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Things to see in Beningbrough Hall

Four people exploring around a large wooden staircase
Your eyes might trick you when you first see the cantilever staircase | © National Trust / Anthony Chappel-Ross

During 300 years of history, Beningbrough Hall has changed many times. From different families to aircrews during the Second World War, each changing the furniture, layout and how the rooms were used. Meander through the historic rooms on the ground floor taking in the fine architecture and key collection items and see what's on in the art gallery.

Beningbrough Hall was a home for 240 years and the centre of a working estate that paid for it. Many people have lived here – owners, tenants, wartime servicemen and generations of servants and estate workers. Each have left their mark, but at its heart the hall remains the showcase first created around 1716 for a young couple, John and Mary Bourchier.

Mr Bourchier’s Fine New House

A quote by Edward Southwell Diary, 1724

John Bourchier unexpectedly inherited his family’s old Tudor house and scattered Yorkshire estates aged just 16. This, combined with a marriage eight years later to a wealthy Yorkshire heiress called Mary Bellwood, gave the young couple the means to build a large and fashionable new Beningbrough Hall.

Yorkshire Baroque

John Bourchier was not alone in his building ambitions – many wealthy landowners in the county were keen to upgrade their country residences at this time:

[There] are several gentlemen in these parts of the world that are possess’d with the spirit of building

A quote by John Vanbrugh

Beningbrough is an important surviving example of the popular architectural style many chose. This mixed Continental and English design ideas to create houses with relatively simple exteriors and elaborately decorated, formal interiors.

Making it all possible for the Bourchiers was the skilled local carpenter-architect William Thornton, who delivered for his clients some of the best wood and stone carving he and his team of talented craftsmen – some French Huguenots who had settled in the York area – could create.

The end result was a hall designed to impress and to be visited, with John and Mary’s initials and coats of arms carefully laid into the stunning floating staircase and carved into the interior woodwork.

Exploring the historic rooms

Before his marriage, John Bourchier visited Italy on a Grand Tour. Some design features in his new house have been copied from palaces he must have seen in Rome – was John inspired by his Italian travels? Today roam around the ground floor and imagine Beningbrough through the decades. With new LED lighting, the quality craftmanship of the building is easy to see. Through displays of key pieces of the collection, uncover the stories of the people who shaped Beningbrough and significant moments in history.

Ornate ceiling with intricate carving and arches as viewed from the floor below
Don't forget to look up | © National Trust Images/Anthony Chapel-Ross

Great Hall

Traditionally the heart of the English country house, Bourchier added classical grandeur you might expect from a Roman palace. Impressive and functional as a busy thoroughfare, just like today. Another owner of Beningbrough, John Bourchier’s niece Margaret Earle, also spent time in Italy with her husband, Giles. The marble bust of Pope Clement XIV that still sits on the fireplace was bought by the Earles as a memento of their time in Rome in the early 1770s. The space has been furnished by previous owners, today it's a grand entrance and used to house large sculptures during exhibitions.

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As you explore, make the most of the passionate and informative team of staff and volunteers in the spaces. Whatever your interests, they are full of stories to shed more light on the history, people, and collection. If you prefer to read, look out for the picks-up, themed to build on the Dining Room panels of Beningbrough business, beloved Beningbrough and beautiful Beningbrough.

Planning your visit

Due to narrow corridors and small turning spaces, visitors are asked to leave mobility scooters outside. The team have indoor wheelchairs, small prams, hip seats and baby slings available to help with visiting the hall.

Conservation in action

Ever wondered how we care for the collection here at Beningbrough? Every year the collections team merticulously wash, dry and press some of the most delicate and fragile pieces in our collection. The fabrics, wooden and metal objects in the Victorian laundry all need specialist care to keep them looking their best. The team will be in the Victorian Laundry every third Wednesday from May - October, 10:30am - 3pm. Full event details can be found here.

Mrs Earle was the last of one of the most ancient families in England; the Bourchiers, having their origin from the remotest period of antiquity

A quote by Margaret Earle’s epitaph following her death in October 1827

Between exhibitions

Comings and Goings

25 May - 25 August 2024

This temporary interpretation will be in place on open days leading up to the installation of the next exhibition. Uncover the varied and fascinating stories of the people who have shaped the hall and called it home over the centuries. Discover new stories, voices from the past and find out how they left their mark on Beningbrough.

Art exhibition - coming next

During winter, the first floor Reddihough Galleries hosts carefully curated changing exhibitions. Working with artists, in partnership with museums and galleries, and drawn from National Trust collections. Over the coming years, the gallery will showcase high quality contemporary and historic art.

The Botanical World of Mary Delany

10 September 2024 – 25 March 2025 on open days

With just paper, paint and scissors, Mary Delany transformed ordinary materials into extraordinary, inspirational artworks. Discover the pioneering technique of this eighteenth-century artist, whose ‘paper mosaiks’ were celebrated as scientifically accurate botanical specimens. Explore the intricate detail of this new photographic display presented in partnership with the British Museum. Beningbrough is the first UK venue of this touring exhibition, in which high quality photographs allow more of Delany’s specimens to be seen.

Enjoy almost fifty artworks, further celebrating Mary Delany and her pioneering craft technique. See a selection of fascinating objects by historic women artists from across the National Trust's collections, fresh from the pages of a new upcoming publication. Come face to face with brand-new sculptures by Rebecca Stevenson, encompassing art, science, and creativity, in the Great Hall. Immerse yourself in the interactive origami room, designed by York artist, Kate Buckley and take in the abstract photography collages from York St John, Fine Art student, Amy Martina.

Colourful botanical paper cuts of a sunflower and a poppy on a black background
Mary Delany's intricate botanical paper cuts | © The Trustees of the British Museum

Ready for the next 300 years

Beningbrough is an accredited museum, which means that every item in the collection, every design feature and every material used in the house is cared for by the conservation team. This includes day to day work and longer projects like the conservation work carried out recently.

Along with a full re-wire and new professionally designed lighting system, other work included addressing decayed timbers, repairs to ceiling and staircase plasterwork, chimneys and stonework and improvements to environmental controls and heating.

Work will continue in the coming years to repaint the interior of the hall. This will be carried out systematically, a room at a time to reduce any further impact for visitors. Aspects of the collection will also have conservation inspections and repairs including several mirrors.

Legacies and support

Beningbrough has received several bequests over the years and the late Mr Ian Reddihough left a generous gift in his will to support the conservation and care of Beningbrough Hall, which has made this vital work possible.

By visiting and supporting the charity you are helping to ensure the future of this beautiful building for the next generation and beyond. Thank you.

Overhead shot showing countryside, gardens, hall, walled garden and tree lined avenue

Discover more at Beningbrough

Find out when Beningbrough is open, how to get here, things to see and do and more.

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