Robert Smythson began work on Wollaton Hall in 1580. The Hall was to be the home of Sir Francis Willoughby. Most experts think Smythson, who also designed Hardwick Hall, in the same area, appears to have used Mount Edgcumbe in Cornwall as his inspiration. Masons from Italy reportedly worked on the house. The Italian connection explains the rather odd series of rings for mooring gondolas affixed to the Hall’s exterior walls. The house is an astounding example of English Renaissance architecture. The interior was remodelled after a fire in 1642 and again in the early 19th century, but the exterior remains essentially as it would have looked when it was finished in 1588. (Britain Express)
“One of the most interesting historic features is a 17th century pipe organ in the main hall gallery, which has to be worked by hand. The ceiling of this chamber boasts paintings attributed to Antonio Verrio. Above the hall is a Prospect Room, reached by a slender spiral stair and designed to give broad views over the surrounding parkland. One of the most unusual features is a well with a reservoir tank apparently used by a hardy Willoughby for a daily bath.
“The Tudor kitchens have been restored to their original condition, and furnished following a written inventory of 1601. Then there’s the Dining Room, showing how it looked after it was restored by Sir Jeffry Wyatville for the 6th Lord Middleton in the early 19th century. The Regency Salon has been restored to the way it looked in 1832.
“The Willougby family resided at Wollaton until the late 19th century before letting it to a series of tenants. By 1881 the house stood empty before it was purchased by the Nottingham City Council as a venue for the Nottingham Natural History Museum.” (Britain Express)
The exterior of the house was surrounded by a vast deer park, containing some 1200 deer. The house has some 365 windows and is approached by a three-quarters’ mile long drive, which is bordered by ninety-foot-high lime trees. Statues of a Roman mythology influence can be found about the grounds, many discreetly hidden behind trees. It seems a former Lady Middleton found the displayed “nudity” offensive and had the statues blocked from the view from the terrace.
The house held two wine cellars: One was 42 feet by 20 feet and the other 36 feet by 12 feet. They houses huge vats of madeira and table wines, each resting upon wooden trestles. Each trestle could hold 1500 gallons of ale.
At the back of the house, stables with separate stalls capable of accommodating up to sixty hours were reached by crossing through a noble arched gateway. The coach house contained six or seven dark-blue carriages, drags, and the old family coach, whose panels were emblazoned with heraldic bearings and the family motto of “Truth without Fear.” A bakery, the laundry, a separate fowl-plucking house and some of the servants’ bedrooms were located nearby. A walled kitchen garden of nine acres contained 9700 square feet of glass and forcing houses for peaches, grapes, melons, and cucumbers to supply the Middleton’s dining table.
“Wollaton is a classic prodigy house, ‘the architectural sensation of its age,’ though its builder was not a leading courtier and its construction stretched the resources he mainly obtained from coal mining; the original family home was at the bottom of the hill. Though much remodeled inside, the “startlingly bold” exterior remains largely intact. The floor plan has been said to derive from Serlio’s drawing (in Book III of his Five Books of Architecture) of Giuliano de Majano’s Villa Poggie Reale near Naples of the late 15th century, with elevations derived from Hans Vredeman de Vries. The architectural historian Mark Girouard has suggested that the design is in fact derived from Nikolaus de Lyra’s reconstruction, and Josephus’ description, of Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem.
“The building consists of a central block dominated by a hall three storeys high, with a stone screen at one end and galleries at either end, with the “Prospect Room” above that. From this there are extensive views of the park and surrounding country. There are towers at each corner, projecting out from this top floor. At each corner of the house is a square pavilion of three storeys, with decorative features rising above the roof line. Much of the basement storey is cut from the rock the house sits on.
“In 2011, key scenes from the Batman movie The Dark Knight Rises were filmed outside Wollaton Hall. The Hall was featured as the latest Wayne Manor. The Hall is five miles north of Gotham, Nottinghamshire where Gotham City got its name.” (Wollaton Hall)