Harewood House near Leeds in West Yorkshire looks like something out of a fairytale story book – a very stately, stately home. The house was built between 1759 and 1772 by Edwin Lascalles, the first Earl of Harewood. A very wealthy man both socially and politically. The house is centrepiece to 4,000 acres of fertile Yorkshire countryside.
A much accomplished, established architect, John Carr from York was the man hired by the Earl to design and build his new house. Not only did he design and build the house, but he took on and completed the vast stables, the farm and the model village.
The interior of the house and the two outer wings were designed and completed by a young and talented Robert Adam. A young Scotsman destined to make his inspirational mark upon the architectural heritage of his age. Little wonder that Harewood House was, and still is, such a masterpiece!
And its crowning glory must surely be the priceless collection of furniture and furnishings. A man born just down the road in Otley was commissioned to design and build all of the furniture. Thomas Chippendale’s name has resounded down through the centuries. The man is today revered as the creator of furniture of such perfection that it has inspired generations of craftsmen right up to the twenty-first century.
A tour of the magnificent State Rooms leaves you feeling just a bit grander. Imaginations take a flight of fancy and we indeed become the Duke and Duchess of Neverland inspecting priceless, exquisite works of art adorning the towering walls.
A “must see” is the Below Stairs exhibit as we take a look at the lives and history of those who lived and worked in Harewood House – remember the popular television series “Upstairs, Downstairs”? Open the cabinets and drawers and see the kitchen utensils of the period. You’ll feel as if you have stepped back in time! It’s fascinating to discover how such a large, complex household actually ticked – how everyone had their place.
The amazing gardens are such an enticing feature of any visit to the house. They were designed by Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown – surely the most famous of the eighteenth century landscapers. So you can be sure they’re well worth seeing! Forming part of a delightful walk through the grounds, the formal terrace runs the full width of the house on two levels. Be distracted by exquisite statues strategically placed along the way.
A particular favourite of mine is the Bird Garden, home to more than 100 species of rare or endangered birds. I’m not alone, as this is probably second only to the Adventure Playground in the minds of the younger visitors. Even if the sky is overcast, the kids have a fantastic time of it. Absolutely top of my list are the, to my mind, comical penguins. Comical on land but transformed as if by magic when they take to the water! You even get to help feed them – be there at 2pm! The goal here is to provide a safe habitat for the birds while promoting their safety through educating people – especially the little ones – about their role in the world.
Harewood House offers a tantalising glimpse into the lifestyle and heritage of the particularly flamboyant Georgian era of English life. Varied and exciting special events are staged here throughout the year including concerts, car shows, and events for children. Don’t forget to call in at the gift shop to pick up some wonderful reminders of your trip to Harewood House.