Longley Old Hall Open days Brief history
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THE LATEST NEWS -
We have completed the clearing out of the barn and the painting of the walls and floor. This has provided us with a weatherproof area for visitors to sit down and have refreshments and for us to display items for sale and historical items.
The knot garden suffered badly from the cold weather. In the SW corner the winter savory all but disappeared. The cotton lavender fared better, but gaps have appeared in some places. The box was not damaged. One lesson we have learnt is that the plants need regular renewing so that weak growth is removed before the frost gets to the plants.
9 July 2009
Whilst in Huddersfield to attend the re-opening of the Ramsden Building at the University, the Duke of Somerset asked if he could visit the hall.
In 1883 the then duke opened the building that was then called the Huddersfield Technical School and Mechanics Institution. Sir John William Ramsden, the fifth baronet and a previous owner of the hall, married Guendolen the daughter of the duke and the connection is recorded in Somerset Road, Somerset Bridge and the Somerset Arms. We attended the ceremony and also had the opportunity to meet the Sir John Ramsden, the ninth baronet.
15 July 2009
Work starts on replacing damaged stone slates on the front of the roof and replacing rotten timber on the gable of the dormer window at the rear.
27 July 2009
Work has finished on the main roof and the dormer at the rear of the house. We took the opportunity to replace the dickey finial on the gable and repainted all of the dormer. The 160 replacements for the frost damaged plants in the knot garden have arrived and so far we have made slow progress with the replanting. And at long last we have bedded in the posts for the carvings of heraldic lion and dragon and these will be on display for the first during the August Open Days.
16 September 2009
This evening we gave an illustrated talk on the hall to the members of the Wentworth Castle Garden Society. This was our first such talk and we felt a bit nervous speaking to a society of knowledgeable gardeners. However, the evening went very well. When I listed some of the plants having aphrodisiac qualities, a person in the audience asked if they did any good. I was a bit miffed when Christine said "No".
Following the success of the evening and an invitation to talk to National Trust members at East Riddlesden Hall in March, we decided to offer to give talks to more groups.
One matter has annoyed us more than any other over the last 11 years, and that is the state of the wooden gate at the end of the private drive on to Wood Lane. Climbing over it had become a challenge for some of the local children and eventually weather and ill use brought its life to an end. This month we had a pair of taller metal gates fitted that should prevent the high jumping. We took the opportunity to dig up the rough hardcore on the Wood Lane side of the gate and had new stones re-laid with a two coverings of tarmac.
Hardly any wind-blown rubbish lands in front of or comes though the new gate - a great advantage compared with the old one. However, we have to keep on our toes, for people coming down the hill on Longley Lane can now see through the gate onto the green lane beyond.
We do complain about the weather a great deal, but the last few weeks have caused a great deal of frustration. The rain and high winds brought the leaves down a couple of weeks earlier than last year and this needed concentrated attention. The beech trees have deposited an enormous amount of seed shells on to the gravel and getting these up when they are wet causes back ache.
The wet and high winds have prevented further work on the path into the wood, although we made good progress in October. We have started to cut steps into the steep bank on the N boundary with the idea of completing a circular path. We found some 17th C pottery and oyster and limpet shells, so maybe this was the area of an old rubbish tip.
After suffering the coldest night of the winter at the beginning of March the weather has improved slowly and we have spent a few days outside doing work we usually do at the beginning of February. It is too early to say whether the knot garden suffered with the frosts, but we have a few spare plants to use as replacements. We have started again on the path in the wood and secured some of the fencing along the boundary. The house smells of new paint after we had not re-painted some rooms since shortly after we moved here in 1998.
We had an interesting afternoon giving an illustrated talk to the members of the Friend of East Riddlesden Hall - it was a pleasant experience. Whilst Spring has come late we have had the first evening group - the earliest so far.
The knot suffered badly in the cold spell in February and March. The cotton lavender suffered the most and the all the new plants I put in in the Autumn died. There is a little consolation as small shoots have appeared from the bases of the older plants so all is not lost, but we expect to have to replant all the outer border later in the year.
We have made great strides (pun) with the path up the north bank of the wood, and one can now do a short and energetic circular walk; until we have fixed the final steps it is not safe for visitors to use, but by August we hope to have the these completed and gravel laid. We have made progress in clearing the N and W banks of all manner of weeds and bushes (particularly philadelphus) that sprouted up over the last 10 years and intend to move self seeded plants from the front garden here to stabilise the soil and provide colour and food for insects. Sitting on the bench in the wood is a delight on a warm day, and with the sounds of the birds one can imagine being deep in the countryside, even though a road is 20 yards away. After leaving the most of the banks fallow for the next four or five months we shall seed them with wildflowers in the Autumn.
One action we are proud of is the successful removal and replanting of two oak saplings from the line of the new pathway. Because they appeared in 2005 we have given them names of Mars and Neptune, two of Nelson's fleet at Trafalgar. Mars was six feet tall with a deep root, which we managed to dig out undamaged; it is now in the border hedge and looks to have settled in. Neptune was smaller and easier to move and its leaves have just opened.
