10 June 2010

Fanhams Hall

Just outside Ware is Fanhams Hall, which started life as a Queen Anne house. It has passed through many hands, including, in the nineteenth century, those of local bankers and malters. One Lady Brockett resided at Fanhams after the death of her husband in 1934 and until her own in 1949. Perhaps as a salve for her grief she developed the splendid grounds. These are divided up into numerous spaces with hedges, wide herbaceous borders, walls (one of which features two almost circular entrances), and ironwork gates (one featuring a fireman and another a rabbit nibbling flowers), a surprise around each corner.

The Japanese Garden, complete with ornamental lakes, bridges, teahouse, miniature Fujiyama, and carefully-placed granite lanterns, was tended pre-WWII by gardeners who came each year from Japan for the purpose. An Austrian house is less successful - the cuckoo-clock style is difficult to appreciate. There is a lovely wisteria walk, just coming into flower, and a Queen Anne garden with fine brick paths.

Westminster Bank bought the hall in 1951, and sold it 20 years later to the Building Societies' Association, which used it as a training centre. In turn, in 1986, the BSA sold Fanhams to Sainsbury's, who used it for the same purpose. The hall is now an hotel.

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