Rare chance to tour Mitford grounds

PEOPLE are to be given a rare chance to share in the delights of what has been described as 'one of the loveliest jewels in Northumberland's crown' during next month's nationwide celebrations of all that's best about Britain.

The grounds of splendid Mitford Hall, near Morpeth, are to be opened for two afternoons in September during four Heritage Open Days being co-ordinated locally by the Greater Morpeth Development Trust (GMDT) working with members of the community.

Promoted nationally by the Civic Trust in partnership with English Heritage, the open days annually tempt around one million people to visit properties ranging from historic homes, churches, castles or even industrial sites in cities, towns and villages right across the country that make up the rich variety that is England's history, architecture and culture.

Now privately owned by Tyneside-based Shepherd Offshore, Mitford Hall which stands in a 3,500 acre estate was designed by the great Northumbrian architect John Dobson. The Mitfords are one of the North's oldest families tracing their ancestry as far back as 1066, and the hall was built by Bertram Mitford in 1828.

Since buying the hall and estate from the Mitford family in 1993, the Shepherd family has invested a great deal of time and effort in repairing and restoring both to their former glory.

Estate Manager Joe Pelligreno says opening the grounds of Mitford Hall for the first time as part of Heritage Open Days will give people a rare glimpse of what he believes is 'one of the loveliest jewels in Northumberland's crown.'

When visitors arrive on either Thursday 11th or Friday 12th September, they will be welcomed into the Hall ballroom and will also be able to visit the orangery to marvel at a magnificent 170 year old giant camellia tree believed to have been supplied by Charles Darwin. Like the Hall which is a Grade 2 listed building, the tree is also 'listed' by English Heritage.

Visitors will then be able to look around the extensive grounds surrounding Mitford Hall. Pre-booking is essential on either day between 2pm and 4pm, and bookings can be made through GMDT. Numbers are limited so early bookings are advisable.

The chance to visit the grounds of Mitford Hall is one of the highlights of four days of events and activities organised by GMDT.

Morpeth Town Hall will figure prominently in Heritage Open Day events starting with the chance to see the Mayor's parlour and the old Council Chamber, on Thursday September 11th from 5pm to 7pm. No bookings are necessary but there is no wheelchair access to the first floor of the Town Hall.

The Town Hall will again be the setting for Heritage Open Day visits on Friday 12th September for two hours from 10am, when a wonderful array of artefacts and archives from the Morpeth Antiquarians' collection will be on display. Pre-booking is necessary.

On Saturday September 13th there will be free guided walks around the 12th Century Cistercian Abbey at Newminister on the outskirts of Morpeth, at 10am and 2pm. Visitors should meet at Scots Ghyll car park which is reached by taking the B6343 road west out of Morpeth.

Again no wheelchair access is available and dogs are also not allowed on the walk. There will be children’s activities but the event is not suitable for children under the age of seven because of the terrain. Pre-booking is again advisable for Newminister Abbey visits.

Finally, Morpeth Bagpipe Museum in the town’s Chantry building, will be staging live music throughout Heritage Open Days from Thursday 11th to Saturday 13th September. Visitors will also be able to see the Museum’s acclaimed collection of Northumbrian bagpipes and pipes from all around the world. No bookings are necessary.

More information about all the Heritage Open Day events in and around Morpeth is available from Greater Morpeth Development Trust’s Heritage Officer Tamsin Lilley on 01670 503866 or by visiting www.gmdt.net. Bookings for places on visits which are all free to attend, should also be made on the same GMDT telephone number .