The story of Elizabethan Kirby Hall brought to life in new exhibition

Kirby Hall was abandoned in the 1800s, but English Heritage are installing a new exhibition into its dusty halls

Monday, 17th May 2021, 7:00 am
How one of the grand bedrooms may have looked

As visitors arrive at Kirby Hall, near Corby, for the first time since December, they'll be treated to a brand new permanent exhibition that opens today.

The £180k exhibition, which comes with £180k of investment into the hall, will showcase the rise and fall of one of England’s great Elizabethan households.

Families will be able to engage in a series of interactive features as well as never before seen objects relating to the country house, including archaeological finds, books and printing blocks.

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New artefacts are on display at Kirby Hall

With its doors closed to the public since December last year, with just the grounds opening on March 29, English Heritage staff have been hard at work creating a new exhibition inside Kirby Hall, to bring the site’s story to life.

The launch of the new exhibition comes as coronavirus restrictions are eased and English Heritage reopens the interiors of more than 50 of its historic properties for the first time this year.

Kirby Hall is one of the most innovative works of architecture built during the reign of Elizabeth I. Built by Sir Humphrey Stafford in 1570 as a statement of wealth, taste and status, after Stafford’s death in 1575 and just as it was completed, Sir Christopher Hatton, a favourite courtier of Queen Elizabeth I and one of the judges who found Mary Queen of Scots guilty of Treason, bought the hall and extended and embellished the house and created the gardens.

The story of the rise and fall of Kirby Hall, which today stands partially roofless, is now told through a range of interpretation suitable for all ages, including interactive games and trails as well as a series of displays to help visitors imagine the heritage site as a home to its various wealthy owners throughout the centuries. The new exhibition even includes a ruby red life sized model of a luxurious four poster bed - reimagining that which would have been slept in by VIPs -created by an expert Theatre set designer.

Curators have spent the most recent lockdown bringing the hall to life once more

Guests can also enjoy brand new ‘tapestry trail’ reflecting the décor Christopher Hatton lavishly embellished the walls of the house with. New interpretation panels and an audio guide will tell Kirby’s story in detail and a selection of items from English Heritage’s Collection Stores will be on display for the first time. These include a section of carved wooden panelling, decorative elements from Kirby’s architecture and small finds such as a Pilgrims badge and a clothing clasp.

Sally Johnson, Collections Conservator English Heritage said: “It is a very special moment that after years of planning we are finally able to launch the new exhibition at Kirby Hall, and at the same time as English Heritage opens the doors to so many historically important interiors up and down the country.

"Kirby Hall was one of the earliest country houses to come into state care in the 1930s and much of its story was unknown. We’re so excited that now our visitors can discover some of those stories through the new interpretation.”

The exhibition at Kirby Hall opens today (May 17) with social distancing measures in place.

Visitors will be able to find out the real story behind Kirby Hall, which is still privately owned but managed by English Heritage

Both members and non-members must book in advance for a specific date and time slot via the English Heritage website. As well as opening 23 sites for the first time this year, today, English Heritage opens the interiors of more than 50 of its properties which were previously open to visitors as outdoor spaces only.

The once-magnificent hall has not been lived in for more than 100 years
Some artefacts are on display for the first time