Society Day Out at Middleton Hall, Tamworth

Middleton Hall is a Grade II* listed building dating back to medieval times. It is situated in the North Warwickshire district of the county of Warwickshire in England, south of Fazeley and Tamworth and on the opposite side of the A4091 road to Middleton village.

Quinton LHS on our day out to Middleton Hall

The Manor of Middleton was held by the de Freville family until 1418 and came to the Willoughbys by virtue of the marriage of heiress Margaret de Freville to Sir Hugh Willoughby. The Willoughbys had extensive estates in Nottinghamshire and elsewhere, their principal seat being Wollaton Hall, Nottingham. In the mid-17th century the hall was home to Francis Willughby the famed mathematician and naturalist and his descendants holding the title Baron Middleton. The Georgian West Wing dates from the late 18th century but in 1812 the estates and the Barony passed to Henry Willoughby of the Birdsall, Yorkshire branch of the family and Middleton declined in importance in family terms. The Middleton and Wollaton estates were sold in the 1920s. See under Middleton village for more historical details. The hall was allowed to fall into disrepair over many years and since 1980 is being restored by a charitable trust.

The hall’s history spans over 1,000 years so this means that there are a lot of stories to tell. Over the centuries the Hall has grown and changed as have the people that have called this place home. During our visit we met the commander of the Norman cavalry at the Battle of Hastings; a Medieval Lord who escaped a prison sentence; a Tudor explorer who died whilst trying to find a North-East passage to China; our two famous seventeenth-century naturalists; and a Duchess renowned for her love of music. The buildings themselves tell their own fascinating story, of construction styles from the Medieval through to the Georgian period and changes in the methods and materials used.

Middleton Hall & Gardens has entered a period of exciting projects, from planning and developing how it shares its stories with visitors, to the more mundane but still vitally important role of managing to keep the roof on!

Signs of staining on the ceiling of the Great Hall was noticed early in the year, this caused a great amount of concern and after such a wet early summer led to the hall developing an indoor water feature that wasn’t planned.

Surveyors assessed the damage and roofers quoted for the likely cost of repairs. In the early stages the estimates were between £5,000 and £8,000. The earlier the roof was fixed, then water ingress should not cause further damage to the structure of the roof which would be much more costly to repair.

The Great Hall was originally restored by our volunteers over 25 years ago from its derelict state. It had been a lived-in family home up until 1966 when it was sold and left to fall into ruin. In 1980 the Middleton Hall Trust was formed and started the ongoing process of restoring and conserving Middleton Hall & Gardens. Money was raised through fundraising events, even holding concerts in the Great Hall when there was no roof at all! The local community has always played a part in keeping this important part of their heritage standing, and alive through fundraising but also using the building for their family celebrations and as a local meeting space for groups and attending concerts and plays.

Middleton’s Kitchen-The bread oven(left) and skiddle (right)

An early washing machine(left) and vacuum cleaner(right)

The eighteenth-century walled garden boasts original heated walls which are amongst the oldest of their kind dating from the eighteenth-century and also an original bothy (a small hut or cottage). The Georgian bed design is planted full of flowers loved by pollinators over the summer months. Within the walls is also the herb garden, dedicated to the two famous naturalists John Ray and Francis Willughby and the working Smithy. The gardens also contain a heritage orchard, short lakeside walk through seasonal displays of snowdrops, daffodils and bluebells, and the west lawn upon which one can while away the hours playing croquet. 

Hidden behind the beautiful Tudor Barn are 12 small independent retail businesses within a peaceful Victorian stable yard. This tranquil rural retail hub is home to a popular coffee shop and where one will be able to find everything from antiques and jewellery, to herbal products and quirky gifts. One can also find a multi-award-winning Thai spa and a dog grooming service.

A thoroughly enjoyable day out, the weather was dry and sunny. All of the group managed the stairs and were amazed by this wonderful old building. The trust should be congratulated on its sterling work and preserving a part of the area’s heritage. If anyone hasn’t visited Middleton Hall then at £6 entrance fee; I suggest it would be a splendid day out for all of the family and less than an hour’s drive from Quinton. The staff also cater for tea, coffee, cakes and light lunches.

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