From The Neolithic To The Sea: A Journey From The Past To The Present

Wollaton Hall

52°56'53.7"N 1°12'36.2"W
SK 5317639278

  • History
  • Gallery
  • Gallery
  • Gallery
Wollaton Hall is an Elizabethan country house standing on a small but prominent hill in Wollaton Park, Nottingham.

The hall was built between 1580 and 1588 for Sir Francis Willoughby, it is believed to be designed by the Elizabethan architect, Robert Smythson, who had by then completed Longleat and was to go on to design Hardwick Hall. The decoration of Wollaton is distinctive the style is an advanced Elizabethan with early Jacobean elements.

The house was unused after a fire in 1642 it was re-occupied 1687. The gallery of the main hall contains Nottinghamshire's oldest pipe organ, thought to date from the end of the 17th century, possibly by the builder Gerard Smith. It is still blown by hand. Beneath the hall are many cellars and passages, and a well and associated reservoir tank, in which some accounts report that an admiral of the Willoughby family took a daily bath.

The Willoughbys were noted for the number of explorers they produced, most famously Sir Hugh Willoughby who died in the Arctic in 1554 attempting a North East passage to Cathay. Willoughby's Land is named after him.

In 1881, the house was still owned by the head of the Willoughby family, Digby Willoughby, 9th Baron Middleton, but by then it was too near the smoke and busy activity of a large manufacturing town, so that the previous head of the family, Henry Willoughby, 8th Baron Middleton, had begun to let the house to tenants.

The hall was bought by Nottingham Council in 1925, and opened as a museum in 1926. In 2005 it was closed for a two-year refurbishment and re-opened in April 2007. The prospect room at the top of the house, and the kitchens in the basement, were opened up for the public to visit, though this must be done on one of the escorted tours. The latter can be booked on the day, lasts about an hour, and a small charge is made.

In 2011, key scenes from the Batman movie The Dark Knight Rises were filmed outside Wollaton Hall and was featured as the latest Wayne Manor. The Hall is five miles north of Gotham, Nottinghamshire, through which Gotham City indirectly got its name.

Wollaton Hall Park is Grade II* listed on the Register of Historic Parks and Gardens. The house is now Nottingham Natural History Museum, with Nottingham Industrial Museum in the outbuildings. The surrounding parkland has a herd of deer, and is regularly used for large-scale outdoor events such as rock concerts, sporting events and festivals.