bowater Vernon, who squandered his inheritance and died £20,000 in debt (around a quarter of a million in today's money).


 In 1776 Hanbury Hall passed to Emma Vernon (1754 -1818), Bowater's granddaughter and a renowned society beauty. Her parents arranged a marriage between her and Henry Cecil, the Earl of Exeter and together they set about remodeling parts of the house. After 13 years of marriage Emma confessed to a torrid five-year love affair with a close friend of the couple, local curate William Sneyd.


To avoid a scandal Emma agreed to be escorted to an inn in Birmingham by her husband so she could break off the affair with William face to face but, after Henry locked the pair of them in a ground floor room to sort it out, they climbed out of the window and eloped. The couple lived in poverty with William spending time in a debtor's prison. After his release he was blighted by ill heath and the couple moved to Lisbon in Portugal in the hope of a cure from the healthier climate but sadly he died from TB three months later in 1793.


Meanwhile poor old Henry, heavily in debt, sold off the entire contents of Hanbury Hall, locked the house up and moved to Shropshire becoming a farmer under an assumed name. Shortly afterwards he bigamously married Sarah, the 16 year-old daughter of the pig farmer next door. On obtaining a divorce in 1791 his true identity was revealed, he legitimately married Sarah and they moved to Burghley House in Lincolnshire, his family seat. Sarah failed to adapt to the role of mistress of a great estate and is rumoured to have taken to drink and drugs, dying at the age of 22.


On Henry's death in 1804 Emma moved back into Hanbury Hall where she spent the reminder of her days with her third husband. She died in 1818 and is said to haunt the property.


Hanbury Hall remained scandal free until Sir Bowater George Vernon (1865 - 1940) came along. Known as George he was veteran of the Boer War and not keen on the stifling way of life of the British gentry, first settling in Jamaica and eventually owning a ranch in Argentina. On the annual boat journey home he met a woman some 25 years his junior, married her and settled in Worcestershire. Upon his parents' death he moved into Hanbury Hall, sacked all the male staff and replaced them with a team of attractive young women.


George and his now-estranged wife had no children so he adopted 15 year-old Ruth Powick, one of Hanbury Hall's parlour maids who later became estate secretary. In 1940, George was 75 and suffering from advanced throat cancer. One morning he ordered the servants into the garden, went to the bedroom and got out his old service revolver and I'm pretty sure you can guess the rest. He left his fortune to Ruth and bequeathed Hanbury Hall to the National Trust.


Hanbury Hall is described as an intriguing example of the English-Baroque and considered to be fairly modest and restrained compared to many houses built around this time. Whilst it was still very grand we both thought it felt wonderfully welcoming and cosy.


This beautiful painting and the photograph below are of George's mother, Lady Georgina Vernon (1840 - 1928). She set up the local Red Cross, won awards for bee keeping and loved art. The photograph below was taken on her fiftieth wedding anniversary.


The ladies' lounge. There was once a James Thornhill painting on the ceiling but some rich idiot had it painted over during a refurb! 

What a reception area!

After a guided tour of the ground floor and an hour or so of wandering around Hanbury Hall we popped back to Gilbert to eat our packed lunch (we're cheapskates, no fancy National Trust tea rooms for us!) then we braved the chilly weather and the April showers to explore the grounds.


We saw sheep and ducks (exciting for urbanites like us!)


Although I'm not a fan of the rigid formality so fashionable in the early 18th Century the gardens were still pretty impressive, although the inky sky looked very ominous.


The orchard was in full bloom.


I've no idea why this is called Snob's Tunnel. The roof was so low even short-arsed me had to crouch.


It was the first time we'd seen a mushroom house.


The orangery was closed for maintenance work but we managed a sneaky peep through the windows. Those oranges and lemons smelt gorgeous.


We loved Hanbury Hall, hope you did, too!

Hanbury Hall, School Road, Hanbury, Worcestershire, WR9 7EA

I was glad of the crazy yeti coat I found in a charity shop for £4 on Wednesday!


If you've got one, enjoy your long weekend.

See you soon!

Linking to Patti & the gang for Visible Monday.

80 comments:

  1. What a romp! Yours are the only travelogues that I enjoy. Others are like sitting through 35mm slide presentations that never end ...

