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Is a super loacl museum that is often forgotten being off the main roads. A house dated from the 16th century, orginally the home of the Smallbroke family.
There is a small shop, tea room, garden, vegebable gamen, displays by local artists and the house it's self. Decked out as it would have been in the 16th C. There are 3 floors - open all the time and a top floor open by request. There are helpful information points throughout the house. A guide book a good read also. There are volunteer guides in most area's who are very happy to talk about the displays and seem to know their stuff.
The garden is well worth a look round in it's own right and is a good place to just sit in the summer. If with children at the back of the car park there is a park area for games. The whole place takes about 1 hour to go round with the option of a tea in the cafe.
Free on the first Sunday of every month during open season.
Children under 16 free if with an adult
Annual multi site pass is £20 (I have one and it is great value), and can be used at other museums within the Birmingham vicinity (Sarehole Mill, Aston Hall etc).
From April until end of October general public
In closed season occasional tours cost around £7
Open to schools which book all year.
General public openings Tuesdays to Sundays, and also Bank Holidays Mondays 12pm - 4pm
Car: Blakesley Road, Yardley, Birmingham, B25 8RN there is a fairly large car park to rear which is a bit hidden away.
Train: The nearest train station is at Stechford. A long'ish walk - Bus is number 11.
Bus: From the Birmingham centre a 94 or 55 bus to the Fox & Goose Ward End. Then bus no.. 11 look out for the brown signs
==Blakesley Hall, Yardley, Birmingham==
Last weekend, a combination of factors; the lovely weather, my partners long weekend off work, and English Heritage running an open weekend, meant we were able to partake in a couple of visits to local historical attractions that we hadn't visited for a very long time. This review tells of my experiences at Blakesley Hall, Yardley, on the outskirts of Birmingham.
Blakesley Hall is among the oldest buildings in Birmingham, in the West Midlands. Built as a timber framed farmhouse in 1590, the Tudor panelling on the exterior was there to show how wealthy the owner was, and goodness me, it certainly must have been impressive stood alone among the farmland. Of wattle and daub construction, over the years, certain parts have had to been bricked in to give strength and stability to the structure, this doesn't spoil the overall look though, as these have been re-panelled, plastered and whitewashed in keeping with the original design.
Many generations of different families have occupied the hall over the ages; the Smallbrokes lived here for 85 years, the Greswolds for nigh on 200 years. Henry Donne renovated it when it came dilapidated at the end of the 19th century, and then passed it on to the Merry family. Four families in just fewer than four hundred years must be some kind of record. In 1935 it became a museum, to enable people to visit this fine home.
Upon entering the site, and parking our car upon the small car park, it is clear to see, that this is never going to be a huge visitor attraction. There are spaces for twenty cars at the most, and an area where a coach may pull into, for school excursions and the like.
You enter the museum though a double door at the corner of an L shaped building, this is the visitor centre. You are immediately greeted by the receptionist, and you would pay your entry fee, but we visited on an open day, and entry to everyone was free. To the left, hanging on the wall was a huge mural of Blakesley Hall. It was quite vibrant and colourful, and had a happy feel about it. The receptionist then booked us on the tour at 1pm. We had arrived at 12.15, and so we had a little time to explore.
One leg of the L shape is a room containing chairs and a projection screen, presumably to give talks to the school children who visit. The walls are lined with photographs of the house in chronological order. It was amazing to see the differences a span of just ten years could make to a house. This, for me, was almost the best part of the visit. You could visually imagine the changes undertaken, and it brought it to life.
The other leg of the L, housed the toilets, and cafeteria. I didn't make use of the conveniences but as the rest of the building was clean, fresh and modern, I expected these to be so too.
The cafe was rather uninspiring, serving drinks and snacks, but that's all you'd need anyway. This is not the kind of place you could spend a day, or even an afternoon. We were left hanging around wondering what to do until it was time to enter the house, after looking at the photographs and my daughter having been fed and watered at the cafe, and so we wandered around the grounds.
