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