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    1. Thanks, tami! I'm glad you enjoy them. I'm a fiend for an interesting fact! xxx

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  2. Got, I bet that place could tell some stories. I quite like the sound of it.love those painted ceilings and walls. Wouldn't have liked to be a gardener there though with all that parterre to look after. Loving the yeti coat! Xx

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    1. I know! How the other half live, huh?
      There were a team of volunteer gardeners toiling away when we were there, I hope they get rewarded with free plants and tea. i wouldn't fancy maintaining that garden either! x

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  3. I want that coat!!!! The shag coat is mah thing!!!
    Come visit us in Asheville!!!

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    1. We'd LOVE to come and visit - I'll even let you borrow my yeti! xxx

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  4. Just missed you today, we popped in to Hanbury for our packed lunch at 12 (also cheapskates, used the facilities at the nearby Jinny Ring and then Hanbury car park for lunch) and were parked a couple of rows away, right near the field. I noticed Gilbert as we drove past, didn't clock that it was your van though! Did you find the tree with all the coins in the bark? I love that mushroom house in Autumn as it's where they store the apples, the smell is delicious!

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    1. Arghhh! One day we'll actually meet.
      I did see the Lebanese Cedar with the coins. There's a stern sign advising visitors to stop doing it but by the look of it it might be too late! What a great use for the mushroom house, I want one for our apples now! x

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  5. We went there about 8 years ago before the NT allowed photos inside. The only ones I've got are of the parterre. Thanks for stirring a few memories.
    Arilx

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    1. I'm glad they allow photos these days, they're a lovely record of our visits! xxx

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  6. That's some holiday home! Hanbury Hall has certainly had some colourful characters within it's walls! And I rather like the sound of Thornhill, although you'd want to keep on the right side of him eh! His art is truly something to behold. Looks like a day well spent. I do love that frock. Have a fab weekend. Xxx

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    1. I know! Gilbert's charms pale into insignificance compared with Hanbury Hall!
      Hope you're having an ace break! x

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  7. Fascinating, the artwork and scandals alone are interesting enough for a visit ☺

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    1. Aren't they? I'm glad we arrived in time for the tour, much as I love swanky old country piles, the background makes them far more interesting. xxx

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  8. I love the part about what the painter would do if he didn't like you - haha

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  9. I just picture the poor sucker checking his watch wondering what was keeping his wife and her lover!
    The mushroom house sounds fascinating.

    I have a similar "Yeti coat", but you wear it so much better.

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    1. I should have taken a photo of the cuckolded husband, I don't blame Emma for eloping with the vicar, he was a typical posh, chinless wonder! xxx

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  10. I'm exhausted now with all the passion and angst of the Hanbury set. Makes my life seem verrry dull indeed.
    I would still like to experience, maybe just for a day or so living in some of the national trust properties xxx

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    1. I could quite happily have lived in Hanbury Hall for a day or two - as long as we didn't have to sleep in the suicide bedroom or do the gardening! xxx

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  11. Bowater Vernon, wonderful name. Thanks for the tour

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    1. I think that name needs to be resurrected - great name for a cat! x

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  12. This is SUCH an interesting place- thank you very much for sharing a frankly fascinating history! It is very attractive too, esp those gardens!! Oog, I want to see the orangery too!!
    Niiiiiiiiiiiiiiice shaggy coat - like that character from Monsters Inc and the dress underneath is mighty fine!

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    1. Jon says I look like a creature from Star Wars - I'll take his word for it, I've never watched it!
      The Orangery was bigger than our house! xxx

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  13. I did thoroughly enjoy your tour! What an interesting history! ;)

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    1. Thanks, Laurie! Glad you enjoyed it! x

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  14. Gracious, what a team of gardeners it must take to keep that beautiful parterre in shape!
    I wonder what the meaning of Lad Georgina turning away from the viewer is in her painted portrait?
    Love Thornhill's Cyclops & the cheeky bumflash of the man assaulting him with a mallet.
    The house is stunning but I wonder how hard it is to keep warm with those amazingly large windows?
    Thanx for sharing your visit to such an amazing property!
    xox

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    1. The gardeners were toiling away when we were there. the head gardener's been there for 29 years - rather him than me!
      I loved the unusual angle of Lady Georgina's portrait, very intimate showing the nape of the neck, wasn't it? xxx

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  15. What a fantastic TV drama this place could inspire. All those tantalisingly scandalous stories would make a great series Downton Abbey style..called Hanbury, of Course!

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    1. If it was on the TV we'd probably say it was unrealistic! Hard to believe so much scandal in one family! xxx

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  16. of cause i love this place!!
    and your story of scandals is great fun - never a boring life at hanbury hall - haha. and you´r wearing one of my fav dresses of you - this blue&embroidery number looks beyond fabulous on you. and the ombré yeti fur is a perfect match! guess its very warm?
    huge hugs! xxxxx

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    1. I do like a scandal! Why should today's celebrities have all the fun?
      I wasn't planning on keeping the yeti but as soon as I tried it on I was in love, it's like having a hug from a giant cat! xxx

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  17. Thanks for the tour Vix - I love the parterre - how spendid but could you imagine having to keep it. Very sad story about the family - those aristocrats all had their share of troubles didn't they.
    You look fabulous in blue :) have a great weekend and sell loads.

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    1. I'm not surprised the original got grassed over, that parterre must be a full-time job! xxx

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  18. Stunning house, thanks for telling us about the history of it and showing your photos! I can't believe the amount of family drama that went on (bigamous marriage under assumed name to a 16 year old!)

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    1. I know! Running off to become a farmer, assuming a false name and marrying a 16 year old. It makes today's celebrity antics look quite lame in comparison. xxx

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  19. I love Gilbert, seeing him makes me want to go on holiday! For a holiday home Hanbury Hall doesn't seem to have been a place of happy holidays does it? It is regal looking though and a very interesting, though sad tale of the owners histories. You look fabulously turned out as ever :) xxx

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    1. Gilbert's a bit of a naughty boy, he's not firing on all cylinders at the moment - grrr!! xxx

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  20. Wow , So much scandal lol , I love the Ladies room , Its gorgeous xxx

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    1. The walls are a lovely shade of blue, aren't they? x

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  21. My list for touring the UK is getting longer and longer. I understand the appeal, and yet at the same time, the dislike of such prisinte designed gardens.

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    1. Yes, that garden would be lovely to stroll around bedecked in your Regency finery but I can't imagine maintaining it! x

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  22. Hello Gilbert! What a scandalous history Hanbury Hall has. I loved reading that. I wouldn't mind lounging around in that Ladies' Lounge, and I love Lady Georgina's painting and photograph. That parterre really looks the part, although I too prefer a wilder garden. I bet that crazy yeti coat kept you nice and warm! xxx

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    1. That yeti was a lifesaver, the wind's so cold. Bloody Bank Holidays! xxx

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  23. We also love to self cater whether days out or holidays!

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    1. Us, too (unless it's India where the food is too cheap and good not to eat out three times a day!) xxx

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  24. I last visited Hanbury Hall back in the 90s and have been meaning to revisit it. After reading your post, reckon I'll pop up there this year - complete with picnic! xxx

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    1. You'll have to now the parterre's been restored to its former glory. There's even chickens and bees there now, too. a fab place for a picnic! xxx

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  25. What a torrid history this manor has! I love that you allowed us to come along and discover this spot with you. I am not surprised at all that the place is haunted after all that drama.

    bisous
    Suzanne

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    1. Funnily enough the National Trust guidebook makes no mention of Hanbury Hall's past. After doing a bit of internet research I was desperate to go. xxx

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  26. I'm so jealous there are so many beautiful old buildings to visit in your area, so many scandalous stories too. I actually think my favourite part of this home is the garden, it looks so grand!

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    1. We are lucky, the Midlands seems to have more than it's fair share of NT properties - partially down to the area being at the heart of the Industrial Revolution hence masses of wealthy industrialists with millions to spend in the 18th Century. xxx

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  27. Fabulous post Vix and brilliant photos. Loved the little bits of gossip tucked In as well. Can't say who looked most gorgeous, you Jon or Gilbert. I had a Mazda hatchback that orange colour years ago. Now we have a little sport Fiat 500, red. Not practical but lots of fun as our 1st car 55 years ago was the same.

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    1. Hello Sally! Your racy Mazda sounds dreamy. I love the Fiat 500s, too. xxx

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  28. What an interesting history lesson, sad though. I do love a formal garden as much as I do a rambling cottage garden, both have their charms. We don't partake in the tearooms at properties either, though sometimes a hot drink would be nice, wonder if they'd mind me taking a little flask of soy milk! Love the coat too, I have a pink jacket with the same shaggy fur, and have dithered for years over charity shopping it xxx

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    1. I think quite a few of the NT cafes offer soy milk now, I've seen vegan & vegetarian friendly notices in the guidebook. It gets expensive if you start buying tea and food though, doesn't it? I like having a free day out! xxx

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  29. It's such a shame that the people who lived in these grand homes seemed to have such complicated and unhappy lives. The formal gardens are very pretty, but I prefer more of a "bit of everything together" kind of garden. Thank you for another delightful National Trust tour!

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    1. Money certainly didn't buy some of the Vernon family much luck, did it?
      I'm more of a wild and unkempt garden lover, too. Those straight lines don't sit well with with me. xxx

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  30. Oh, the drama of this home! So intriguing, and so very human at the same time. Meet you in the Ladies Lounge Room for a cuppa. xox

    -Patti
    http://notdeadyetstyle.com

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  31. That's a fun coat and a fun trip! You have a knack for telling stories - history becomes palpable! I always get excited to see ducks, and when I see sheep or horses, I am over the moon! :)

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    1. Thanks, Natalia! We can't contain ourselves when we see farm animals either! xxx

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  32. What the...?! All that history in one place?! Truth is stranger than fiction indeed!! It looks like an incredible place to visit. Love the yeti coat x

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    1. I know! One scandal is more than enough for most families! Great place though, I can see why its a lot of people's favourite NT place, despite the history there's a lovely feel to the place! xxx

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  33. glad to see you in your yeti coat rocking this fabulous background!, such an interesting building and even more interesting gossip about ol'fashioned scandals!
    thanks for sharing!
    besos

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    1. My pleasure! Glad you enjoyed the post, Monica! xxx

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  34. Oh my, I think I must take a nap now, so much to-do in that family tree. But you do look lovely visiting it all. Thanks for the trip.

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    1. Hi Pao! Thanks for sticking with it, they certainly weren't a dull bunch. xxx

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  35. Mushroom house?! How cool! And I always love yeti fashion :)

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  36. Another gorgeous old mansion and the best ever accompanying story, you are very good at sharing the information and your photos. I have told you before, it is like going on the tour with you. LOVE these posts, thanks Vix!!!

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    1. Thanks, Sue! I do love hearing the background stories to these grand houses, it makes the owners more real. xxx

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  37. Hanbury Hall is definitely on my 'must visit' list. It looks lovely and the scandals and eccentricities of its former inhabitants all add to its charm. It did look cosy, as you said which is a difficult thing for a stately home to achieve!

    You're wearing my favourite dress and the Yeti coat is magnificent. What a bargain!

    xxx

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    1. Lots of people I know say Hanbury Hall is their favourite NT property and I can see why, it does have a lovely feel to it despite the history of the previous owners. The gardens are wonderful, even better with some warmth and sunshine, I expect! xxx

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  38. Thanks for the tour, Vix, in that fabulous Yeti coat and gorgeous long dress. Very interesting history, complete with scandal and now a ghost that is said to haunt the place. Some lovely photos too, love the ones of each of your reflections caught in mirrors. xx

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    1. I'm so glad you enjoyed the visit, Elizabeth! xxx

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  39. I was reading that thinking, "At least the building was kept beautiful through all those scandalous episodes" and then got to the repainted ceiling. Augh!

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    1. I know! What on earth possessed them to paint over that ceiling? Madness! x

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  40. I'm so behind with my blog reading. Feckless relatives, torrid love affairs - love it! What a handsome house from the outside. Love the photo of you in the orchard! Lady Georgina must've been quite the beauty judging by her portrait and photo. When people find out I'm an NT member they think it is boring and old-fashioned, I should make them read a few of your NT posts to see how fascinating it all is. xx

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    1. Isn't the history of Hanbury fantastic? I don't understand why anyone would think wandering around fantastic houses, ogling beautiufl things and listening to the history of the places could ever be seen as boring. Beats wandering around some shopping centre. xxx

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Don't be shy, if you enjoyed your visit leave a comment, I can come and visit your blog if you do.
Love from Vix
xxx