Beningbrough Hall in the Vale of York is one of the most remarkable baroque houses in England, with richly carved and finished interiors. Since the current hall was completed in 1716, heavily influenced by John Bourchier’s grand tour, especially Italy, it has been constantly re-invented including as a billet for aircrews during the Second World War.
After a closure of nearly two years, the rooms on the ground floor will reopen on 1 July following a £2.3 million infrastructure project. Visitors will once again be able to take in the dizzying Great Hall and the grand cantilevered staircase, noted for its outstanding workmanship, as well as uncover some of the stories of the families who have made their mark on the hall.
These include several generations of the Bourchier family. In 1649 Sir John Bourchier signed the death warrant of Charles I and his son, Barrington, later rescued the property from the threat of confiscation by Charles II, thereby keeping Beningbrough in the family. In 1941 Beningbrough was the setting for a wartime love story between WAAF Dorothy Preston (Gipsy) and Canadian airman Harry Olsen (Olie), who marked their names and a heart above the drawing room fireplace – now faded through human touch over the decades.
As well as safety upgrades and conservation repairs to the roof, stonework and plasterwork, the project has installed a new professionally designed lighting system, allowing the building’s architecture, carvings, and artwork to stand out like never before.
In particular, the lighting will enhance the hall’s extraordinary carved wood friezes, created by local carpenter-architect William Thornton (who had worked at Castle Howard) and a team of Huguenot craftsmen.
The late Mr Ian Reddihough left a generous gift in his will to support the conservation and care of Beningbrough Hall, which has been invested in this vital work.
In mid-September a new exhibition, Inspired by Italy, will open in the first floor art gallery (16 September 2023 – 17 March 2024). This new exhibition brings together the work of Kate Somervell, a contemporary photographer based in Yorkshire, and Giovanni Battista Piranesi, an 18th-century Italian artist, both of whom have taken inspiration from Italian architecture.
For 300 years Beningbrough has had to reinvent itself to survive, and the re-opening in 2023 coincides with commencing work on the next phase of the Andy Sturgeon garden vision – the Mediterranean Garden. Work to create an inspirational new garden area starts in autumn. Both exciting developments, are set to enhance this beautiful and cultural destination in North Yorkshire.