Repairing the Great Hall roof
Caring for historic buildings such as Middleton Hall is a daily challenge and often very costly. Because our buildings are Grade II* listed and very delicate due to their age and construction, we have to take extra care with the materials and methods we use. Our Tudor Great Hall is no exception, which is why we are fundraising to fix our new unexpected water feature…
The Great Hall was built circa. 1493 and is at the heart of Middleton Hall. Over the centuries, it has been used to host luxurious dinners, grand dances and even the knighting of Francis Willoughby by Queen Elizabeth I. Today, it is open for visitors and is also used for private functions such as wedding ceremonies.
The leak has already caused damage to the original woodwork and walls. Excessive rain only worsens the damage so we would like to get it fixed this summer whilst the weather is relatively dry.
We have already raised £3120.00 towards the roof repairs and we require a further £1880.00 to meet our target of £5000.00. The money raised so far is thanks to generous donations and fantastic fundraising efforts.
Middleton Hall volunteer, Ron Thomas organised a classical guitar concert to raise money towards the roof repairs in September 2019. The efforts of Ron and his talented students raised over £600.00 towards this vital project.
You can donate to this project via our Just Giving page.
June 2020 marks the 500th anniversary of the Field of the Cloth of Gold. This famous and very extravagant summit between King Francis I of France and King Henry VIII of England took place between the 7th and 24th June 1520. The summit gained its name because of its extravagance with so much expensive cloth of gold on show. Sir Henry Willoughby of Middleton Hall went to the Field of the Cloth of Gold as part of the English Queen Katherine of Aragon’s retinue.
The aim of this summit was to improve the fledgling good relationship between the traditional enemies of France and England. This was achieved in the traditional renaissance manner of a show of extravagance with both sides trying to outdo the other in terms of wealth and prowess. At this time, England was being courted as a lesser but strategically important ally by both of the major powers of Europe: Francis I of France; and Holy Roman Emperor Charles V.
The summit was held at a place called Balinghem, which at that time was just in the Pale of Calais and consequently part of England. The English were based at Guînes and the French, on the French side of the border, at Ardres. Between them, on the English side, a Camp was erected where tournaments were held. One of the most stunning features of this summit were the temporary structures constructed for the event, which included a palace for King Henry VIII.
The new ostentatious temporary palace built by King Henry VIII for the summit at Guînes consisted of four blocks around a central courtyard that were each 328 feet (100m) long and encompassed an area of 1,312 feet (about 12,000 square yards or 10,000m2). The foundations were brick and the walls were timber-framed with cloth affixed to the timber to resemble either brick or stone masonry. Even the roof was made of an oiled cloth painted a lead colour to make it resemble slate. Every window was gold gilt, so that the structure appeared to shine in the sun. Inside, the walls were covered with rich cloths and tapestries. The English retinue consisted of a total of about 5,804 people and 3,223 horses. Although the palace contained a great many rooms it was still not enough to provide lodgings for all of the nobles. Therefore, many tents were erected in the adjacent field, said to be about 820, which only added to the spectacular sight. The palace did not only contain the lodgings but also the official state rooms and the working rooms necessary to run a household.
Before the entrance gate to the palace, a fountain was constructed that was gilded with gold and a colour described as bice, which was a green-blue colour. The fountain was engraved with the image of Bacchus, the God of wine. Bacchus was depicted pouring the wine, which by conduits generously poured out of the fountain to all the people. The fountain poured red, white and claret wine. On the other side of the gate was a pillar of an ancient Roman design that bore four gold Lions. The pillar was wrapped in a wreath of interwoven gold and on the summit was a statue of Cupid with his bow and arrows of love ready to strike.
King Francis I had commanded that his lodging was to be made near the town of Ardres in the territory of an old ruined castle. There, a large tent supported by two large masts was erected. The roof hung on a second mast and the ropes and tackle bore the colour blue set with stars of gold foil. The orbs of the heavens by the use of colours in the roof were curiously wrought in a manner like the sky and a crescent angled towards the town of Ardres. The crescent was covered with frets and knots and made of yew bushes and box branches and other things that would remain green for a long time. The French encampment was said to contain a further 300-400 elaborately decorated tents of velvet and gold cloth.
The area called the Camp was 900 feet in length, 320 feet in breadth and surrounded by broad and deep ditches except at the entrance. Numerous stands were created around the Camp for the ease of the viewers, including special ones for the Queens. It was noted that on the stage for Queen Katherine hung an expensive tapestry made completely of pearls called “Huges Dyke”.
The first meeting of the two Kings took place on the 7th June. On this day the Kings with their entire retinues of Marqueses, Dukes, Earls, Lords, Knights, Squires, Gentlemen, Bishops and their footmen lined up in their finest clothing and after firing a cannon towards the other settlement, both sides began to march (or ride on their horses) towards each other. When they came face to face the Kings dismounted and went into a large cloth of gold tent where the formal addresses explaining the reason for the summit were spoken. Afterwards came the first banquet.
