Friday, 28 March 2014

The perfect family day out this spring

Treat your mum this weekend to a special day out that will keep all the family entertained and create lasting memories.

Starting with the little ones, meet Clarence the Corgi - he's the star of the brand new free family trail.

Collect a sheet from reception to take you around the outdoors and in the hall. There are a series of ideas of things to look for, draw and answer - children of all ages can help and join in.

Whilst wandering around you will discover Royals: then and now which includes a selection of brand new contemporary royal portraits from the first public showing of the christening portrait of Prince George by Jason Bell to the 12 foot tall Centenary Portrait by John Wonnacott.

The Royal Family: A Centenary Portrait
(C) John Wonnacott, National Portrait Gallery, London
For more details on these and other portraits visit the Beningbrough website. If you need to take some time out then step into the newly opened historic library - the perfect place for the second hand reading room, relocated from the stable block. All donations from the books help with conservation of Beningbrough plus there's a great view along the lime tree avenue and on a clear day to the hills beyond.
The entire hall is accessed by the lift making it suitable for any needs, ask the team for direction to the East Courtyard entrance and if you need temporary use of a wheelchair to help make the visit more comfortable. For people who prefer the sunshine and scent of spring bulbs then the conservatory is another option for stopping off, never better than when the hyacinths are opening.
Stepping outside, the gardens are now springing to life and the blossom will soon open up. If you want to find out more about the history and seasonal interest there are free guided garden tours to join on Wednesday and Saturdays or if the little ones need to let off more steam the wilderness play area is always popular. Last year this was updated with a brand new clamber stack climbing frame, play house, selection of new swings and den building area.
By now if fatigue is setting in there's so much choice in the Walled Garden Restaurant to enjoy indoors or on the sunny terrace. Freshly made produce including quiche and scones or on Sundays the very popular roast dinners - we'll even do the washing up!

If you did still need to get another thank you for mum then spend some time in the stables shop browsing for special royal memorabilia, locally grown products from specially selected suppliers or maybe a pot of spring sunshine.
So much to do if the weather is unkind with 3 floors of hall to explore and interactive family fun on the top floor. On Sunday join the family art workshop 1-3pm for a chance to let the little ones make something for the special mum in their lives.
If not this weekend, keep an eye on the events page for what else is coming up including news of the Cadbury sponsored Easter weekend.
Otherwise like us on facebook or follow us on twitter for all the latest updates.

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

New for 2014 – Royals: then and now

The 1st of March marks the start of the main season here at Beningbrough, and the house is preparing to wake up after its winter rest. Along with all of the usual activity which accompanies the approach of the new season, there has also been additional excitement surrounding a brand new display of art works arriving in the hall.  This year contemporary portraits from the National Portrait Gallery’s contemporary collection will be on display alongside the historic paintings which form the permanent collection in the house. To mark the 300th anniversary of the accession of the House of Hanover (which lasted until Queen Victoria’s death), this display will show members of today’s Royal family in the context of their ancestors.

Some famous and celebrated pieces will be on show, such as this portrait of the dashing Princes William and Harry by Nicky Philipps in the visiting portraits room and Andy Warhol’s colourful interpretation of Queen Elizabeth II in the Baroque saloon. Several works by Mario Testino will be featured, including the last official portrait of Diana Princess of Wales and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s official engagement photograph. This will also  be the first public viewing of Prince George’s official christening photograph by Jason Bell.

Queen Elizabeth II ('Lightness of Being') by Chris Levine
lenticular print on lightbox, 2007 © Chris Levine

In this photo an art conservator inspecting the installation of an unusual portrait of Queen Elizabeth II by Chris Levine. This image was an unexpected outtake from a bigger project the artist undertook in 2004. ‘Equanimity’ was a commission which commemorated the Isle of Jersey’s 800th year of allegiance to the crown with a special holographic portrait, requiring hundreds of photographs to be taken of the Queen. In between takes she rested for a moment, and this is the image captured in ‘Lightness of Being’. As well as using modern techniques, this portrait shows it’s sitter in a personal, reflective moment, providing a contrast with the traditional, formal portraits from the historic collection.

The Royal Family: A Centenary Portrait (Standing, left to right) Prince William, Duke of Cambridge; Queen Elizabeth II; Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh; Prince Harry; Prince Charles; (seated) Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother
by John Wonnacott
oil on canvas on foamboard, 2000
© John Wonnacott / National Portrait Gallery, London

If you’re a regular visitor to Beningbrough you’ll know that the great hall is a vast, impressive space from which we introduce the house. This makes it the ideal place to display the huge twelve foot group portrait of the royal family which will greet visitors as they enter. It took six art handlers, two towers of scaffolding and three days to install this impressive piece in its new setting. Here the skilled art handlers have assembled the portrait after transit…


…and here the team have erected the painting using the scaffolding, and are positioning it in place. John Wonnacott painted this just before the millennium, to celebrate the Queen Mother’s 100th birthday. Alongside her are Queen Elizabeth, Prince Philip, Prince Charles, Prince William, Prince Harry and of course several corgis!

