BUILDING work began on Kirby Hall in 1570 by Sir Humphrey Stafford, and was completed five years later by Sir Christopher Hatton.
Kirby Hall's beautiful gardens
During the 15th century, Kirby Hall became a favourite destination for members of the Royal Family, most notably King James 1.
Not altogether unsurprisingly, the Hattons took the Royalist side during the Civil War and, due to his unswerving loyalty, Sir Christopher was named Baron Hatton of Kirby and Controller of the King’s Household.
The hall had been passed down to Christopher’s son, Christopher IV, during the 16th century after his father’s death and it was he who took on a passion for the hall’s garden. Sadly, after Christopher IV’s death in 1706, the hall fell into a serious state of disrepair, due mainly to members of the Hatton family preferring to live in London.
By the mid 1930s, the house came under the control of the Office of Works and, since 1984, has been cared for and maintained by English Heritage.
Parked and walking down the gravel driveway, I’m suddenly confronted by the awesome, carved stone gateway that leads to the Inner Courtyard of Kirby Hall. Once inside the courtyard, you’re flanked either side by long ranges which were used as accommodation.
These two ‘wings’ of the house are without roofs, but the original height of the walls remains intact, making for a very impressive sight indeed. And whilst a bit murky and dank, both wings offer a little glimpse of what the original 15th century hall must have felt like to live and sleep in.
Straight ahead of you is the focal point – the main entrance to the three-tier hall, with its Renaissance porch.
Once inside the hall, you come across the Great Hall. Up a few flights of stairs was the Long Gallery, which gives magnificent views of Kirby Hall’s greatest splendour – its gardens.
The gardens at Kirby Hall were so grand, that in the 17th century they were described as “ye finest gardens in England”.
Thankfully, unlike parts of the hall, the gardens have been restored to their former glory – thanks in no small part to a £270,000 project undertaken this year by the English Heritage Historic and Botanic Garden Bursary Scheme and the Wolfson Gardens Challenge Fund.
The project involved a replanting scheme, which included plants from the Hatton plant collection together with fruit trees, shrubs, herbaceous plants and bulbs, as well as bay trees clipped as pyramids and balls.
Signposted road, off the A43 – four miles north east of Corby. Postcode NN17 3EN.
Tel: 01536 203230.
Visit the Kirby Hall website by clicking here.