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

Conservator stitching into the silk of the Ann Bangham dress

Join us to discover a piece of Berrington's history in a new exhibition which focus on the life of Ann Bangham, wife of Thomas Harley, here at Berrington. This exhibition features elements of an original dress that may have belonged to Ann and been worn at Berrington.

You can now 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 elements of Ann Bangham's original eighteenth-century Court Mantua dress. Kept in specially created environmental conditions, the sections of the dress that we have are protected. These sections are also still in reasonable condition which means that on selected days we're able to be joined by conservators who are working carefully to restore the dress.

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 can 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 offers 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.

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.