I've stood on its grounds on a cold and blustery November day, and on a soft, sunny day in April when the daffodils were in bloom. It doesn't matter how many more times I'll be fortunate enough to visit Bolling Hall, what I will always remember is that Serendipity guided me there.
I am one of the fortunate Americans who grew up knowing her grandparents and great-grandparents. By the time I was a teenager, I knew lots of things about generations of my family going back much farther in time than that. I have my mother and grandmother to thank for that.
Shortly after getting my first computer, I was trying to get all of the family history they'd unearthed on my hard drive. I soon learned that I didn't really have the time or the patience for that, but the notes my mother had typed up so many years ago were calling to me. I decided to go through them and look up the various places ancestors had lived.
Almost all my ancestors came from northern England (Yorkshire and Northumberland) and the Highlands of Scotland. When I read the note about Robert Bolling-- being the youngest son-- leaving Bolling Hall in Bradford to go to London to live near the Tower of London, I perked up. For once, a house my ancestors had lived in had a name.
I idly typed "Bolling Hall" into the search engine on my computer. I didn't expect any hits. The Bollings weren't rich or influential; they were merely "comfortable" and more known for backing the wrong side in any internal English squabble. I was convinced that Bolling Hall had been torn down and made into a car park many decades previously.
There were hits on my search. Here's where you picture a slight pause while I stuff my eyes back into my head and pick my jaw off the floor. When I clicked on the links, I learned that Bolling Hall is a museum with free admission and a car park. Within seconds that old house had jumped to the #1 spot on my Places I Must See Before I Die list.
Domesday Book. According to the stone marker not far from the house, it used to be six miles from Bradford. Now it's about a mile from the city centre in the middle of a rather grim-looking housing estate.
When I first saw the front elevation of the Hall, I fell in love.
This is no grand manor of the rich and shameless; it is the home of a family who liked being comfortable. Whenever they had some extra money, they slapped a new addition on to the house, and it didn't matter if the styles blended together well or not. That's precisely what I love about it. Bolling Hall was a home, not a statement.
By 1912 there was no family left, and the house was given to the City of Bradford. Three years later, it was turned into a museum. The house has been furnished in the various period styles it lived through and is home to exhibits throughout the year for all the schoolchildren who come to visit.
The stone tower-- the oldest part of Bolling Hall-- was the most interesting to me. Rooms led from one to another, up and down steps, as if the architect put everything together on a whim.
garderobe, the medieval version of an en suite bathroom.
Down a few steps from the Green Room is the Blue Room, which is my favorite, not only for the color, but for the furnishings, the fireplace, and the huge window that shows just how thick the stone walls are.
At the other end of the Blue Room are some steps, a steep, narrow stone staircase leading into the darkness (if it had led down, I would've thought it was the way to the dungeon) and at the end of a very short hall, another room where Royalists plotted the capture of Bradford during the English Civil War.
As I've said before, each addition to Bolling Hall is different. The stone "tower" is followed by a half-timbered section, which is followed by a Georgian section which is followed by an early Victorian addition, and the furnishings follow suit. It's a very homey and informative walk through history and a house. But I want to get to my favorite section-- the original stone tower of Bolling Hall-- because it spoke to me the most.
box mangle. There's a perfect small study for the man of the house. But outside of the Blue Room and that scary stone staircase, the room that spoke to me the most was the room at the front which was saved for the most important visitors who came to stay.
Just look at that substantial carved four poster bed with the lush hangings and bedclothes. On the wall opposite from the bed is a large window that has a window seat and looks out over the gardens and the approach to the house. As I looked out the window, I could've sworn I saw a woman in farthingale and lace ruff ducking behind a tree in the garden.
To get the full glory of that room, you have to look up. Look up at the carved wooden frieze running all around the room at the top of the paneling. (To the right.) Making it was labor intensive, and if you click on the photo to view it full size (as you can all the photos in this post), you'll also see that architectural features like this depend on servants to keep it looking at its best.
It's also the room where the resident ghost has been seen on several occasions. The most famous appearance was when she showed herself to the Earl of Newcastle after he'd planned a battle and gone to bed. "Pity poor Bradford!" she pleaded, wringing her hands. The Earl went ahead with the attack but decided not to put all the prisoners to the sword.
As I stood in that room, I felt more than one presence, and they were all friendly and happy. Evidently the ghost knew I wasn't leaving to put Bradford to the sword.
Bolling Hall has lived for a long, long time, and it's no wonder that I felt things when I walked the grounds and the rooms. I think it's not pleased with its current cramped quarters, but it has known the passing of centuries, and it knows how to bide its time. I am so very happy that I've been allowed to make its acquaintance. It is a very special house.
If you'd like to see more of it, there is a series of 360 degree views of all the rooms open to the public at the BBC website.
|View of Bradford from Bolling Hall|