Beningbrough Hall and the grounds are somewhere I have visited very regularly. It is a beautiful historic building in the most wonderful surroundings and it never ceases to inspire me whenever I go. There is so much more than the grounds and dog walks that is for sure. The Hall itself is full of history and a unique building in a lovely setting.
As you drive up the tree lined avenue approaching Beningbrough Hall itself you don’t just get a sense of the historic grandeur, but that it is very different from many of the stately homes in our country. This is Italian baroque style architecture and it sits in Northern England not too far north of the city of York. It is certainly different, certainly colourful and is certainly full of history and character. It is run by the National Trust and welcomes thousands of visitors a year, all intrigued to find out more.
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History of Beningbrough Hall
When was it built? Well The Beningbrough Estate was owned centuries ago by the Bourchier family and Ralph Bourchier originally built a timber, Tudor style mansion here in the mid 16th century. Along the line a young John Bouchier inherited the estate and went on a grand tour of Europe. he literally fell in love with Italian baroque architecture whilst on his travels because he was literally inspired to replace the Tudor mansion with his own grand design from what he had seen abroad. The building you see today was completed in 1716, over 300 years old.
The Dawnay Family
From the Bourchiers it passed into the Dawnay family in the early 1800s. They were a family that transformed not just the estate but also the local area to an extent. Passing through Shipton-by-Beningbrough for instance you see the local pub named the Dawnay Arms. The pub, and Shipton is a few miles from the Hall but at the time well within the Beningbrough Estate, so you can well imagine how big the estate actually was in years past.
In 1916, Guy Dawnay needed to pay death duty from his father’s estate, plus he wanted to work and live in London, so he sold the whole of Beningbrough Esatate and Hall. The land was broken up and what you can encounter today, the hall, the gardens, the parkland, was bought by Lord and Lady Chesterfield in 1916, for a real snip at £15,000.
Lady Chesterfield lived here until her death in 1957. A strong lady that left her own mark on the hall and area that is for sure. Not long after her passing, in 1958 the Hall came into the possession of the National Trust and they have enabled it to be saved to the present day and then some! A unique building, that has never been stately in the way we normally see, a private home for generations of families that have all left something behind for visitors to see and experience on a visit.
I don’t want to rabble on too much about history here as I will be saying a whole lot more when I venture inside, camera in hand, with history to learn and show. In fact it is one of my big tips for a place to visit as it opened my eyes completely to what a gem I have on my doorstep. I learn something new every time I go in!
Every time I wander by, no matter what camera I have in my hand, I always take a photo of Beningbrough Hall itself.
As well as the hall, many people come to see the 8 acres of formal gardens beside it. In fact the pay to get in part of the Hall experience is all about the gardens as well as the hall.
The Ha-Ha Wall
Regular visitors will make sure they come to visit in every season they can. For me last it was Spring, so a perfect chance to enjoy the colours and views of the Ha-Ha Walk. Firstly, you may ask, what is a Ha-Ha? Well on the South side of the House, the gardens seamlessly seem to blend into the open fields and parkland beyond, I suppose you could say an infinity lawn. In fact it is an ingenious design from when the house was built to blend all in yet keep livestock away from the garden. There is a recess before a wall, hidden from view when looking out from the house.
The name Ha-Ha is said to originate from the exclamation of surprise the livestock would have felt when approaching the obstacle. A variation on aha! Above is the view from the outside but below here shows how the design keeps an unbroken view out over the landscape. (The ha-ha wall and ditch is after those first 2 trees but before the cows).
The ha-ha walk is more special than that of course. 300,000 bulbs have been planted by the staff and volunteers to create a wonderful world of colour and blossom. The snowdrops had faded to daffodils and amongst the colour you can sit and peacefully wonder looking out over the parkland.
The gardens themselves are incredible to see and the blooms and colours are definitely around every corner. Walled gardens, victorian gardens and much much more. In fact every visit brings something new. And currently there is a 10 year plan to keep the improvements coming, in partnership with award winning garden designer Andy Sturgeon, another reason to keep coming back to see.
In fact, each time I visit there are always staff and volunteers working tirelessly to maintain the experience and colourful surroundings, I tip my hat to them
Walking The Parkland and Grounds
If you are looking for a scenic and relaxing walk in the surroundings of York and especially if you have a dog, then the 2 mile or so circuit of Beningbrough Hall grounds is perfect. What is even better is this area is completely free to roam and parking is free too.
One minute you are strolling by the River Ouse, then the next you are passing by beautiful meadows. Hidden pondscapes, panoramic views of the hall itself and gorgeous woodland pathways in many directions. There are plenty of open areas away from the livestock for the dog to run around too… and Bea just loved it
If you keep a good close lookout you can find plenty of wildlife. Oyster catchers and Curlews nesting by the River, or squirrels and birds of all types flying amongst the trees. This is one of those walks that you feel you want to do in every season.
I do love Autumn myself when the trees show all their varying colours and the river has the colours reflecting from a good cool sky. The walk all the way around is a lovely distance of around 2/3 miles and you can even shorten at will, perfect for family walks.
To make a big hike of a day you can walk along the river path from York itself (approx 10 miles). Or there is plenty of parking on site. I like to visit the farm shop at the end of the walk to get some great quality meat for the week, double spoiling ourselves.
How to get there
The place to head to to find Beningbrough Hall is Newton-on-Ouse. It is approx 10 miles north of York on the A19 towards Thirsk. Or it is signposted from the A59 if heading from the West.