Wollaton Hall

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Coordinates: 52°56′53″N 1°12′35″W / 52.947974°N 1.209642°W / 52.947974; -1.209642

Wollaton Hall
Wollaton Hall Nov2010.jpg
Wollaton Hall in November 2010
Wollaton Hall is located in Nottinghamshire
Wollaton Hall
General information
Coordinates 52°56′52″N 1°12′35″W / 52.947880°N 1.2095947°W / 52.947880; -1.2095947
Construction started 1580
Completed 1588
Client Sir Francis Willoughby
Owner Nottingham City Council
Design and construction
Architect Robert Smythson
Designations Grade I listed building

Wollaton Hall is an Elizabethan country house standing on a small but prominent hill in Wollaton Park, Nottingham, England. The house is now Nottingham Natural History Museum, with Nottingham Industrial Museum in the out-buildings. The surrounding park land is regularly used for large-scale outdoor events such as rock concerts, sporting events and festivals.


Wollaton Hall, drawn by Samuel Hieronymus Grimm, 1773
Wollaton Hall in the late 18th century (engraving by M A Rooker after a drawing by Thomas Sandby)
Wollaton Hall in 1880

Wollaton Hall 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 Hall. The style is Elizabethan with early Jacobean elements. The floor plan has been said to derive from Serlio's drawing (in Book III of his Five Books of Architecture) of Giuliano da Majano's Villa Poggio Reale near Naples of the late fifteenth century, with elevations derived from Hans Vredeman de Vries.[1] The architectural historian Mark Girouard has suggested that the design is in fact derived from Nikolaus de Lyra's reconstruction, and Josephus's description, of Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem,[2] with a more direct inspiration being the mid-sixteenth century Mount Edgcumbe in Cornwall, which Smythson knew.[3] The building is of Ancaster stone from Lincolnshire, 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 Antonio 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.

Wollaton Hall in the snowfall of Winter

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.[4]

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.

In 2011, key scenes from the Batman movie The Dark Knight Rises were filmed outside Wollaton Hall.[5] The Hall was featured as the latest Wayne Manor.[6][7] The Hall is five miles north of Gotham, Nottinghamshire where Gotham City got its name.[8]

Owners of Wollaton Hall[edit]

Wollaton Hall Park, by Hendrik Frans de Cort

Similar buildings[edit]

In 1855, Joseph Paxton designed a near replica of Wollaton Hall in Buckinghamshire, now known as Mentmore Towers. Both properties have been used as filming locations for Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy of films, featuring as Wayne Manor – the latter in Batman Begins and Wollaton Hall itself in The Dark Knight Rises.

Nottingham Natural History Museum[edit]

Wollaton Hall seen from inside the north entrance to the park on Wollaton Road.

Since Wollaton Hall opened to the public in 1926, it has been home to the city's natural history museum.[9] On display are some of the items from the three quarters of a million specimens that make up its zoology, geology, and botany collections. These are housed in six main galleries:

  • Natural Connections Gallery
  • Bird Gallery
  • Insect Gallery
  • Mineral Gallery
  • Africa Gallery
  • Natural History Matters Gallery

The Museum started life as an interest group at the Nottingham Mechanics' Institution; it is now owned by the Nottingham City Council.


  • Marshall, P (1999), Wollaton Hall and the Willoughby Family, Nottingham Civic Society .
  1. ^ Sir John Summerson (1954) Architecture in Britain, 1530 to 1830. (Pelican History of Art) London: Penguin Books, p31.
  2. ^ Mark Girouard, "Solomon's Temple in Nottinghamshire" in Town and Country Yale University Press, 1992, pp187-197
  3. ^ Mark Girouard, Elizabethan Architecture: Its Rise and Fall, 1540–1640 (Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art) Yale University Press 2009 p.87
  4. ^ Leonard Jacks, Wollaton (1881), online at nottshistory.org.uk
  5. ^ Heath, Neil (16 June 2011). "Batman boost as The Dark Knight Rises at Wollaton Hall". BBC News (BBC). Retrieved 18 July 2012. 
  6. ^ "The Dark Knight Rises finds new home for Batman in Nottingham". Metro.co.uk (Associated Newspapers Limited). 10 June 2011. Retrieved 20 August 2012. 
  7. ^ "City was paid for Batman filming". This is Nottingham (Northcliffe Media). 30 June 2011. Retrieved 20 August 2012. 
  8. ^ "The real Gotham: The village behind the Batman stories". BBC News.
  9. ^ "Natural History Museum". 

External links[edit]