After so much work and planning both here and at the National Portrait Gallery, everyone at the property is excited for the new season to begin and for the public to see this display for the first time. We hope you can join us in the spring to see the impressive works for yourselves.

From 1st March we will be open Tuesday – Sunday 11am until 5pm. Please visit the website for more details about prices and opening times:

You can also visit the National Portrait Gallery website to find out more about the portraits:

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Beningbrough opens its doors to York Residents for one weekend only

For one weekend only admission will be completely free not only for National Trust members, but also for anybody with a valid York Card.

Not only will York residents benefit from free entry to the property, on this weekend visitors can take advantage of a book sale, coinciding with the relocation of our popular reading room from the stable block into the former library of the house itself.  Currently housed in the stable block coach house, there are a wide range of fiction and non-fiction titles for as little as £1 each, and all income generated from the second hand book shop will go directly into essential conservation projects. The Walled Garden Restaurant will also be helping visitors to save money by offering a free children’s meal when you buy an adult meal.

On both Saturday and Sunday there will be an opportunity to meet one of the many local suppliers whose produce we sell in the stables shop. Sarah Ironside will be visiting from Yorkshire Country Wines in order to meet visitors, talk about her work and share samples of her wines, all of which are produced from locally grown fruit. 

Try some of the fruity flavours for yourself and look out for other 'Meet the Supplier' events in the Stables shop throughout the year, as we celebrate a range of locally sourced crafts and produce.  Sarah is one of many local suppliers we work with, and we hope to be hosting more opportunities to meet the faces behind the products in the future.

Winter opening hours mean that the estate will be open from 11am – 3.30pm over the weekend, with the garden and parkland open to be explored and the top floor of the house open all season.

Find out more about York Residents Festival and how to get a York Card here:

Friday, 10 January 2014

Drop in open days for paid and volunteer roles

Wednesday 15 & Saturday 18 January 2014, 10am-1pm. 
At Beningbrough, we have an exciting range of opportunities available in both paid employment and as a volunteer. We are always looking for ways to better bring our property to life and to create a very enjoyable visit for everyone who comes through our doors. This is from the warm welcome they receive, to ensuring they enjoy their wander round the garden and house, to the opportunities they will be offered to receive further information through talks and walks and that they are given the tools to enjoy their day, their way. Everything we do, contributes to this.

We are recruiting paid seasonal roles within retail and admissions, visitor services team within the house and also catering staff within the catering team. We are looking for people to join our teams who love to engage, are enthusiastic and have a passion for heritage and customer service.Meet the head of department and pick up a role profile and application form.

As an organisation who are continually looking for ways to improve our service, make our spaces accessible to more and more people and inspire all ages through the history and story of the property, we are always looking for volunteer support to help us achieve this. However, volunteering and working with the National Trust is definitely a two way partnership. As a heritage site we can provide a whole range of opportunities to get involved with. From front of house roles which involve sharing our stories with school children and engaging our day visitors, to the behind the scenes conservation or admin work, there is something for everyone. We want all of our volunteers to have a great experience with us and so, we think it's really important that they get the best from their role. Whether it is to enhance their CV, gain new skills, increase confidence, put previous skills gained to good use or to expand their social circle through meeting new people, we aim to provide opportunities for all of these to happen.

We have a number of new exciting volunteer roles on offer in 2014, from a photography volunteer to help us 'capture the moment', to tour guides to help us interest and excite our visitors about our history, to volunteer support of film generation and editing to enhance our website and social media. These are just some of the volunteer roles we will be recruiting for this year.

If you're thinking you'd like to get involved in something new this year, looking to build or enhance your CV or wanting to gain new skills in a beautiful, historical setting...then come and see us on Wednesday 15th or Saturday 18th January between 10am and 1pm. You can meet the team, explore the opportunities and have a chat to find out more. 

Post by Sue Jordan, Learning Officer. 

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Andrew Kay's animal sculptures come to Beningbrough this winter

Regular visitors to the property may remember Emma Stothard’s exhibition of willow animal sculptures, which visited Beningbrough last winter. This year we are lucky enough to be hosting the works of another sculptor.  The award winning Andrew Kay creates life-size pieces which capture the anatomy and movement of native British animals with surprisingly simple steel structures.

Beningbrough’s estate has been home to an array of animals throughout its history, from the eighteenth century deer park to the Chesterfield’s prized race horses and today’s Aberdeen Angus cattle.  This exhibition celebrates their continuing presence with charging stallions, grazing does and even a proud stag in the main hall.

This exhibition is the final stop for the animals on their tour of National Trust properties in the York area.  They have already spent several weeks at Goddard’s (the former home of chocolatier Noel Terry) and been presented with dramatic lighting effects at Treasurer’s house as part of the Illuminating York festival.

Andrew Kay is based in Cumbria, and has worked on both private and public commissions around the world. The sculptures at Beningbrough are part of a selling exhibition (visit for more details about sales and private commissions). The exhibition at Beningbrough will be open on weekends only throughout the winter season from 11am until 3.30pm until 23rd February 2014.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Autumn apple pressing - the freshest fruit juice you can find!

