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Wollaton Hall in the summer of 2008
Wollaton Hall in the late 18th century.
Engraving by M A Rooker after a drawing by Thomas Sandby
Wollaton Hall in 1880
Wollaton Hall is a country house standing on a small but prominent hill in Wollatonmarker, Nottinghammarker, Englandmarker. Wollaton Park is the area of parkland that the stately house stands in. The house itself is a natural history museum, with other museums in the out-buildings. The surrounding land is regularly used for large scale outdoor events such as rock concerts and festivals.


Wollaton was built between 1580 and 1588 for Sir Francis Willoughby and is believed to be designed by the Elizabethan architect, Robert Smythson, who was the architect of Hardwick Hallmarker. The building is of Ancaster stone from Lincolnshiremarker, and is said to have been paid for with coal from the Wollaton pits owned by Willoughby. Cassandra Willoughby, Duchess of Chandos recorded in 1702 that the master masons, and some of the statuary, were brought from Italy. The decorative but ludicrous gondola mooring rings carved in stone on the exterior walls offer some evidence of this, as do other architectural features. There are also obvious French and Dutch influences.

The building consists of a high central hall, surrounded by four towers. Unfortunately, a fire caused damage to Smythson's interior decoration of some of the ground floor rooms, but little structural damage occurred. Remodelling was carried out by Wyattville in 1801 and continued intermittently until the 1830s.

The gallery of the main hall contains Nottinghamshire's oldest pipe organ, thought to date from the end of the seventeenth century, possibly by the builder Gerard Smith. It is still blown by hand. Paintings on the ceilings and one wall are attributed to Verrio or his assistant Laguerre. Directly over the main hall is a 'prospect room', from which there are extensive views of the Park. Beneath the hall are many cellars and passages, and a well and associated reservoir tank, in which some accounts report that an admiral of the Willoughby family took a daily bath.

The Willoughbys were noted for the number of explorers they produced, most famously Sir Hugh Willoughby who died in the Arctic in 1554 attempting a North East passage to Cathay. Willoughby's Land is named after him.

In 1881, the house was still owned by the head of the Willoughby family, Digby Willoughby, 9th Baron Middleton, but by then it was "too near the smoke and busy activity of a large manufacturing town... now only removed from the borough by a narrow slip of country", so that the previous head of the family, Henry Willoughby, 8th Baron Middleton, had begun to let the house to tenants and in 1881 it was vacant.

Now owned by the Nottingham City Councilmarker, the Hall houses Nottingham City Museum & Galleries Natural History Collections whilst the stable block contains the Industrial Collections.

The hall reopened in April 2007 after being closed for refurbishment. The prospect room at the top of the house, and the kitchens in the basement, were opened up for the public to visit, though this must be done on one of the escorted tours. The latter can be booked on the day, last about an hour, and a small charge is made.

Wartime role

In this park, during World War II members of the U.S.marker 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment were billeted waiting to be parachuted into Europe. A small plaque commemorates this event. Subsequently German prisoners of war were billeted here for employment in the locality between 1945 and 1947.

The park

The grounds, Wollaton Park, are the home to the Intercounties Cross Country trials in March of each year, as well as many other events.

The enclosure of Wollaton Park required the destruction of the village of Sutton Passeys. It was enclosed by Henry Willoughby, 6th Baron Middleton with a 7 mile red brick wall, at the start of the nineteenth century. Originally 790 acres, land sales have reduced the park to 500 acres.

In 2006-8 the grade II* listed Lenton Lodge, the former eastern gatehouse on Derby Road (corner of Wollaton Hall Drive), now detached from the Hall and Park by urban housing, was restored by Chek Whyte Industries and sold as a 3,324 sq ft office in 2009. The Lenton and Beeston gateways to the Park were designed by Sir Jeffrey Wyatville for Henry Willoughby in 1823-25.

The park is home to a herd of Red Deer and Fallow Deer.

Owners of Wollaton Hall

Industrial Museum

The Courtyard range contains the City's Industrial Museum, with a display of Textile, Transport and Technology from Nottingham's past, including the Basford Beam Engine, a fully operational analogue telephone network, a display of cycles, motor cycles and motor cars linked to the city and examples of significant lace making machinery - which put Nottingham on the textile map.

The Steam Engine House has a fully operational Steaming Day run by the Nottingham Arkwright Society on the last Sunday of every month.

The Industrial Museum is accessed through the Courtyard Stables shop and via the Wollaton Visitor Centre.

Vintage Tractor Collection
The Museum has a collection of vintage tractors.
  • Field Marshall Series II Tractor built in the 1940s. Operational and used regularly for Steam Up events, painted green.
  • Standard Fordson Tractor. Operational and used regularly for Steam Up events, painted green.
  • 'Little Grey Fergi' Tractor MWK 832 TE20D. Operational and used regularly for Steam up events, painted Ferguson grey.
  • Fordson Major Tractor built in 1950's. Operational and used regularly for Steam Up events.
  • Little Grey Fergi Tractor SAL 67. Undergoing restoration in the workshop.

Fowler Ploughing Engines
The museum has two 1929 John Fowler & Co. Ploughing Engines which were the last two to be built by Fowler, and they also have a canopy on them, which is very unusual for a ploughing engine. One (VO 8987) is operational and is used regularly on steaming days, the other (VO 8988) is not operational and is awaiting a major overhaul, which will include the fitting of a new boiler.

Portable Engines
The museum has two Portable Engines on site. One was built in 1886 by Marshall and is in working order, the other has built by Crosskill and is disguised as Trevor the Traction Engine

Other items
As well as the tractors and traction engines the museum has a Living van, a Saw Bench, a Marshall Threshing Drum No. 29505 that operates in the summer months either by the Field Marshall Tractor, Standard Fordson Tractor or VO 8987. The museum is also home to 2 ploughs originally used with ploughing engines like the two that the museums got and a collection of barn engine which are used during steam up events.

Similar buildings

In 1855 Joseph Paxton designed a near replica of Wollaton Hall in Buckinghamshire, now known as Mentmore Towersmarker.


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