Museum of Childhood
Great fun this. As we looked around an Aladdin’s Cave of toys from Victorian to the modern era, kids of all ages were being treated to stories of their parents’ youth. It was remarkable that children who are used to living in a technologically advanced era were asking mum or dad how simple things, such as a spinning top, distorting binoculars, perspective peepshow , worked, or how a Meccano set was put together. They were genuinely interested, and genuinely wanted to have a go with everything hands-on. You can even send them up a chimney to learn how Victorian children earned a crust.
But, the piece de resistance has to be joining a lesson in the Victorian Schoolroom. You MUST NOT miss this. It’s brilliant. They don’t take place often, so listen out for the bell ringing and make sure you get a seat. The ‘school mistress’ plays her part well. Too well! You really are transformed back in time. It was a privilege to hear my wife Caron can’t spell her name properly and that she must be careful of catching hair lice, a chap who wrote ‘Phil’ on his slate was chastised for not being able to finish writing his name in full, the lady in front of me told to wear the ‘dunce hat’ for giggling, and Phil (again – bad boy!) having a piece of wood stuck up his back to help him “sit up straight in class” (as well as being threatened with the cane, naturally). Four stars.
Much of a muchness as far as stately homes go, the opulence is not the same in comparison with, say, Belton House (Grantham). Nonetheless, Sudbury Hall does not disappoint, a myriad of corridors run through and past many a lavishly furnished room. Look out for the small but intriguing library featuring cast iron spiral staircase and balustrade balcony; the bright and airy long gallery, considered one of the most beautiful in England; the ornately carved cantilever staircase, its walls and the ceiling above adorned with lavish murals, portraiture and battle scene paintings (Roman, Grecian, Biblical?); as well as various hidden treasures at every turn.
The grounds outside provide the perfect setting for a picnic, or to simply stroll along the lake water’s edge. Huge topiary adds to the splendour of the lawns.
However, when we read in the National Trust Handbook that themed Hall tours on a Saturday had only a half-hour window for taking part in (11:30-12:00) we assumed this was a printing error. Alas, no. Tours really do only take place during that time. Absolutely ridiculous. Sorry, NT – you’ve got this so, so wrong. Visitors, I am sure, would just love to have a better opportunity for going behind the scenes not normally open at other times. For example, Calke Abbey provides several house tours over a period of 1½ hours prior to the place opening for general visiting. The current set-up at Sudbury Hall is, in our opinion, totally inadequate. Three stars.
There’s a tea room for light lunches, plenty of outdoor seating, a small souvenir shop, ice cream parlour and toilet facilities.
Trail sheets will also help keep the kids amused.
Close to the main A50, Sudbury Hall/Museum of Childhood is easy to get to car.
Museum of Childhood