Gracious living, Victorian style

Your genial host, Robert Ropner

Your genial host, Robert Ropner

It’s always nice to be made welcome and Preston Park Museum  does this with real warmth and imagination.  There’s even a welcoming speech, delivered by our host, glass in hand.

Built in 1825, Preston Hall was purchased by wealthy shipping magnate Robert Ropner in 1882. Major alterations added a grand entrance porch and Winter Garden, ballroom and billiards room, the whole enclosed in beautifully landscaped gardens, befitting his social status.  Ropner served as Conservative MP for Stockton from 1900-1910.  Life was exceedingly grand and a fleet of servants kept the household running smoothly.

Ropner died, aged 85, in 1924 and the hall and park were subsequently purchased by Stockton Council.  Preston Hall Museum opened its doors to the public in 1953.  As a small girl I can remember being taken there.  The house itself was a warren of rooms, stuffed full of Victorian furniture, and with the addition of a Victorian street.

The museum was beginning to look a little tired when Stockton Council acquired funding for a massive renovation.  In 2012 there was a grand reopening.  I wasn’t at all sure what I would find.


But I found myself immensely impressed.  The house was light and bright, with beautifully showcased and hugely varied exhibits.  Here are just a few of my favourites.

Fabulous pottery

Fabulous pottery

Beautiful glassware

Beautiful glassware

Exquisite fabrics and jewellery

Exquisite fabrics and jewellery

Exotic sword guards

Exotic sword guards

Delicate cameos

Delicate cameos

Remember the snuff box? Here's another!

Remember the snuff box from Six word Saturday? Here’s another!

Touches of humour illuminate the commentary as you walk through the house, nor are they the only source of illumination.

This stained glass is from a former Methodist church in Stockton

This stained glass is from a former Methodist church in Stockton

There is so much that I could share, but I don’t want to spoil it for you, in case you ever go there. It’s like a Pandora’s Box of Victoriana, with each room a new delight as you wind up through the house.  There’s a nod to shipping, on which Ropner built his fortune.  A local cabinet maker’s craft is showcased.  Even some worn but lovely Victorian scrapbooks are there.  I’d quite forgotten the art!

Naturally our railway heritage is celebrated.  This is the home of steam, and a famous journey took place locally on 27th September, 1825.


Overall I felt really proud of our accomplishments here in the north east of England.  Afterwards I took myself for a stroll in the grounds and down to the River Tees.

I loved the reflections in the water and that hint of blue sky

I loved the reflections in the water and that hint of blue sky

The aviary used to be full of birds, now mysteriously flown!

The aviary used to be full of birds, all mysteriously flown!
I watched a remote control aeroplane for a while- can you spot it?

Then I watched a remote control aeroplane for a while- can you spot it?

This post is a follow up to my Six word Saturday and I’m afraid the subject isn’t quite closed yet. The Victorian Street will have to be a subject for another day.  Then there’s the Butterfly House, which doesn’t open until March.  You will come back, won’t you?

I almost forgot to say that admission to the museum costs just £2 (£1 if you’re a concession!) and includes return visits for a full year.  How about that for value?


  1. Stunning gallery, Jo ….. it was such an important time of British history and all the changes that start to happen during that period – remember “Upstair & Downstairs”. Lived in Brighton for 6 years and Brighton is a living proof of how magnificent the Victorian époque was. The buildings with all their details. And of course the Royal Pavilion.

    1. You can’t compare our crazy computerised world today, Vivi, but I don’t think you and me would have made very good Victorian ladies. Much too…. opinionated 🙂
      Thank you for spending this time with me. Heaps of hugs!

      1. Jo, the problem is not my sorry ass … it’s my mobile internet – it cut off all the time .. and I have to log in again – I’m on “pay as you go” because my friend don’t have wifi in her home. Just terrible – it takes ages to write a comment.
        Also my net book is talking Swedish so .. when I comment the spell check is in Swedish. So I have to write longer comments in words to be able to spell check and then copy over into the comment box. So far now sore ass … but sore fingers *smile
        It’s a good while since I visit you – so you are worth problem.

    1. I almost got sidetracked, Madhu. Met Lisa and Leo in York yesterday (1st wedding anniversary this week) for a very long gossip and “breakfast”. While happy snapping, as I do, I caught me in the mirror, taking Lisa’s photo. Nearly entered it as a “selfie” but I could hear her voice in my head, saying “oh Mum! Stop publishing photos of me on your blog!” 🙂 Happy days!

