Reviews for Friends #5 Aston Hall

I feel the need to use a well-worn cliché to describe my visit to Aston Hall – you just don’t know what’s on your own doorstep.

Having grown up in neighbouring Perry Barr, my visit at aged 31 was long overdue – and well worth the wait.

Nestled in a rather incongruous location - at the top of a hill in the middle of Aston, right next to the Villa ground, Aston Hall is one big surprise. You could be forgiven for not quite believing that such grandeur exists where it does – but it’s not so surprising, when you consider that Aston was once much larger in size and importance than Birmingham itself.

Redisplayed to the public thanks to a development project, Aston Hall boasts sumptuous interiors from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, including the magnificent Long Gallery.

Our visit started with an unexpected but fascinating exhibition about the history of Aston itself, in the Astonish gallery which forms part of the newly restored Stables Range.

Thoughtfully curated, it provided an honest insight into the Aston area past and present, taking us on a journey through its industries and communities. The exhibition did not shy away or gloss over the rough edges of Aston’s history, and this made for a refreshing experience, delivered with a dose of self-effacing Brummie humour.

The interactive features were particularly good, including telephone receivers that allowed users to listen to intimate personal memories and social commentaries of local residents. Heartwarming, interesting and funny.

It was good for kids too – lots of fancy dress and gruesome facts! And lots for football fans, too – the exhibition demonstrated Aston’s pioneering relationship with the sport over history.

Once we eventually got round to the main attraction (almost having forgotten why we’d come!), we were not disappointed. In fact to be honest, it exceeded our expectations.

The Hall provided us with tour of Jacobean splendour - much in its original condition. The ground floor recreated the living quarters of the family, presented as they would have been used at the time.

Upstairs, we found the grand staterooms, all beautifully preserved. When you are walking around these rooms, it is clear why the Hall received royalty on more than one occasion.

The storytelling around the families who called this place home, particularly the Hall’s involvement in the English Civil War, really brought the time to life and gave the house a heartbeat and resonance even today.

The gardens, for me, couldn’t quite live up to the bar set by the Hall itself, and seemed especially drab on the grey damp Sunday of our visit. But they do provide a good, free open space for the local community to take advantage of.

It’s worth noting that the staff at Aston Hall are all fantastic, and very knowledgeable – helping to make the visit engaging and memorable.

I am thrilled that I finally made the effort to visit – Aston Hall is a real gem of our great city, and an opportunity to step back in time and discover the role the Hall and its inhabitants played in making Birmingham what it is today. A must see.

http://www.bmag.org.uk/aston-hall

 
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