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Beningbrough Hall, a unique exhibition space for a unique exhibition

Sally Lee; Visitor Welcome Assistant - National Trust Beningbrough Hall, Gallery & Gardens.

The installation of the 2019 exhibition Yorkshire! Achievement, Grit and Controversy marks the beginning of an exciting new relationship with York Art Gallery and the Arts Council Collection, in addition to our continuing relationship with the National Portrait Gallery.

I have worked as a member of the visitor welcome team in the hall for four years, in addition to this year working in visitor and volunteer engagement and support. To contextualise the changes which are shaping Beningbrough’s future it is helpful to consider a shortened version of Beningbrough’s history.

Beningbrough Hall was completed by John Bourchier in 1716 on his return from the Grand Tour, a journey embarked upon by young aristocratic men in the 18th century as a necessary cultural education.

Beningbrough Hall was built in the baroque style, representing architecture that is characterised by exuberance and drama. Since that time much change has taken place at the hall, with generations of three separate families living here.

The hall passed to the National Trust in 1958 but without contents as these had been sold in a four-day sale with only a limited selection of pieces acquired to furnish the hall. In 1979 the National Trust went into partnership with the National Portrait Gallery, mutually beneficial this enabled the largely empty hall to be furnished with an impressive and nationally significant collection of 18th century portraits.

The opening of the first floor as a destination gallery space was decided upon after careful consideration of the collection and how it could be displayed more effectively.

The first-floor exhibition space means that Beningbrough Hall now has a bespoke gallery space. The exhibition changes every year and working with other lenders such as the York Art Gallery and the Arts Council Collection means we now have access to a much larger collection of artworks from many different periods including contemporary collections.

Within the Yorkshire! Achievement, Grit and Controversy exhibition the galleries focus upon three key themes:

The Saloon Galleries explore the Yorkshire landscape, with magnificent artworks on display, such as the stunning mahogany and bronze sculptures by modern artists Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore.

The East Gallery focusses on opinion, argument and non-conformity and includes works of people known for their strong opinions. These pieces depict and contrast key protagonists such as William Wilberforce and the slavery abolitionist by Samuel Cousins. More contemporary characters include Arthur Scargill depicted expounding his passionate defence of the plight of the miners by Willian Bowyer.

The North Gallery meanwhile tells the story of the distinctive Yorkshire voice, both written and spoken. In this gallery you will see the striking image of the author Charlotte Brontë depicted in chalk by George Richmond, contrasted with an oil on canvas capturing the unique character of chat show host Sir Michael Parkinson by Jonathon Yeo.

Beningbrough Hall, Gallery and Gardens has reinvented itself over the years, and it endures today not only due to the beauty of the fabric of the architecture, the gardens and the parkland in which it proudly stands, but also in the ways in which people engage with it.

The National Trust is an organisation that is, ‘forever, for everyone’ and the people who enjoy spending time here are all a part of that ongoing story.

Visit Yorkshire! Achievement, Grit and Controversy in the Saloon Galleries of Beningbrough Hall until 3 November 2019.

images courtesy of © National Trust Images, Chris Lacey & Paul Harris

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