Visited Kentwell Hall today with my husband and 3 children, entry cost £36 which we thought was high. Having driven from Norfolk and it being lunch time we thought that we would have a spot of lunch before starting the tour. Of the 3 sites marked as places to eat only one was open, and before we could even get through the door we were told bluntly that the staff were not 'ready' to start serving food.
We had to settle for a drink and the youngest had a piece of cake (very small, and clearly leftovers from the day before). 2 cups (not mugs) of tea, 2 small coffees, a tiny glass of squash and the thinest slice of sponge cake came to £10! Hubby was secretly pleased that the food was off :)
By the time we had finished our break, the two teenage girls who were 'the staff' had still not organised themselves to a state where they could offer lunches so we left to start the tour of the hall...
From the outside the hall is impressive, looks every inch the tudor home, evoking memories of Hampton Court. A wonderful moat to look at complete with numerous carp, all with gaping mouths. It looked very promising indeed.
However, there was no guided tour (not even an optional extra), there was very little information to read,nothing really set the scene or helped put things into context, we found ourselves becoming more and more confused as we progressed on the tour (which wasn't a tour, rather, a directionless ramble).
There were a pleasing number of rooms to look at, several 'off limits' rooms were scattered over the house, many more doors were simply locked with no notice on them at all.
Precious little remains from the tudor period, there is scant information about how the house has developed, or why and by whos hand. Indeed , we were even left unsure as to who built the house, when and why, we couldn't even work out whether it was privately owned (we decided in the end that it probably was).
The upstairs was bizarre; a collection of rooms which seemed to be in use currently, complete with toilets (and toilet brushes, loo rolls etc), personal modern items such as rucksacks and slippers in the bedrooms. Perhaps this is normal, but we found it unsettling and voyeuristic peering into the modern life of the inhabitants.
It was most peculiar having the tour include a bathroom which had recently been used it certainly didn't feel at times as though we were touring a stately home, more as though we had popped in to snoop on the neighbours whilst they went shopping. The house was tatty, with numerous broken windows, dusty and in places almost decrepit. One of the bedrooms was in a very sorry state with evidence of a fire on the door and leaks through the ceiling, mouldy in places too.
However! The grounds made up for the disappointing hall I think. There is a 14th century service area, which consists of bakery (including mouldy bread, sadly), dairy, brew house (barrels of stagnant water) and an apothecary (at least we surmised that it was so) which was very interesting. There is an ice house to look at if you are brave enough to investigate a bleak, dank under ground building which is in complete darkness as the lights don't work. We had a torch with us so were able to explore it and did find the info sheet inside very informative.
The gardens are wonderful and inspiring. We came home determined to start a 'stumperie' (you will have to find that part yourselves). The veg garden (potagerie) would put most avid gardeners to shame, everything looked very tempting indeed.
There were some pigs, a couple of horses and the ubiquitous chickens all happy to be fussed over, peacocks roamed about lazily and thrilled the children with their strange calls
The biggest disappointment was that we did not see a single soul dressed as a tudor, in fact we didn't see a single soul in the hall at all. There seemed to be a skeleton staff running the place and this was most apparent in the hall where we really should have been guided I believe.
Kentwell Hall is an interesting place but needs more investment, and to be honest I think it needs help in many ways. Visitors on a day like today will face disappointment as the entrance costs do not offer value for money in my opinion.
Oh, and the biggest complaint I have? No not the rude cafe staff, there is only one toilet on the whole site, so no matter where you are you have to go back to the entrance to use a toilet which I think is ridiculous, the eating areas should have toilets at least, as small children often need to 'go' at short notice and even in the middle of a meal, it is unreasonable to expect anyone to make do with the current situation. I would warn anyone with small children, the elderly or those with certain medical conditions to bear this in mind when deciding whether to visit.
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