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Things to see in Beningbrough Hall

Four people exploring around a large wooden staircase
The cantilever staircase seems to magically appear from the walls | © 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.

Two women looking at a pineapple sculpture in a grand hall
Toby Ziegler’s Portrait of C.L (third version) in the Great Hall | © Arts Council Collection, Southbank Centre, London. Photo NT/Anthony Chappel-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. On loan from the Arts Council Collection until March 2024 is Portrait of C.L. (third version) by Toby Ziegler. This oversized sculpture of a pineapple links historic Beningbrough to the upcoming exhibition, Inspired by Italy.

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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 visting the hall.

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

Art exhibition - Inspired by Italy

Until 17 March 2024 (on open days)

Head to the first floor Reddihough Galleries where Inspired by Italy brings together the work of Kate Somervell, a landscape photographer based in Yorkshire, and Giovanni Battista Piranesi, an eighteenth-century Italian artist.

The exhibition highlights the romance and reality of Italy and the Italian influence on one of Yorkshire’s great houses. Both artists take inspiration from architecture. Stunning views of Venice contrast with newly commissioned images of Beningbrough, alongside classical Rome.

Large grand room with art on the walls and high backed armchairs to sit on
See Inspired by Italy in the grandest of settings | © National Trust / Anthony Chappel-Ross

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.

The annual deep clean

When the hall has more closed days, the conservation team deep clean every room and item removing dust and where feasible, resting pieces from light. Rather than close spaces to visitors completely during this time, you might spot the work going on. On some occasions the team will be continuing their conservation care, and on others, there might be scaffold left in situ for their return the following day.

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

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