We welcomed visitors back to Normanby Hall on Monday 17 May after a period of closure due to national restrictions. These visitors have been enjoying the newly refurbished displays, after extensive Arts Council England (ACE) funded work that was completed during closure.
The ground floor now shows a more comprehensive story of life in the Hall during the Regency period, with the rooms changed to better reflect their use during this time. Visitors also have another opportunity to see The International Country House exhibition, with an extra artwork added to refresh the exhibition. For those who don’t feel ready to visit, the virtual tour has been updated to show the transformation of the displays.
All the touchscreens have been updated reflect the changes in the rooms, with information about how each room was used. The hotspot technology means that visitors can select an object on the touchscreen to view information about it, as well as detailed images. There are plenty of games on the touchscreens to keep the whole family engaged!
Upon entering, visitors are greeted by Ian Kirkpatrick’s Sphinx Sofa, as part of The International Country House exhibition. Visitors are encouraged to interact with the sofa, take photographs and share them with us on social media. After absorbing the history of the Hall and the Sheffield family in the Entrance Hall display that was new in 2020, visitors can make their way through the Regency rooms.
First is the Drawing Room which, like all the rooms in the Hall, boasts new ‘Vision’ blinds. They allow the visitor to see through to the gardens outside, whilst blocking the damaging effects of heat and light in the room. These have made all the rooms so much more welcoming, whilst continuing to keep the artefacts safe. This room is also home to ‘Table for an Unknown Embroiderer’, a new artwork by Kate Noakes for The International Country House exhibition. It is an upcycled Pembroke tea table, inlaid with a design inspired by the fire screen in the room, one of the few pieces of furniture original to the house.
Opposite the Drawing Room is the Library, formerly the East Silk Drawing Room. Research shows that during the Regency era, this would have been a family sitting room for socialising, playing games, writing letters, and sharing knowledge. There is a new case in this room, to show different books from the bookcases up close. The ones currently on display show Sir Robert Sheffield’s bookplates, featuring the boar’s head of the family crest.
Moving on to the Dining Room, visitors can view some beautiful pieces of silver from the collection up close. Visitors had commented that they would like to see things like this, so it has been wonderful to have the opportunity to deliver on this feedback.
The final room on the ground floor is the Study, formerly the Library. Completely redecorated and with the new ‘Vision’ blinds, I am delighted with how fresh this room now looks. Even ‘Emperor Otho’, our painting by Rubens, has benefitted from funding and now sits in a new case that blends in colour with the wall.
Moving up to the first floor, visitors leave the Regency era behind to explore the early 20th century, when there were big changes to the Hall. The architect Walter Brierley was employed to design and build a new extension to the Hall, and well as a huge Servants’ Wing, and modifications to the Entrance Hall also took place. Where the Nursery used to be is the new Life Below Stairs gallery, exploring the Servants’ Wing and the lives and duties of the staff. As well as objects relating to the servants in brand new cases, visitors can view photographs and plans and listen to audio on the touchscreen.
Finally, in the Bedroom visitors can learn more about the changes that took place in the Hall, including the conversion of the adjoining dressing room into the Bathroom. Also on the first floor is the International Fashion costume exhibition, extended from last season, the newly refurbished Wedding Room, and the Normanby at War gallery to bring the story of the Hall up to the 1940s.
Visitors are thoroughly enjoying the new displays and continue to enjoy the artworks displayed in the rooms. Plans for another art installation are underway for next season, with pieces in nearly every room of the Hall, on both floors. There will also be a new costume exhibition on the first floor.
The International Country House exhibition closes on 31 October, when Normanby Hall will move to reduced opening on a Friday, Saturday and Sunday.