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On Monday, 26 January, 2015,  my appointment at Bretton Hall was at 10.00 a.m.  I arrived much earlier, however, as I wanted to meander through the park and take photographs in the early morning light.  The Mansion – its south face bathed in the glow of the rising sun – of course looked as splendid as ever, dominating the scenery as it had now done for nearly 300 years.  There was only a slight chill in the air, and the sky was a clear blue, which brightened up  this winter’s morning.



I was eagerly anticipating my visit to the inside of the Mansion, where I had last trodden more than 50 years earlier, at the end of the summer term in 1964.   Then – I was a student, having completed a three years’ period of study, and expecting to go forth to … what? (I really didn’t know at that stage. )   Now – I was here again, this time as a retired teacher,  seeking perhaps to recapture some lost memories of half a century earlier.


 So, having returned to the portal of the eighteenth century Palladium Mansion, I was ready to step inside once more – this time to take photographs of the distinctive ceilings, fireplaces, grisaille wall paintings, the lantern over Pillar Hall, and, of course, the remarkable murals in the vestibule and alongside the grand staircase.  Would I be disappointed?  I hoped not!
Although the doors of Bretton Hall had been secured since 2007, when the premises ceased to function as an academic institution,  at the time of my visit – eight years later – entry to the Mansion was still forbidden.   The doors remained locked, and the processes of decay had begun.   It was well known that Bretton Hall was due to be developed by Rushbond plc and converted into a luxury hotel, but work had not yet begun.


A short time earlier, it seemed to me that perhaps it would be advisable to seek permission to take photographs of the interior of the Mansion before major alterations begin.  My being allowed to enter the building freely and wander at will was due entirely to the kindness and influence of Anna Bowman – archivist at the NAEA (National Arts Education Archive) – who successfully obtained permission for my visit.
Upon my meeting with Anna at the appointed time on this winter’s day, I also incidentally met up with Richard Flowerday, Bretton Hall alumnus and YSP heritage volunteer, who agreed to accompany me on my tour of the Mansion.  Richard and I shortly entered the building and reported to the caretaker, who assured us that we were very welcome; he gave us permission to wander freely, unaccompanied and for as long as we wished.   So, our nostalgic journey began.


All rooms in the Mansion were visited, but photographs were taken only of areas that retain aspects of interest, such as fireplaces (sadly, only four), decorated ceilings, architectural features, murals and interesting doorways.  Of course, there were some disappointments.  The splendour of past days had completely disappeared from what used to be the Regency Library.  When the Allendales left, the beautiful fireplace from this room was removed, together with mahogany bookcases and other fittings.   In 2015, all that remained of the Allendales’  library was a completely bare room – a shell – with no hint of its former elegance.


As alumni pass through this photographic thoroughfare, I hope they will recall their days at Bretton Hall with some pleasure and a sense of good fortune that each was one of the privileged few who trod the portals of this very special place.



Introduction and Photographs by Tony Rigby

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