We have started what we hope is the last dirty and dusty job - the removal of the modern plaster from the front wall of the former dining room. We had hoped to find earlier plaster underneath (as with the rest of the room), but the modern stuff goes straight onto the stones. By the end of the month we hope to have this roomed cleared and the remaining bits from the guest bedroom removed, then we can start on re-plastering with lime plaster.
Work started on the next phase of the wall in the wood - taking up it the upper part of the bank. After a couple days we decided it looked so good we would have it extended along the new path to the top. Other commitments means the waller had to finish and will start again in the Spring. The amount of stone recovered from the bank surprised us. It looks as if the builders of the barn in the 1970s dumped excess stone to get rid of it.
Mires Beck Nursery at North Cave supplied many of the ancient variety of flowers planted in the front garden. We had a visit from Judy Burrows, a wild flower specialist at the nursery, to show her what we had done. She kindly brought some more flowers for us. She gave us ideas for the remaining plantings in the wood.
The search for the remaining flowers continued. Quite by chance we called into Golden Garden Nursery in Todmorden and Peter Golden proved to be a gem. He located all the flowers and promised to get for us by November.
A kind visitor gave us a medallion she found in her garden. It celebrates the 21st birthday of Sir John William Ramsden (5th baronet) on 14th September 1952. The reverse shows the Ramsden arms.
This month brought a rare opportunity to look back 45 years. In the 1960s I was part of a group that stopped Manchester City Council demolishing Baguley Hall and ownership passed eventually to English Heritage. This month we had an invitation to visit the building, which is listed Grade I and not open to the public. To my surprise it did not look much different from what I remembered all those years ago. The guide told us English Heritage had spent a large amount of money stabilising the structure, but did not intend to renovate the building. It is now for sale with an obligation on the buyer to restore it. Any takers?
I had an interesting few days splitting plants in the front garden and planting them in both parts of the wood. The bit on the W side of Wood lane produces problems due its steepness. But it also has a couple of slow springs and some rock outcrops, so provides interesting features for planting.
The plants arrived from Golden Nursery, but bad weather prevented planting.
I know - you've read it before. The appalling weather prevented any planting in the garden. It got so cold that part of the fountain bowl broke off, which we shall try and put back with some sticky stuff.
Work started on re-pointing the wall in the back hall.
The remaining ancient varieties of roses arrived from Peter Beales Roses. Quite surprisingly, the ground defrosted for a couple days and I have now planted them all - mainly by the barn, but some in the wood.
The milder weather has allowed safe access to the wood again and our dry stone waller has continued where he left off in the autumn. It is amazing how quickly he works. He has finished much of the wall up the steep path at the north end and will come back next month when we have decided whether to have it in a continuous slope or stepped.
We decided to have the wood wall stepped and it is now complete and looks imposing. In order to complete the path and the wall we had to cut into the bank, and although it is strong enough to retain the slope the waller advised us to place large stones behind the wall to give it extra body. We have now done this. Rummaging in the stables we found some heavy gauge wire mesh which we buried behind the wall to provide greater strength. We have used large stones recovered from the bank to give more weight and also provide niches for wild flowers.
A large supply of cotton lavender arrived from PB Horticulture at Shelley to replace the plants lost over the winter. We paid a visit to Mire Beck Nursery at North Cave to collect wild and early flowers for the wood and to fill gaps in the front garden. We had not completed the planting by the end of the month, but should do by mid-July.
A group visit at the end of the month and a garden party in early July provided a great incentive to finish the minor niggling jobs in the house and the wood. We completed the pointing in the rear hall, the remaining steps in the wood path and laid over a ton of gravel at the back of the house (the sycamore trees at the back look beautiful, but they drop a sticky liquid that stains everything underneath them).
Robin had his 70th birthday in April, but we delayed the garden party until 2nd July in the hope of better weather, to show off the garden to advantage and to allow his elder daughter to come back from abroad. Gimbals Restaurant of Sowerby Bridge did the catering. Everything went perfectly and the weather gave us one of the sunniest days for some weeks.
With news in short supply we struggle to find something to write about. The hard weather encouraged another crack to form in the bowl of the fountain and chunk fell off. We have just repaired it and water flows again.
We had our first group since June last year - a coach party from Peterborough. Having decided last year to take things easier, we stopped marketing and doing Open Days. Word of mouth still produces enquiries and the withdrawal symptoms have proved too great to resist.
26th May 2012
We had the first fashion shoot at the hall. Kim Hargreaves designs knitted garments and she and her colleagues, and a model and a photographer came for the day. You can find out more about her designs at www.kimhargreaves.co.uk.
To avoid repeating the mantra of the last years I shall refrain from commenting on the effect on the knot garden of the cold winter and appalling wet weather we have experienced so far this year. Draw your own conclusions!
11th July 2012
The team responsible for the "Coast" programmes has now turned its attentions to towns. We had Nicholas Crane and the crew form Tern TV here for over five hours this morning as part of the programme on Huddersfield - after editing I expect the bit at the hall (which was used as backdrop) will compress into a couple of minutes.. The West Yorkshire Archive Service brought along a few historic documents including the market charter and some ancient maps - all a real treat for us. The experience of the television crew showed itself in the care and consideration they took of the house and contents. I gather the BBC plan to broadcast the programme in the Spring of 2013.
21st July 2012
Kim Hargreaves and her team came for another fashion shoot today.