      1. Happy anniversary to Lisa & Leo! A year already??? Seems like only yesterday that we were oohing and aahing over her gorgeous wedding outfit! 🙂 .

    1. My daughter swears she was born in the wrong era, Elisa. She’s a total natural for the Victorians or Georgians (but she does like her odd mod con- I didn’t see any Victorian hairdryers 🙂 )

  2. You know how much I love your tours Jo and this was so fascinating and so much fun as well. I love everything! Great shots hon and thanks for sharing. 😀 *hugs*

    1. Thanks for your lovely comments again, Sonel. Warm hug! 🙂
      Can I just ask something, please? Could you view all of the photos? Cathy says the view of the river and reflections doesn’t load for her. I had trouble loading it myself but it is fine now, I don’t know if anyone else has a problem with it and has been too nice to say so. Know I can rely on you, Sonel 🙂

  3. So many treasures in this house, Jo. I love the stained glass windows, the cameo, and the glassware. And those skies are heavenly! Again I love your black frames. Did you try to make them wider with a bigger number? The picture titled: “I love the reflections in the water and that hint of blue sky” doesn’t show up on my screen for some reason, no matter how many times I refreshed. Is it just me? Thanks for taking us along on the £2 tour. 🙂

    1. Hi Cathy 🙂 I tried no. 5 on the borders and it was quite chunky. I’m happy enough with 3 but maybe 4 if you want a bit more definition.
      Sorry about the photo! Nobody else has commented but maybe they were being polite? When I loaded that photo I had a lot of problems with it too. I deleted and reloaded a couple of times before it would appear in the post properly (or not, in your case- but it looks fine on mine?) If I think on, I’ll send you it in an email or try reloading. Shame! Funny how there’s a glitch now and then 😦

  4. Fantastic collection of photo Jo. I adore places like this. The stain glass & the fire-place are just beautiful. That’s also such an incredible price, a real incentive to encourage people to visit. Look forward to seeing your pictures of the Victorian Street. 🙂

  5. oh beautiful and what a low cost for a great day out! thank you for sharing. beautiful and skillful photos as always. i am so looking forward to the better weather so i can get out more. i want to visit abbotsford house as i haven’t been since it had an influx of lottery fund cash. and also a museum to mary queen of scots in jedburgh which has a gorgeous pear tree orchard.

  6. Fantastic tour, Jo. I love the beautiful stained glass and the exquisite cameo. Victoriana always grabs my attention, when I visit an antique market. Thanks for taking me along with you. I guess I would be half price. 😦

  7. It’s nice to look back on bygone a era such as this and see how people lived. The shots you took are great Jo, and have tempted me to visit when I next come to the UK. I am from that part of the world and am ashamed to say I’ve never been there.

    1. My daughter thinks it a shame it’s been renovated because she remembers it from a long ago art school trip, but I think they’ve made a good job of it. And they have lots of events to bring people in so that it pays for itself to an extent. Thanks for reading- it was my pleasure to share. 🙂

  8. Looks wonderful, I love the intricacy of the designs from the Victorian age….if it could be embellished it was!
    Also isn’t that shower incredible, I’m guessing it would be wonderful to use as the lead would warm up with the water.
    The empty aviary is also rather poetic in its way 🙂

    1. The “Winter garden” had me fooled, Seonaid! It’s what I would call a conservatory 🙂
      Not sure I could handle the floor sweeping gowns but I have to confess to a liking for the ornate.

    1. Isn’t there a film “A grand day out”, Jill? Wallace and Gromit could have a field day! 🙂
      There were 2 planes chasing each other across the sky, but by the time I’d focussed the camera one had come to ground. They’re a lovely sight!

      1. Oh, Jo, what it is to have too much to write about! We shall need to worry when we have no more experiences to share and the pot of photos has run dry….

  9. I love Victorian style, a few days ago I watched on BBC antique show, a wonderful plates painted all butterlies from Victorian artists… I remembered now. Dear Johanna I loved your photographs, you really got the impressive touches in all of them. Thank you, love, nia

      1. I believe you , Jo – it looks like a wonderful place and I certainly know how hard it is to make a choice. 🙂 Thanks for taking us all along!
        Have a great day.
        Love, Dina

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