When entering Haddon Hall, leave your dreams outside. This English manor house, sitting on a slope overlooking the river Wye in Derbyshire and dating back in some parts to the 12th century, is a dream machine in its own right. Lying abandoned for more than two centuries, then restored with a rigorous hand by the 9th Duke of Rutland and a team of expert craftsmen, it has a unique and pulsating energy that is hard to translate into words.
In his childhood, John Manners, the 9th Duke, used to visit Haddon with his brothers and sisters. The family spent the summer holidays nearby and yet did not inhabit their own property. They merely whiled away the bright summer afternoons at Haddon sketching watercolors and gardening, as lady Diana Cooper, the sister of John Manners, recalled. However, he fell under the spell of the site and decided to bring back to life this tarnished jewel.
Even if you have previously glimpsed medieval chapels, banqueting halls, long galleries or casement windows with leaded glass panes, nothing will prepare you for the experience of this environment. Once you step through the gateway into a courtyard surrounded by a miscellaneous collection of buildings, the magic begins. The slabs of stone worn out by age and weather act as a time warp, silencing the echoes that come from the voices around you.
You are then ready to savor Haddon Hall in its full intensity. The Banqueting Hall, the oldest structure in the house, was built in 1370 with additional wood paneling and oak screen added in 1600, years before the house entered its big sleep. Room after room, the captivation of this ancient building unfolds. Then, at the end of your exploration, you reach the gardens. It is in the contemplation of this peaceful setting, perched over the river Wye, where you unreservedly admire the spirit of those who erected this treasure. The terraced gardens and the balustrades, abounding in roses, clematis and delphiniums, are the chromatic background to the soft yellow of the stone façade. You are moved by this perfect setting, created in a period that in spite of brutal behaviors, was capable of generating such romantic emotions. These gardens are a final gift to the borrowed dream.