The picture shows an old Jaguar, one of friend’s classic car collection, parked outside a Jacobean-style mansion, but this is about the mansion rather than the car. The wonderful old building is Aston Hall, located quite near where I now live. When I was a mere girl I lived just round the corner from the Hall. It was somewhere to go and play and in later years somewhere to go with the boy friend. Lots of secluded spots in there!
Visible from the Hall, less than 200 yards, is Aston Villa Football stadium where, as a tomboy-style girl, I climbed the wall to watch the game. It was much better than paying to go in, even if it had been allowed.
Designed by John Thorpe, and now a Grade 1 listed building, the construction of Aston Hall commenced in 1618 and was completed in 1635, although Sir Thomas Holte moved in during 1631. The Holte family was quite influential in the area and there is still a Holte Road, Holte Gardens, and the Holte pub in the immediate vicinity.
Aston Hall was severely damaged after an attack by Parliamentary troops in 1643 and some of the damage is still evident. There is a hole in the staircase where a cannonball went through a window, an open door and into the banister. The house remained in the Holte family until 1817 when it was sold to James Watt Junior, son of the industrial pioneer, James Watt. Eventually, in 1858, the house was purchased by a private company for use as a public park and museum. After financial difficulties in 1864 it was bought by Birmingham Corporation and became the first historic country house to pass into municipal ownership.
After further changes in ownership Aston Hall became a community museum managed by Birmingham City Council. It is open to the public during the summer months and at Christmas there is a night-time celebration called Aston Hall by Candlelight. Actors help bring the period alive with mock 17th century festivities and the house is lit by 500 candles. I went to one of the candlelight evenings but that was before actors were brought in. Being young and still impressionable, I found it rather spooky as the flickering lights enhanced the shadows ... giving rise to suspicion that ghosts lurked in the gloom.