Here at Hudson’s we love historic buildings, of any kind. We all know that our beautiful country is full to bursting with beautiful stately homes, open to the public for visiting days but what about the hidden treasures? The stunning buildings housing our nation’s museums, town halls and shopping markets often get forgotten while we concentrate on their new purpose instead of enjoying the history of the actual bricks and mortar (or stone and wood in some cases!)
The Wisbech and Fenland museum is one of the oldest purpose built museums in the United Kingdom. Opened in 1847, the building’s exterior is a grand Victorian facade. Inside, features include the original 19th century showcases, which line the walls, and tell the history of this fascinating part of the world. The main exhibition room has the splendid Upper Gallery, reached by two beautiful curved wooden staircases. Home to many curios, scientific specimens and local antiques, the museum displays a wonderfully comprehensive local history.
Chester has been offering double the retail therapy to its visitors for 700 years! The facade of the two tiered shopping gallery the Rows was built in the medieval period to house the flourishing markets of the Middle Ages. Much restoration has been done to the Rows over time, and alterations have been made to make way for newer buildings. There are, however, some wonderfully preserved examples of the original medieval buildings, the most famous of which is known as Three Old Arches and is designated as a Grade 1 listed building by English Heritage.
The Theatre Royal at Bury St Edmunds is one of the last surviving examples of a working Regency Playhouse in the country. Built in 1819 and designed by renowned architect William Wilkins, whose other work includes the National Gallery in London, the Theatre Royal still has many original features intact, and is now Grade 1 listed. It is also included in National Trust’s portfolio. There are several ways to experience this intimate and historic building; guided tours are available and free flow self explore is also a possibility. During the Summer months, an interactive exhibition ‘Backstage Past’, featuring live actors, tells the 200 year history of the building.
Manchester Town Hall is an iconic landmark and one of the most important Grade 1 listed buildings in England. One of the country’s finest examples of Neo-Gothic architecture, the building was completed in 1877 and contains many grand and intricately decorated ceremonial rooms. The Great Hall features the famous Manchester Murals by Ford Madox Brown; a series of 12 paintings depicting Manchester’s history, and the Sculpture Hall contains statues of people who made significant contributions to the city. The clock tower which rises to 280 feet and houses Great Abel, the clock bell, is now open for tours during which you will enter the dial room behind the clock face and have the chance to take in the wonderful panoramic city views from the summit of the tower.
What comes to mind when you think ‘village hall’? Lady Waterford Hall in North Northumberland breaks every preconception! The building was commissioned as a village school in 1860 by keen artist Louisa Anne, Marchioness of Waterford, who was associated with John Ruskin and the Pre-Raphaelite movement. Lady Waterford spent 21 years decorating the inside of the hall with stunning Biblical scenes to act as a teaching aid for the school’s pupils. The history of these paintings is astounding; many of the villagers and schoolchildren were used as models and can be seen clearly depicted on the walls to this day. Lady Waterford Hall is now used as the village hall in Ford and visitors can see many more of Lady Waterford’s artworks on display, as well as pages from her original sketchbooks.
Britain’s heritage is a diverse, rich, cultural tapestry. We love the unexpected history behind some of our more practical buildings. Are there any historic buildings near you with surprising or interesting stories? Tweet us @HudsonsHeritage