I was fortunate to be able to go on a privately arranged tour of Farnley Hall, near Otley. It is a Grade I listed mansion, built in the late 1700s by John Carr, who (along with Robert Adam) also designed nearby Harewood House. Farnley Hall was built as a Georgian extension to an existing hall (just visible behind in my photo) that dates back to the early 1600s and is now called Farnley Old Hall. (I haven't shown a full photo of the Old Hall as it is nowadays a separate, private dwelling.)
The Old Hall was owned and occupied in the 1780s by Francis Fawkes. When he died in 1786, without children, the house was inherited by Walter Hawkesworth, who adopted the name Fawkes as a condition of the will. It was Walter who commissioned John Carr to build the huge new wing now known as Farnley Hall. Walter sadly died in 1792, and his son Walter Ramsden Fawkes finished the house and furnished it.
The house has a special connection with the artist JMW Turner, who was a close friend of the family and often stayed with them. Turner's watercolours, including some of the house and the local area, give a fascinating glimpse into how it all looked, both inside and out, in the early 1800s.
We were welcomed by the present owner, Guy Horton-Fawkes, and the tour was led by two ladies with a long connection to the house, who were both extremely knowledgeable. It is beautiful inside, with the wonderfully symmetrical and well-proportioned rooms so typical of Georgian architecture. The interior has stunning plasterwork on the ceilings and walls; delicate white mouldings against a pale blue or duck-egg background are reminiscent of Wedgwood pottery.
The windows frame the sweeping view over the valley to Otley and The Chevin.
The Hall sits in extensive grounds, with some lovely trees, one of which is a 200 year old weeping beech - which I must admit I'd never heard of before. The pendulous branches touch the ground and form new roots, so the tree spreads out like a tent. The garden entrance has this rather imposing archway that, according to one of Turner's sketches, was once sited at the front of the Old Hall as its main door. The datestone is 1604.
It was a privilege to be shown round such an exceptional mansion, to hear its history and to see its interesting and beautiful contents. We were made most welcome, even being treated to tea and cakes around the kitchen Aga. I can't say that I envy those who have the responsibility of preserving such places, especially when they are still family homes, though I'm really grateful when they do such a good job of it. I had a fascinating afternoon.