Standing on a hillside a few miles to the east of the ancient city of Nottingham is one of England’s greatest houses.
Surrounded by 500 acres of open park land, which since the fourteenth century has been home to herds of wild deer.
This is a truly phenomenal building, awe-inspiring in its grandeur and positively glowing in its architectural splendour.
Designed by the architect Robert Smythson, Wollaton was begun in the year 1580 by Sir Francis Willoughby, a local coal magnate and completed in the year of the Spanish Armada, 1588. The building was based on an Italian Renaissance villa in Naples.
The master mason Robert Smythson worked on many different houses during the reign of Elizabeth I. Prior to Wollaton he built the main frontage of Longleat house and after constructing Wollaton he built Hardwick hall for Sir Francis Willoughby’s cousin, ‘Bess’ of Hardwick.
Back then the building was an architectural sensation. A decadent Elizabethan palace that showed stark Tudor England how to embrace the excesses of the Renaissance, Wollaton boasts the most dramatic facade of any English house built in the 16th century.
The house stands out as gloriously against the crisp blue sky today as it would have done four centuries ago, as the trees begin to litter their distinctly autumnally hued leaves.
The Gardens at Wollaton once had the reputation of being the finest in England. They are certainly still up there. As the parkland flows down from the formal gardens, beyond the stunning trees, to the lake below, deer roam freely around the landscape.
The place really is a masterpiece.
The ‘Camellia House’ which sits in the formal gardens behind the house is the oldest cast-iron-framed glass house in Europe, dating from 1823, and is the only remaining one of its kind in this country.
The building was reputedly the inspiration for the design of the Crystal Palace pavilion for the Great Exhibition in 1851 in Hyde Park.
The main hall is astonishing in its height with an incredible Elizabethan ceiling giving the room a deep sense of history spanning its 432 years.
Fires once roared heating this cavernous space. You can imagine the scenes which have played out in this room down the centuries from wild parties to great banquets and introductory tales from visiting dignitaries.
Interestingly, Wollaton starred as ‘Wayne Manor’ in the famous Batman movie, The Dark Knight Rises.
The grand house is just five miles north of the original Gotham, the Nottinghamshire village that gave its name to the fictional city in the Batman universe.
The movie was filmed here in the summer of 2011 with filming taking place over two weeks, mainly at night for the garden party scene with hundreds of extras who were sworn to secrecy. Several daylight scenes were filmed for the movie too.
At the time, the people of Nottingham did some star-spotting with Anne Hathaway, Christian Bale, Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman and Michael Caine all being seen around the city