The whole plot is a rectangular shape, with the L shaped visitor centre in one bottom corner and the house, at the top opposing corner, and these leaves an expanse of garden in the middle. There are no sophisticated planting schemes used here, the orchard is planted within the lawn, and there are two herb gardens to wander around. I found this quite disappointing that more of an effort hasn't been made, but there again it can't get many visitors on a daily basis, and the upkeep of such a garden, might be a stretch on the finances.
One o'clock came, and we made our way to the entrance of the Hall, surrounded with a rather splendid wisteria, to find the tour had gone on ahead. We were matter of factly told by another member of staff, to go up the stairs and catch them up.
It's rather a small building, but impressive compared to the sizes today, and more of a family home than Aston Hall (where I visited the following day). You can imagine extended family, plus a couple of servants would find it extremely comfortable. There is cosiness about it, a welcoming feel, and I found to be quite homely and inviting.
We found the guide and about ten other visitors in one of the bedrooms, and she spoke for about five minutes in this room. She gave details about the beds, who would sleep here, and the origins of 'sleep tight', all of which we knew from visits elsewhere. The other visitors found it quite fascinating though, as I'm sure, we did when we first heard it.
The tour then took us up to one of the attic rooms. This is not usually open to the public, but being an open day, access was made available to us. The room was empty apart from some sacks of grain and a bed to indicate that not only was this room used for the servants sleeping quarters but also for storage of the farm produce over winter too. She did give one fascinating piece of information here though, she told us that during Tudor and Elizabethan times, houses were built in an E shape, in honour of the Queen. This building breaks the mould though, it is an L shape, but no-one knows why this is, perhaps they simply ran out of money.
The tour rather disappointingly lasted roughly ten minutes and two rooms, and we were then left to our own devices. All the rooms were decorated with items of the period, and most were original to the house. The rooms were rather spartan though, being a home for a Yeoman (not as lowly as a Farmer, but less important than Gentry).
There are lots of levels in this house, it's not just the basic three storeys, there are little staircases that splinter off in to other directions too. The floors are very uneven, and made you feel quite queasy at times, like seasickness. There was one wall, which was bowed or blown rather worryingly, it must have been checked as being sound, but it did make me feel a little apprehensive for a short while.
As we had no guide for the remainder of our visit, we were left to read details provided on laminated cards giving the history and function of each room thereafter. My daughter found that the spark had gone once we had no guide, but this returned having found a little plastic box in each room, with some items inside and a short quiz to keep the kids occupied.
A few of the rooms were set up as the museum, and contained artefacts found locally, during the subsequent renovations, and also when repairs were made to the roof from bomb damage during November 1941. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise as it unearthed some wonderful features such as a painted wall decoration dating from 1590 in the Master Bedroom.
Due to the nature of the building, wheelchair access is to the ground floor only, and to the visitor centre. Disabled toilets and a baby changing room were also available.
Children under 16 free as long as they are with an adult
Annual multi site pass is £16, and can be used at other museums within the Birmingham vicinity.
Free admission on the first Sunday of every month during its open season.
From April until end of October
Opens Tuesdays through to Sundays, and also open on Bank Holiday Mondays 12pm - 4pm
By car: Blakesley Road, Yardley, Birmingham, B25 8RN
By Train: The nearest train station is Stechford Station. It would be a rather long walk from here, but a short distance on a bus or taxi.
By Bus: From the city centre take a 94 or 55 bus to the Fox & Goose at Ward End where you can join the number 11 circular route; or take the 97 or 97a which will drop you at Stechford Police Station. Either way, it's just a short walk to the Hall, and any of the locals would give you directions.
All in all this is a lovely home/museum and I'm glad I made the effort to go having never been before. I'm rather ashamed of this fact, having living just five or so miles down the road for my whole life. This is a place though where the saying 'once is enough' applies. Our whole visit lasted around an hour and a half, so with kids being free, it would make a nice afternoon stop, after having spent the morning somewhere else. I may have to go again though, as I presumed photography wouldn't be permitted within, and I left my camera at home. I think I might leave it another thirty or forty years though, and hope it's still standing. A beautiful house, with wonderful character and features, but not a lot to see and do, or to keep the kids entertained unfortunately.
Many thanks for reading my review. I do hope it has been of some use.
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