This beautiful historic house in Much Marcle, Herefordshire, is a living monument to much of England’s history. Attractions include heirlooms of Anne Boleyn, the haunted bed chamber prepared for Queen Mary Tudor, the panelled Music Room adorned with its English Renaissance frieze, paintings by Gainsborough, Van Dyke, Peter Lely and Goya, and the fascinating story of Hetty Walwyn.
Hellens’ story connects through its residents with many key events in England’s history:
- Earl Harold Godwinson, later King Harold II, Hellens’ first recorded owner
- The de Balun family who witnessed the signing of the Magna Carta
- Isolde Mortimer, whose brother Roger Mortimer ordered the murder of the defeated King Edward II and the delivery of the Great Seal of England to Isabella of France and the future King Edward III at Hellens
- James Audley, hero of the Froissart Chronicles and boon companion to Edward the Black Prince
- Richard Walwyn who prepared the bed chamber at Hellens for a visit from Queen Mary Tudor
- The monk, killed by Roundheads during the Civil War who were searching the house for its Catholic owner.
- Hetty Walwyn, imprisoned by her mother after a failed elopement.
- Charles Walwyn Radcliffe Cooke, known as the MP for Cider, he encouraged Hugh Weston to develop his cider business.
- Helena Gleichan, painter and great-niece of Queen Victoria, who stored paintings from the Tate Gallery in the Stone Hall at Hellens during the second world war.
- Axel Munthe, author of The Story of San Michele, an autobiographical account of his life and work as physician and psychiatrist.
The paintings at Hellens are a fascinating amalgam of several different collections, principally the Wharton Collection, formed chiefly through inheritance and marriage, which chart the shifting political, social and economic fortunes of the families whose history they record. The highlights range from impressive full-lengths by Sir Anthony van Dyck (1599-1641) to tiny miniatures by Hilliard and Samuel Cooper, as well as fine examples by Hogarth and Gainsborough. Numerous portraits by lesser-known artists also have their fascination, offering vivid glimpses into the past, and the stories behind the faces.
For the past twenty years, a group of Arts Society volunteers, have generously donated their time and expertise to help conserve the historic fabrics and hangings in Hellens. On close inspection so many of the textiles in the house have been carefully stitched to prolong their life. Alongside conservation tasks, the group have also undertaken two original design projects: the music room curtains and a set of 10 dining rooms chair covers.
In 2011 NADFAS completed a pair of beautiful, hand-embroidered Crewel worked curtains to replace the existing threadbare brocades in the Music Room. Their design is based upon a traditional tree of life pattern, incorporating crests and imagery from within Hellens walls. Each member of the group created their own signature motif all of which have been cleverly woven into the design –look for dragonflies, bumblebees, hedgehogs and butterflies to mention just a few! The curtains took over 4741 hours to complete. In the spring of 2017, the group completed a set of needlepoint seat covers for the chairs in the White Dining Room, inspired by the Tudor panelling of the room and a 17th century herbal found in Hetty’s room.
More recent projects include the conservation of an 18th century folding screen, completed in 2019, and an ambitious ‘Hellens Bayeux’ crewelwork frieze. This nine and a half metre long embroidery will illustrate the evolution of the ancient house through the ages and when completed will hang in the atmospheric minstrels gallery (definitely worth a return visit in a couple of years!)
Designed along Tudor and Jacobean lines to reflect the house’s history, the gardens are dog friendly and include a yew labyrinth, a rare octagonal dovecote, a physic garden, a knot garden and wonderful views to the Malvern Hills. The grounds cover 150 acres of ancient SSSI woodland and wild flower meadows, with trees ranging from Wellingtonias and Blue Atlas Cedars to many rare varieties of fruit trees. In spring the woods are full of wild flowers – daffodils, orchids, anemones and bluebells.
Making use of our ancient woodland, wild meadows and beautiful surroundings to help young people reconnect with themselves, others and the natural environment, Back To The Wild exists to: