You’ll not be surprised in the least to hear that we’re on a trek north, to see the latest, 2020, motorhome releases. In the end I just didn’t have the energy to put up much of an argument against it. It was the thought of having to listen to “If only I’d seen it” for the next 9 – 12 months that wore me down.
Himself knows he’s had a firm win (rare, I’ll grant) on this. I know because he’s done the research to ensure we don’t spend all day driving. He’s planned a stop at the country estate of Thomas Vernon Esq, Hanbury Hall.
The weather is awful, of course. The UK is in the grip of the tail spin from Hurricane Lorenzo. Pelting rain is forecast as far as the internet weather report can see.
We arrive at Hanbury Hall by mid afternoon, in a rare, brief break from the rain. Hanbury Hall sits in a relatively rarely preserved moment in architectural history, a classic Queen Anne design, built in 1701. There is some argument about this though – some thinking the build finished in 1706. Three hundred years on, there’s barely a whisker in it.
Thomas Vernon was a successful London lawyer, Hanbury Hall was built as his summer residence. He eventually stood for election – this painted “poster” is only one of two preserved from the campaign. The other is a musuem piece. This one only survived because it was mounted on canvas.
It was discovered in the Hall’s attic, only recently. Interestingly, it features a painting of the (then) King vs Vernon, firmly placing him as a Whig.
Frustratingly, there’s little information on site about the Hall and Thomas Vernon. Instead, it’s in the grip of “The Favourite” film fever. It’s an interesting story, the reign of Queen Anne, and the relationships she had with her two female court favourites. An interesting story, but a decidedly odd film. But an Oscar winner, no less.
The house has so many gorgeous features, unusually for a National Trust property, we learn little about them. Look at this gorgeous cutlery canteen, one of three, in the dining room. An that green gramophone!
I struggle to find a connection with Queen Anne and the Hall, but it’s eventually made clear – she and her “favourites” are featured on this painting in the stairwell.
The Queen is painted as Achilles, her favourites by her side. Political satire of the time perhaps? Her favorites were both her strength and weakness. I would have preferred more information about the house and its history, to be truthful.
One of the guides extends the Hall’s history a little. He fills us in on an election poster painting and a painting showing Thomas Vernon’s descendant, shown below (quite dark), surveying his windfall.
He inherited a £21 million estate (in today’s equivalent) on Thomas Vernon’s death, blew the lot and died young. Now there’s story to build a tour on. That’s a story I really want to hear.
Outside, under the rain’s return, we tour the sunken parterre,
the walled garden,
the mushroom house,
the bowling green and the orangery.
It’s an extraordinary estate, all the more so for being a mere “summer residence”.
An occasional squirrel bounds about, adding a perfect furry touch.
By the time we’re finished the rain has set in. It’s a shame, there was still more of the estate to explore. We leave to make our way further north, in fairly tense weather conditions. All around us, roads are blocked by accidents, floods are imminent.
We end the day just south of Birmingham, Himself well on the way to his 2020 motorhome viewing, me relatively content with seeing Hanbury Hall, despite being somewhat dragged north against my will.
And so on a day relatively to plan, one would think it would come with an event free end. But no, dear reader, one would be in fool’s paradise to think that. Here’s what actually happened: Himself falls asleep. I watch Good Omens, a fabulous six part series, perfectly cast, based on a wonderfully engaging book of the same name. Oh so very recommended, both book and series. So far so good. Midnight passes. As does 1 am. Himself wakes and puts himself to bed, I settle in for another one or two episodes. You’ll sense my contentment, I’m sure – I’m practically purring.
Then….BOOM!!! A gunshot blast, screamingly loud, from nowhere. My immediate thought is we’ve been hit from above, a felled branch perhaps, victim of the weather? Himself leaps to action. A branch? No. We spot a cloud of acrid smoke. Inside. The electrics? No. The power connection? No. Mind you this is all done at 1.30 am, in pouring rain. “Check the battery” I say, it being the only only remaining option in the vicinity of the sound. And there it is, under one of the leather banquettes, one of the two long life leisure batteries has exploded. Let that sink in for a moment. EXPLODED. Under pressure. Battery acid everywhere. At 1.30 am. In the rain.
The blue top shown below used to be one solid piece.
The long process of clean up begins. The carpet becomes a casualty. I could weep in frustration. In an unusual twist of roles, Himself is fully in control, I’m in shock, rendered insensible by the toxic fumes and damage, unable to contribute in any meaningful way.
I just want to go home. My limit has been reached.