'A Dress Fit for a King' - The story of Ann Bangham

Conservator stitching into the silk of the Ann Bangham dress

Read the article below to discover more about our exhibition 'A Dress Fit for a King' which features a piece of Berrington's history and focuses on the life of Ann Bangham, wife of Thomas Harley, here at Berrington. Due to our celebrations for Christmas, the first floor of the mansion will be closed from Monday 12 November 2018. As a result, neither 'A Dress Fit for a King' or 'Eye am She' by Lorna Brown will be able to be accessed by visitors. We apologise for any inconvenience, however you can learn more about the dress and the exhibition in the article below.

From February 2019 you can discover our new exhibition 'A Dress Fit for a King' with 'Eye am She' by Lorna J Brown. This is an exhibition which focuses on the life of Ann Bangham, wife of Berrington's original owner, Thomas Harley.

On the first floor of the mansion you can uncover the original and restored court mantua dress which belonged to Ann Bangham in the eighteenth-century. Kept in specially created environmental conditions, the sections of the dress that we recovered were restored and pieced back together to put the full mantua back together.

See for yourself the delicate stitch work on the dress
Ann Bangham's silk dress with the notes of the conservator behind it
See for yourself the delicate stitch work on the dress

As well as this, throughout the first floor you will be able to discover more about the life of Ann and Thomas Harley. With parts of their history weaved as a narrative throughout the rooms, you are able to learn more, and discover what it was like to live during the eighteenth-century.

Working with 'A Dress Fit for a King', is 'Eye am She', by Herefordshire artist Lorna J Brown. ‘Eye am She’ is a mixed-media art installation, inspired by the life of Ann Bangham and the eighteenth-century seedlings of modern celebrity culture. 

A fashionable Georgian eye portrait
A portrait of an eye in a decorative frame
A fashionable Georgian eye portrait

Brown will offer you a chance to reflect on the life of Ann, and life for women in the eighteenth-century, as a time when women and their actions were watched. Brown draws inspiration from a number of elements of the Georgians culture. She notably draws on both Georgian 'Lover's Eye Miniatures' and the 'Secret Language of Flowers' that the Georgians used to create this piece of thought-provoking artwork.

Why not have a look at the video below to learn more from Historic Conservator, Melangell Penrhys about what the court mantua can tell us about Ann Bangham:

Georgian culture and the life of Ann

From a young age Ann would have been coached to be an ideal wife, in the hope of securing a marriage to a man of social standing. Her education would have been simply to read and write, perhaps speak another language but mostly skills required to have children and be a good wife and manage a household; arrange flowers, develop and use herbal recipes and care for linens.

Ann would have worn the most fashionable dresses that she could afford. These dresses would have been beautiful and delicate and were carefully designed with intricate patterns and needlework.

Born of a modest family, Ann’s education and upbringing allowed her to marry Thomas Harley, a wealthy London Banker and Political Advisor. The couple married and went on to have eight children (five of which survived). Thomas’s fondness of Ann was apparent as he unusually transferred inherited estate into her name, meaning financial security for Ann should anything happen to him.

From this, the story of Berrington Hall begins. In 1775, the couple purchased the estate and shortly after designs for a stylish Neoclassical mansion began, an oasis for retirement in the countryside.

Sadly, we have no existing portraits of Ann, which is why we are so excited to display her court dress this spring, a rare piece of Berrington history to share with the public.