Wanderer at Large: Haddon Hall

A tour guide’s all-time favourite UK places.

Sponsored by Your London Tours.

This autumn, Visit Britain, the marketing arm of the British tourist industry, is launching its ‘Great British Staycation Campaign’ to encourage people to holiday in the UK.

Soul City Wanderer (aka Frank Molloy) is one of the UK’s most accredited and experienced tour guides. Over three decades he has visited nearly every part of the country, touring many of the places that Great Britain and Ireland has to offer.

In a new blog series, he will list his all-time favourite five places by area (spiralling out from London*). These are personal choices, some obvious, some obscure.

This week, the Northern Midlands including Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire.


Haddon Hall – Lower Courtyard – panoramic by ell brown is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Haddon Hall
Haddon Hall is a fortified medieval house, with the manor originally held by William Peverel, William the Conqueror’s illegitimate son, before it came into the ownership of the powerful local Vernon family in 1170.

Avoiding fire; warfare; family misfortune and changing fashion, Haddon Hall is a time capsule providing a unique view of early English life and history. Described as the ‘most perfect house to survive from the Middle Ages’, it features some of the finest family rooms from the medieval period.

Highlights include: the Great Hall, from 1370, with original screens, minstrel gallery, dais and a tapestry given by Henry VIII; the Kitchen, with genuine medieval furniture and implement survivors; the Dining Room: with the boar’s head Vernon emblem and peacock Manners emblem painted on the ceiling; the St Nicholas Chapel, from 1427; the Long Gallery, with three tiers of Elizabethan windows with angled panes, and oak panelling celebrating the Vernon-Manners union and the reign of James I; the State Bedroom, featuring the ‘Sense of Smell’ Mortlake tapestry.

A romantic story of the Elizabethan period saw the house change ownership: John Manners, son of the Earl of Rutland, fell in love with George Vernon’s 18-year-old daughter Dorothy. Unfortunately, the Manners family were Protestant while the Vernons were Catholic. Vernon forbade the young couple to see each other. One night, John disguised himself as a woodman to see Dorothy. However, they were discovered, and from then on, Dorothy was kept locked in her room. On the night of her sister’s wedding, Dorothy managed to escape her prison, slip through the door, and down the steps onto the bridge (which is still there) where John was waiting on horseback. The two then galloped away and got married. After old Vernon died, John and Dorothy returned to reclaim Haddon Hall, and it is said, lived happily ever after! The house has been the home of the Duke and Duchess of Rutland (Lord and Lady Manners) ever since. The popular story was turned into a novel, opera and film. Of course, there are echoes of Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet, especially with the feuding family theme. Indeed, some believe the fifth Earl of Rutland (1576-1612) wrote some of Shakespeare’s plays.

Another famous occupant was General John Manners (1721-70), eldest son of the third Duke of Rutland. As the Marquess of Granby, John was lionized for victories during the Seven Years War with France in the mid-18th century. Popular paintings of the time show his concern and charity towards his men. His personal sponsorship saw to it that many disabled non-commissioned officers could gain work as publicans. A number of pubs thus took the name: Marquess of Granby.

From the mid-18thcentury, Haddon Hall lay dormant for nearly 200 years, until the ninth Duke and Duchess of Rutland restored it. During World War II, it housed a public records office. Members of the Manners family still live in the Upper Courtyard.

The house is surrounded by gardens and set on the River Wye amongst the hills of the Peak District National Park. Its picturesque beauty has seen it chosen as a location for many recent movies, including The Princess Bride (1987), Pride and Prejudice (2005), and Jane Eyre (2011).

Haddon Hall – to visit is just good Manners!


Note: All sites mentioned were operating pre-lockdown. Please check relevant websites before embarking on any potential visit. Another recommendation will appear tomorrow.

For the very best in guided private tours of the UK visit www.yourlondontours.com


*Operators in the UK tour industry often separate the areas of the country according to what touring can be achieved in a region in one day. As a London-based operator, my ‘map’ spirals outwards from the capital and is separated thus:

  1. London
  2. Northern Home Counties (Beds/Herts/Cambs)
  3. Eastern Home Counties (Essex/Suffolk)
  4. Southern Home Counties (Kent, Surrey, Sussex)
  5. Western Home Counties (Ox/Berks/Bucks)
  6. South coast (Hants/Dorset)
  7. Western England (Somerset/Gloucs/Wilts)
  8. South West England (Devon & Cornwall)
  9. Wales (north & south)
  10. Welsh Borders (Worcestershire/Herefordshire/Shropshire/Cheshire)
  11. Western Midlands (Brum/Warks/Staffs)
  12. Eastern Midlands (Northants/Leics/Rutland)
  13. Northern Midlands (Notts/Derbys)
  14. East coast (Norfolk/Lincs)
  15. Yorks (all ridings)
  16. North West (Manchester/Merseyside/Lancs/Lakes/Cumbria)
  17. North East (Durham/Tyne & Wear/Northumberland)
  18. Southern Scotland (Borders/Lowlands)
  19. Northern Scotland (Highlands/Islands)
  20. Ireland (Northern/Southern)

Published by Soul City Wanderer

Soul City Wanderer is the alias of London journalist and author Frank Molloy, a writer on the city’s history and culture. Born south of the river, he has an MA in London history (Birkbeck) and lectures at various institutions including the Museum of London and the National Portrait Gallery. He is also a fully-qualified Blue Badge Guide (MITG), Westminster Guide and City of London Guide.

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