This week I drove up to Northumberland in the pouring rain to visit Howick Hall, which is located just outside Alnwick.
The lovely ladies at Northumberland Tourism have been working hard to promote their Historic Spirit campaign, which showcases some of the events happening in the area this year such as the 500th anniversary of the Battle of Flodden and the return of the Lindisfarne Gospels.
On Wednesday they hosted a tour of the gardens at Howick Hall and kindly invited me to come along. Fortunately the rain gave way shortly after we set off on our walk around the grounds!
Howick Hall is the ancestral home of the Grey family, whose most famous member is Charles, the 2nd Earl Grey, who was Prime Minister from 1830 to 1834 during the abolition of slavery. It is also assumed that the popular tea was named in his honour.
Fittingly there is a beautiful tea room on site and I can recommend their chocolate cake!
One of the best known stories about Charles is how he ensured that none of his 15 children were afraid of the dark. After each child turned 10, on the night of the first full moon, they would be woken and instructed to take the ‘Long Walk’ through the grounds down to the sea to find a flower called the Grass of Parnassus, which only grows in one spot on the dunes at Howick Haven.
The gardens at Howick Hall are vast, with a wild, romantic feel that makes wandering through them a fascinating experience. Take the tour and you’ll be regaled with stories of the Hall’s former occupants and their contributions both to the grounds and the local area.
The team at Howick Hall are clearly passionate about the property and extremely knowledgeable about its history. Throughout the tour we were shown some of the more curious details that can be found in the gardens, which would be easy to overlook were you on your own.
Howick Church is located on the grounds and is one of the most interesting parts of the tour. Look closely and you will see that the church itself is decorated with stone carvings and gargoyles that were made by Maria, the third Countess Grey, who was a keen amateur artist. The church yard also contains a memorial to five French sailors who were killed when their boat was shipwrecked just off the coast in 1913.
A beautiful place that is well worth a visit for anyone considering a trip to Northumberland.