Friday, 8 December 2017


We have started a new tradition - every year we try and visit a Christmas-themed venue to get us into the Christmas spirit, and hopefully give us some new decorating and food ideas after living through more than 60 Christmases!

This year we ventured to Harewood House, between Leeds and Harrogate, home of the Lascelles family, and built between 1759-71 by Edwin Lascelles, the first baron of Harewood, from monies made from the family plantation in the West Indies.

Harewood House nestles in beautiful Yorkshire countryside, with rolling hills and a village - which used to house all the estate workers (and still does to some extent) - bearing its name.

Today the house is owned by a charitable trust, but the family owns the land, has the right to live in the house, and is currently the home of the eighth Earl of Harewood, David Lascelles and his family. The estate is multi-use, housing farms, a conservation programme, privately owned houses, a pub, a girls school, and is even home to the fictitious village of Beckindale/Emmerdale from the famous ITV soap.

The house is open daily to the public and as well as the birdhouse and the gardens - which were designed by Lancelot "Capability" Brown. There are also a number of walks, talks and special events, including major concerts, throughout the year.

Our visit was on a bitterly cold day, and although the sun shone for a short time, it was so cold it made our eyes water!

So for the day, Anne H was wearing a Harris Tweed coat from COS which is a steal from her daughter's wardrobe, yet again.  It is a few years old but is such a  timeless classic and has a fabulous blue lining.  She is wearing a cashmere turtle neck from La Redoute which she really rates for their cashmere, particularly as they often have discount codes or flash sales so they are reasonably priced too.  It is currently available for £71.20 and is well worth the spend.

Anne C is wearing a wool coat with faux fur collar bought a couple of  years ago, (similar one here, though there are currently plenty of fur collars in the shops to accessorise any coats) with grey skinny jeans, both from George at Asda (she loves a bargain).  Her grey sweater was bought at Covet in Ilkley, while the pale grey boots with diamante heel are a new purchase from River Island.  The handbag - which fortunately matches the boots perfectly, is an old one from Per Una at Marks and Spencer, so no longer available.

Anne H has on new black jeans from 7 For All Mankind in their Rozie design bought in the sales and boots from the Miss KG range at Kurt Geiger which are the Spider design, a really comfortable suede boot with low heel.  They are so comfy she has got them in tan as well and is now tempted by the grey!  She is also wearing a locket necklace from Pandora.

Into the House..

So into the house - the theme running through the Victorian Christmas was that of a family who had just left the room.... with decorations designed by Michael Howells, set designer of the recent television series "Victoria", so it's no surprise that much of the series was filmed at Harewood. The house itself is quite small by stately home standards, but the internal decorations have been finished to a high standard, though hardly lavish as at Castle Howard, although we loved the beautiful chandeliers which adorned many of the rooms, and the specially woven carpets. Maybe this is in keeping with the austerity of the Victorian era.

The Spanish library was cosy and surprisingly warm for such a large room, and was designed as if the family had been writing their Christmas cards and making paper chain decorations.  The lovely old books added warmth and gave the room a lived-in feeling.  Interestingly the original carpet had worn away in places so a new carpet had been specially commissioned in recent years to match the original and then cleverly slotted into place.  It was a perfect match pattern-wise, though of course, the colours were brighter.
Further details on the library can be found here.

The beautiful gallery, (which Anne C once had the pleasure of being invited to dinner there in her previous corporate role)  houses a fine collection of art work and paintings, and also features what appear to be lavish festoon velvet curtains with gold tassels, but the very friendly and knowledgeable guide surprised us by telling us that they were in fact designed by Chippendale and are actually made from carved wood, though the tassels are real.

Thomas Chippendale was a locally-born cabinet-maker who became world-renowned and hailed from just a few miles up the road in Otley. Much of the furniture at Harewood was made by Chippendale, and later by his son, Thomas the younger, who carried on his father's tradition and took over his workshop.

The room also features four enormous mirrors which were made in France and had to be shipped over and then brought to Yorkshire over land - bearing in mind that the roads were not as they are today, and there was no heavy lifting gear - so a fabulous feat in itself to get them to Harewood in one piece.

Further historical details are available here.

The fabulous dining room looked as if the family has just eaten their Christmas dinner and gone off for a walk in the grounds to blow away the cobwebs. A recurring theme for the house is how many times it has been remodelled - with the original fireplaces or doorways being removed, replaced or re-positioned into different rooms, ceilings altered, taken down, or repainted.

The house was designed by architects John Carr and Robert Adam.  Carr was born in Yorkshire, and much of his work can still be seen in other parts of the county.  He never moved to London, figuring there was plenty of money to be earned up north!  Robert Adam specialised in interiors - and also found time to establish his business and be a Member of Parliament for Kinrossshire. 

An extension to the original house was built in the 19th century after Henrietta Seabright, wife of the 3rd Earl of Harewood, Henry Lascelles, gave birth to 13 children - because she found the house too small.

The family is very close to our own royal family, with Princess Mary, Countess of Harewood and daughter of King George V and Queen Mary, being married to Henry Lascelles, the sixth Earl of Harewood and grandmother to the current Earl - who is 57th in line to the throne.

Below stairs

Below stairs, an army of servants ran the household like a military operation.  This part appealed to Anne C whose own paternal grandmother was "in service" in the early part of the 20th century, though unfortunately she did not live to relate tales of life downstairs.

During our tour of the house, the kitchen was prepared as it would have been for a sumptuous dinner with catering for the family and their guests. There were even recipe cards of the prepared Victorian dishes for visitors to take away, which we thought was a nice touch.

There were separate rooms for the pastry chef, a lovely sunny room for the housekeeper, copies of uniforms for the staff ( which visitors can try on) and several cupboards and shelves for the hundreds of glasses, plates and cooking utensils.

The battered copper pans - obviously much used - hung from hooks in the spacious kitchen, while a huge black range which would have housed a roaring fire and several ovens took up a whole wall.  Again Anne remembers her maternal grandmother cooking on a much smaller range back in the 1950s - the focal point of the one room in which she lived in her tiny back-to-back terrace (complete with outside lavvy) in Leeds .


Harewood is also famous for its lovely bird gardens and conservation - but these are best visited during the warmer months  - it is always a pleasure to see the flamingos and some of the birds of prey, but only when the weather is better. We did however, take a peek at the penguin enclosure since it was next to the outdoor cafe.  Families with younger children should also visit the Christmas experience with Santa which are at specific times and are almost fully booked before Christmas.  This however, will incur an extra cost.

If we have a tiny grumble about our morning out - it was quite expensive at £16 each for probably an hour in the house, and the catering facilities were rather inadequate.  There was an obviously temporary shop and cafe in the house, while the Courtyard cafeteria near the bird garden was extremely busy so we couldn't get a table, and we had to sit outside in the freezing (though sunny) weather to drink our coffee - forcing us to gulp it down as quickly as we could.  There were outside tables in the courtyard at the other side of the cafeteria with available blankets - clearly they know it can get very chilly, but this was in the shaded part of the building, so even colder, and sadly not an outside portable heater in sight.

Worth a visit - yes if you make a full day of it with the family and take in the talks, workshops, trails, quizzes and demonstrations, but if you just want to look around the house and stay inside - not so much.


1 comment

  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.


© Sensational Baby Boomers

This site uses cookies from Google to deliver its services - Click here for information.

Blogger Template Created by pipdig