March 6, 2005
Wollaton was built in the 1580s, when stone was dragged to the site by horses and carts from Ancaster (several miles away). The Willoughby family, an extremely wealthy and influential family in their day, continued to live in the Hall until the 1920s, but now it’s owned by the city council. There have been several large-scale restorations over the years to ensure that the Hall continues to be an historical masterpiece for future generations and offers something for everyone.
Outside you can admire the superb image of a classic Elizabethan mansion and wander the grounds (there are 500 acres total!). The formal flower garden "hosts" a sensory section, and you won’t be disappointed with the Camelia House (1823). Take your time as you tackle the slope down to the lake, and if you’re up to it, take a stroll through Thomson’s Wood at the extreme end of the park.
The Hall’s stable block now houses an Industrial Museum and exhibition gallery. I’m not really into heavy engineering, but Wollaton’s Beam Engine House is an absolute must. It is old technology at its best and so well preserved. Also, you’ll have the chance to look, close up, at Nottingham’s heritage in Lace. I was also fascinated to look at some really early engines, some manufactured in my hometown of Lincoln.
Climbing the great staircase to the Hall, just glance over your shoulder and admire the view that would have greeted the original Mr. Willoughby as the door was opened for him by one of his many servants. Over to your right, you’ll see part of the city of Nottingham. Once inside, there are treats in every room. There are period rooms decked out in the original style, and the Great Hall is a befitting entrance to this magnificent building. Throughout the building there are a number of fine artworks. I’m not aware of any really famous ones but several are noteworthy.
Wollaton has a well-renown taxidermist section, and there’s a superb natural history museum. All the locals know George the Gorilla, and a stuffed giraffe that used to dominate the entrance hall can now be seen upstairs.
If you can, try and make the tour of the roof and caves. When I last went, there was a chance to speak with the taxidermist and see some of the work in progress, and the rooftop tour (restricted by numbers) is an eye-opener, not least because of the tremendous views that are available from the rooftop, but it’s also a chance to see the old dance floor and to trip over the ancient rafters on route to the leaded summit of Wollaton Hall.
From journal Nottingham - a great City to visit