A few weeks ago my sister and I visited Wollaton Hall on the Western side of Nottingham. This Neoclassical building is set withing spacious grounds and - I was excited to learn - houses a natural history collection. Cue fantasies of adventures amidst turn-of-the-century exhibits.
Broadly speaking the building was constructed at the end of the 16th century. As is the case with many old structures accident and erosion have meant that large sections were remodeled and rebuilt. At Wollaton much work was done in the period 1801-1830. The central room houses an impressive organ, there are many beautiful frescoes and there is a viewing chamber in the highest tower with breathtaking vistas. The building was sold to the state in 1925 and is now run by Nottinghamshire Council. The local natural history museum moved there before the war and fills many of the rooms on the first floor. There is also an industrial museum in the outbuildings.
The fact the site is now state-owned is both a blessing and a curse. Although it remains impressive there is an air of the 'municipal' about it. My fear is that this will only increase as Council budgets are squeezed. As I drifted through the lovely wood-paneled halls, past the glowing 'Fire Exit' signs, cheap metal stair treads and dumbed-down museum exhibits I could not help wonder how glorious the place must have been when it was the home of the Middleton family (no - not those Middletons). I must not forget, though, that I would have no opportunity at all for visiting were it still in private hands. This is the price we pay for such sites being free and open to all.
I was overjoyed to learn there was a mock Doric temple in the gardens. Imagine my disappointment when I was greeted with this sorry sight. What the photo does not show is the group of hoodies who were drinking something they were too young to buy who had settled there for the afternoon. They left when I produced my camera. The Greek gods are truly dead, it seems.