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|Town or city||Alcester, Warwickshire|
Ragley Hall (grid reference SP073555) is located south of Alcester, Warwickshire, eight miles (13 km) west of Stratford-upon-Avon. It is the ancestral seat of the Marquess of Hertford and is one of the stately homes of England.
The Ragley of the 21st century is a country estate with a farm, a butchers shop, a sawmill, and an adventure playground for children. The Hall, Park & Gardens are run as a tourist attraction and events venue as well as being a family home to the 9th Marquess and Marchioness of Hertford and their four children.
The House and the 400-acre (1.6 km2) grounds are seasonally open to the public. The house is filled with paintings, ceramics and antique furniture. The Great Hall is adorned with Baroque plasterwork by James Gibbs and the Red Saloon allegedly remains as it was decorated and furnished by James Wyatt in 1780.
The Gardens have a Winter Garden, Spring Bulb Bank, a woodland Walk and contemporary Rose Garden amongst them.
Ragley is the site of the Jerwood Sculpture Park, opened in July 2004. The Park includes works that won the Jerwood Sculpture Prizes, and the work of Dame Elisabeth Frink, among others. In 1969 the 8th Marques of Hertford commissioned the artist Graham Rust to decorate the South Staircase Hall with murals, showing "The Temptation of Christ" and members of the family on an illusionary gallery.
Ragley in 2010 hosted the CLA Game Fair, the world's largest country event, held by the Country Land and Business Association.
An Old English word meaning ‘rubbish dump’, Ragley was given to Evesham Abbey by the King of Mercia in AD 711. Seven hundred years later the Abbey sold Ragley to the Rous family who built an embattled castle thought to be on the site of what is the Rose Garden today.
In the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, Sir John Conway came from Conway Castle in Wales to marry the heiress to Arrow, just outside Ragley Park. He then bought Ragley Castle and its lands: the last time Ragley has changed hands by purchase. It was Sir John’s grandson, the first Earl of Conway, who engaged Dr Robert Hooke to design the Palladian House which can be seen today. Hooke, a contemporary of Christopher Wren, was a notable architect and scientist who contributed greatly to the rebuilding of London after the Great Fire. Of the several great country houses he built, only Ragley Hall and Ramsbury Manor remain.
The building was not completed until the middle of the 18th century with James Gibbs designing the baroque plaster decoration in the Great Hall in 1750 and Wyatt adding the portico, as well as decorating the Red and Mauve Rooms, in 1780. The title of Marquess of Hertford was created in 1793 for Francis, 2nd Lord Conway who was rewarded for services to his country mainly rendered in governing Ireland.
Each period in Ragley’s history has made its mark on the House and the Estate and each Marquess has had varying passions from art to theatre and careers ranging from military to agricultural.
One man who made a notable contribution to the art world was Richard, the 4th Marquess, who never visited Ragley and lived his entire life in Paris. Both he and his father were avid art collectors and he devoted his life and income to buying pictures to add to his collection. He did not marry and left everything except Ragley, Conway Castle and some property in Coventry, to his illegitimate son Richard Wallace. The 4th Marquess was an extremely bad landlord and left Ragley sadly neglected. However, anyone who has seen the Wallace Collection at Hertford House in London will find it difficult to condemn him.
After that, Ragley faced mixed fortunes until the 1950s when the 8th Marquess made the decision to open to the public. Lord and Lady Hertford worked tirelessly to restore the House, which had not been fully occupied since 1912 and was used as a hospital during the Second World War.
The House was first opened in 1958 and over the coming years the State Rooms were gradually restored to their former glory. The 8th Marquess made his mark on Ragley by commissioning Graham Rust to create a modern mural, The Temptation, in the South Staircase Hall which took fourteen years to complete and features several family members and pets.
The Ragley of the 21st century is a thriving country estate with a successful farm, butchers and sawmill, as well as a portfolio of properties. The Hall, Park & Gardens are run as a tourist attraction and events venue as well as being a family home to the 9th Marquess and Marchioness of Hertford and their four children.
- Ragley Hall was used as a location in the 1982 television version of The Scarlet Pimpernel.
- The Great Hall at Ragley was featured in the 1993 BBC television serial To Play The King as the king's gym
- Ragley also featured in the 1998 television version of the period drama Vanity Fair as Lord Steyne's House.
- Ragley Hall played the role of the far more grand Palace of Versailles in the fourth episode of the second series of the British science fiction television series Doctor Who, titled "The Girl in the Fireplace", first broadcast in May 2006.
- Ragley featured in the first episode of Series 2 of BBC 1's 2010 drama Survivors.
- Ragley hosted the 2010 CLA Gamefair to great success attracting well over 200,000 visitors over the three-day event
- Ragley Hall was used as a filming location for the 2013 BBC drama series Dancing on the Edge.
- The hall was also used as a film location in a 2008 short film by Luke Massey, "Within the woods".
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