Apart from the banquet at the first meeting, the other main banquets were held on the 16th June and at the end of the summit on 23rd and 24th June. At the banquets on the 16th and the 24th, the Kings switched places. King Francis going to Guînes and was entertained by Queen Katherine whilst, at the same time, King Henry went to Ardres and was entertained by Queen Claude. On both of those occasions Henry and his accompanying noblemen went in masked clothing, whereas Francis only went in masked apparel to the last banquet. There was much dancing and music. It is even said that a firework display, with a firework in the shape of a dragon, took place at Guînes.
The 9th June was another formal ceremonial day where the shields of the Kings and their challengers for the upcoming sporting events were placed on a symbolic tree that had been constructed on a hill next to the Camp. Those that were to answer the challenge then brought their shields to the tree. This tree was a mix of Hawthorn (symbolising King Henry) and Raspberry (symbolising King Francis). It was artificially wrought but with such skill as to resemble nature as much as possible. The leaves were made of green damask and the trunk, branches, boughs and withered leaves were made of cloth of gold affixed to timber. The trees were 33 feet tall, 43 feet wide and covered an area of about 129 feet. On the trees were flowers and fruits that were wrought in silver and Venice gold.
From the 11th June to 19th June the jousting took place in the Camp. The Kings and their challengers faced in turn the band of the answerer to the challenge. All participants, including their horses, wore extensive expensive armour as well as rich clothing. Throughout the jousting events, King Francis came in different attire each day, which through embroidered images and words created part of a sentence on each appearance.
The 20th and the 21st June was the Tournament competition. On horseback with swords the Kings and their challengers fought against the answerers. Injuries were unsurprisingly commonplace and there were required to be a number of substitutions of those taking part for the second day. This time it was King Henry who wore the symbolic attire. On one day branches of Eglantine (Rosa rubiginosa) were embroidered onto the cloth. This was to symbolise pleasantness and sweetness when handled gently, but when handled harshly it would prick and hurt. A symbolism that went beyond just the imminent use of swords!
Friday 22nd June was dedicated to wrestling, archery and battles on foot at the barrier with spears, swords (both single and double handled) and darts. The Lord of Fleuranges wrote that King Henry was a wonderfully good, strong archer that made it a pleasure to watch. It had been carefully arranged so that the Kings would not compete against each other during the summit. However, King Henry suddenly challenged King Francis to a wrestling match, which rather soured the mood when Henry quickly lost.
The summit concluded on the 24th June with the exchange of gifts between King Henry and King Francis. It was hoped that the scale and sight of this summit would prove to be a good omen for the future relationship. Ultimately, it had little political impact. From the French perspective, it was a very expensive failure. In the end an alliance between England and the Holy Roman Empire was agreed instead. The fledgling good relationship between England and France worsened when the Holy Roman Empire went to war with France the following year (Four Years’ War, 1521-1526). England and France found themselves on opposite sides of the battlefields. Ironically, the first town that England captured in that war was Ardres!
The event is commemorated by an annual celebration at Guînes and a commemorative plaque to mark the site.
Debbie Jordan, Middleton Hall Trust Volunteer & Historian
One of the favourite attractions at Middleton Hall is the blacksmith hard at work in our smithy in the Small Walled Garden. The smithy has also proved to be a great asset to Middleton Hall Trust during the restoration of the Hall.
We do not know precisely when our smithy was constructed. It is definitely there on a map from 1924. There is a building in the right location in 1886 and 1834. However, before 1820 there was a very different building on the same location. We do not know whether that building, which is present on a map from 1762, was also a smithy. However, it cannot have been the location of the historic smithy serving the Willoughby family at Middleton because it was constructed on top of a section of filled-in moat. The main smithy in Middleton parish was in the village. Today, it is aptly still called “The Old Smithy”. The current Old Smithy building was constructed in the 17th century. However, the fact that there was a smithy in the village does not exclude the possibility that there had been a second smithy nearer the Hall and that we simply haven’t found where it was …!
What is blacksmithing? A blacksmith’s workshop can also be known as a forge. The forge is the last stage of the ironworking process. In the forge, a fuel source was ignited (at Middleton the heat material was traditionally charcoal) and then intensified by bellows to a temperature at which wrought iron would become malleable. The blacksmith would then create items from the malleable metal.
When the volunteers first arrived at Middleton Hall in 1977, the condition of the smithy was diabolical. Although the basic structures of the forge remained, the entire outbuilding range had lost its roof and the brick walls were beginning to collapse. Part of this range was not salvageable. However, we are very relieved that the forge was.
It was actually one of the first buildings to be restored in 1981. About the time its restoration was completed, a recently retired blacksmith called Arthur Bastow stopped by the Hall and asked whether his tools would be of use. He was told “Yes, but you will have to come as well as we have no one who knows how to use them”. Arthur happily agreed to become a volunteer and then started making all the ironwork the Trust needed for the restoration of the remainder of the Hall. The legacy of his work can still be seen throughout the Hall and its grounds from door studs and handles to the cooking ranges and weather vane.
Since Arthur, the smithy had hosted a number of blacksmiths. Our current blacksmith, Di, can often be seen on a Wednesday during our summer open season, so next time you visit make sure you say hi. Di is combining her glass craftwork with metal to make some beautiful pieces, experimentation and creativity is always at the heart of what we enjoy the most about Middleton.
Debbie Jordan, Middleton Hall Trust Volunteer & Historian
From exciting new developments to the mundane but still vitally important maintenance jobs, we need your support to allow us to put our plans into action and to continue caring for our marvellous historic estate.
We currently have five key projects that are reliant on donations from people like you. Our Sunken Garden project requires just £200 in total whereas restoring the Tudor Barn will need over £800,000 in match-funding to go ahead.
Every pound you donate towards any of our projects is greatly appreciated, especially under the difficult circumstances created by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Thank you for your support.
Projects you can support
Middleton Hall & Gardens is at risk…
We need your support now more than ever to help us keep Middleton Hall & Gardens open to the public. In March 2020, we were unable to re-open our doors to visitors as we do every year and we had to cancel weddings, parties and tours. This has left a gaping hole in our already modest income and, as an independent charitable trust with no regular external funding, we are now left unsure whether we can survive.
We have applied for grants to help us get through the immediate impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. These grants have allowed us to bring staff back off furlough and fund facilities that enable social distancing, therefore allowing us to re-open parts of our site from Wednesday 17th June 2020.
Re-opening the site will help raise some funds for the Trust but nowhere near enough to sustain our charity and protect the Hall’s future. It takes £310.00 per day to run the Hall, Gardens, Grounds and Courtyard. This includes bills, rent, maintenance and wages.
This year marks the 40th anniversary of Middleton Hall Trust being founded in 1980. Forty years ago, volunteers began restoring this incredible historic building with so many stories to tell for the enjoyment and benefit of local people for generations to come.
In our 40th year, we face unprecedented challenges. We need YOU to help care for this magnificent heritage site and preserve it for your children and grandchildren.
Every donation, however big or small, counts.
Other ways to support us…
Take on a new personal challenge with the added benefit of raising money for Middleton Hall Trust in the process. You could embark on a sponsored swim, walk or cycle, host a charity quiz night or do something completely original to raise vital funds for our charity and help to preserve our magnificent historic estate. Whether you aim to raise £50 or £1000, we are grateful for your support.
If you think you have got what is takes to raise funds for Middleton Hall Trust, you can start fundraising via our Just Giving page.
Current fundraising stories
Virtual cycle ride from Land’s End to John O’Groats
My name is Mary and I have been volunteering at Middleton Hall for 7 years. Over the years I have helped in the Garden, tea-room, supervised children’s craft activities and even turned my hand to a bit of decorating. I have recently retired from an active job and was looking for something that will keep me fit and occupied. So I accepted my daughter’s challenge to cycle 1650km, the distance between Land’s End and John O’Groats, on an exercise bike. All the restrictions on travel made the virtual option much more sensible than cycling the actual route, although maybe once I have completed this challenge I might venture out onto the roads, who knows.
With the challenges that the Covid-19 pandemic has created it seemed like the perfect time to channel my energies into helping out where I can. The roof of the Great Hall is in desperate need of maintenance as this year it has developed a bit of a leak. I am hoping to raise £1 for every kilometre I cycle so my target is £1,650. I have divided the route into legs and am going to complete one a day until I finish! I shall keep you up to date with my progress and your support will make sure I carry on! So far I have raised £303 with the help of family and friends and visitors to the Hall & Gardens.
Past fundraising successes
Middleton Hall Volunteers’ Sponsored 5k walk
In September 2019, our volunteers completed a 5k sponsored walk around Middleton Lakes RSPB reserve and Middleton Pool. Collectively, the team raised just over £1000 and all money went towards the restoration of the Tudor Barn.
What the volunteers enjoyed most about this sponsored challenge was the comradery and making friends with other volunteers from different areas of the Hall who they hadn’t met before.
“We made the walk fun and full of laughter, so it didn’t feel like hard work at all! Five kilometres was a long distance when most of us are aged 60+ but we all supported each other and had a BBQ afterwards to celebrate our success!” – Middleton Hall Volunteer
Back in 2018, our Visitor Experience Manager, Amy Evans ran Nottingham’s Robin Hood Half-Marathon and managed to raise just over £1300.00 in total. All of the money she raised went towards the restoration of our Grade II* listed Tudor Barn.
“Running a half-marathon was a huge personal challenge. At the start of my training, I could barely run for two minutes straight without needing a rest! Knowing that I had raised over £1300.00 for Middleton Hall Trust spurred me on during the run and I was so pleased by the level of support our cause received. I finished in just over two and a half hours.” – Amy Evans, Visitor Experience Manager.