At Beningbrough we grow over 40 varieties of apple. All of these are local to the North of England and many are historical varieties which have been in use for hundreds of years.  In October, when most have ripened, we have the dilemma of what to do with literally tons of apples.  There are endless bags of apples to be taken home by visitors, and there is a limit to the number of apple pies that the restaurant can produce! Our solution is to crush the remainder into juice. This provides an interesting spectacle for our visitors, as well as an opportunity to sample the delicious result.

 This year has been a bumper crop so we have had 3 ‘crushing’ days. The raw materials are, of course, crates of apples, recently harvested from our trees in the walled garden.  We mix up all the varieties, including cooking and dessert apples, so the juice tastes slightly different every time. We're never quite sure what we're going to get but so far it’s always ended up a success.

As with many processes, preparation is all important.  Here, gardener Mark is explaining how the equipment works whilst gardener John and volunteers Dawn and Fred are busily chopping up apples for the first crush.  As the apples are chopped, they are transferred to the crusher which crushes them down almost to a pulp and drops them into the press.

When the crusher is taken away it reveals a press is full of apple pulp.  Next, Mark adds the round wooden cover (known as a ‘cheese’) followed by wooden blocks and a metal plate which engages with the screw to drive the press.

Now the real work starts!  Mark puts his back into it, turning the screw which presses down on the apple pulp to release the juice.  This may sound easy but it is sometimes rather more difficult in practice.

And before long the juice starts to flow – first a trickle, then a flood!

Finally, the first crush is finished and nearly 4 litres of juice is filtered and ready for tasting.

After the juicing this crushed apple pulp is all that is left in the press. This will be pushed out, loaded into wheelbarrows and taken into the garden. The left overs are never wasted - once in the garden they will be a welcome mulch for acid loving plants like rhododendrons and azaleas.

The autumn harvest is always a busy time for the garden team, but the walled garden yields a variety of fruit and vegetables throughout the year. On your next visit keep an eye on what we have growing - you can be sure that it will be turned into something tasty when its grown! 

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

The Beningbrough gardens through time

As part of a series of talks and presentations this winter, join the Beningbrough garden team on Friday 22nd November for two informative and visually delightful presentations to brighten up the dullest of winter days. '25 years in the making’ shows the developments of the walled garden, while ‘A year in the life’ is a photographic journey capturing the changes each month.

’25 Years in the Making’ is an opportunity to find out how the walled garden came to be in its current state. Originally a kitchen garden, reaching the height of its productivity in the Victorian era, the area went into a steady decline, eventually ending up as a ploughed field. This was leased to a local market gardener in the 1960s. When the lease ended in 1975, the Trust could only afford to grass the area and lay a few perimeter paths. The real change came in 1995, when an anonymous legacy provided some capital and the funds to employ a gardener dedicated to the Walled Garden. Mark turned out to be the right man for the job, and remains a dedicated member of the garden team to this day. Using recently discovered archive materials, join Mark and Tom (two of Beningbrough’s professional gardeners) on the first of our journeys through time – as turf is lifted, paths laid, vegetable beds planned, trees planted and the plain field transforms to the garden as we see it today.

 This is what the glass house in the Walled Garden looks like today....

…and this is what it looked like in 1995…

Over eighteen years the space has changed from an empty field, to a thriving garden full of fruit, vegetables and ornamental plants.

Back in the present day, discover the changes which happen to the walled garden throughout the seasons. Bob, a garden volunteer, recently decided to repeat a project undertaken some ten years ago, documenting the changing face of the garden through a whole year.  The original images, from a conventional camera and A4 sized, filled an entire room.  The updated version, using digital technology, sits on Bob’s laptop and projects a moving photo montage taken from 13 positions in the garden. Watch as spring bulbs give way to the bounty of summer, then fades into autumn, before freezing into winter.  

Look how much the  pear arch changes over just a few months:

This talk will also include a walk, following the route outlined in both presentations and with additional expert information and interpretation. The presentation will begin at 10:30 in the learning centre and costs £25 per person, including a light lunch and refreshments on arrival. Booking is essential via Jo Parker (Events and Marketing Coordinator) on 01904 472027.

This is only one of several talks and presentations we will be hosting over the next few months. Others include…

Monday 11 November
Lost Houses of Yorkshire
Join Edward Waterson, one of the region’s leading property experts and author as he shares his research about grand houses and estates from around the county

Thursday 28 November
Unseen Beningbrough
Join Mark Newman, National Trust Archaeologist on an informative and entertaining journey as he showcases the latest rediscoveries of the lost past including recent geo-physics research in the parkland hinting at the hidden gardens beneath our feet.

Thursday 5 December
The Beningbrough bomber boys
All year we have told the stories of the air crews, both British and Canadian, billeted here during WWII from nearby Linton-on-Ouse. Join Ted Sumner, Property Historical Researcher for an insightful and entertaining presentation on lost love, bravery, mischief and more.

Monday 9 December
Scandalous stories from Seaton Delaval
Uncover the truths behind the myths of the Delaval family in the 18th century with stories of adultery and illegitimate children. Volunteer Kate Gibson presents her research in an informative and entertaining presentation on the former owners of this grand estate, now under National Trust management.