Beningbrough Hall is just one of many places I have visited in North Yorkshire that has fed my imagination for the plots of my novellas.
The existing building dates from 1716 and has been owned by the National Trust since 1958. It has strong links with the National Portrait Gallery and houses an interesting selection of art in its Italian baroque influenced interior, which was created by John Bourchier, the Sheriff of Yorkshire, after his Grand Tour where he spent two years in Italy.
The out buildings
Although the house is interesting it was the walled garden, the bell tower and the out buildings, including the laundry and potting shed, which actually captured my attention and interest. The main building is grand and worth visiting, but such houses existed because a number of people worked and served the estates with diligence and long hours.
Many of the skills of yesteryear are brought back to life by the living history events that are run here, such as, willow weaving
The Laundry room
When I entered the old laundry I felt a chill in the air as the stone was so cold. I instantly imagined how hard it would be to keep the water boiled, to lift the sodden cloth from one area to another. Then there were the harsh soaps, the lye, the scrubbing, soaking, rinsing, drying and ironing. An image of the heat of the water and fire contrasting with the cold, moist air and long hours spent toiling for the lowly laundry maid formed.
What a harsh existence and what a place to hide if you did not want to be seen
Running hot and cold water was a luxury still to be provided in the time of my heroine, Chloe. Water had to be either hauled from a well or stream or pumped up from an underground source. Once they had the water they then had to heat it and use substances such as lye soap to soak, wash or scrub the garments, which was hard on the hands. The garments were more difficult to maintain in olden times, before modern textiles were created, dyes and methods of controlled cleaning. The garments may have had to be unpicked to separate the delicate lace, from wool or silk and each section cleaned or washed separately. Materials were not colourfast and were often heavy.
A careless laundry maid could cause shrinkage, pilling and ruin a garment and easily lose her already lowly position
My heroine was unused to hard work and found herself secreted away in a building with a cold stone-flagged floor, lifting heavy loads. She needed help and a good friend to survive and so an idea for another story formed.
The walled garden in the sunshine
Beningborough also has a working walled garden where workshops are run as well as photography and children's events. If you are in the area and want to see a piece of history set amongst lovely countryside it is well worth a visit. There is a restaurant which serves fresh local food and plenty to interest children.
Dogs are allowed in the ample grounds when kept on a lead.
More information is available from: http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/beningbrough-hall-gallery-and-gardens