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Outdoor Theatre at Pitchford Hall
13 May 2021
by Katy Rink

Pitchford Hall is to host an outdoor production of Tess of the D’Urbervilles at its newly restored Orangery this summer on June 19.

 As well as an evening of theatre at the orangery, courtesy of Hotbuckle Productions Theatre Company, you’ll also be able to visit the beautiful grounds of Pitchford Hall, with an opportunity to see the world's oldest recorded treehouse. 

Restorations have been ongoing for two years – after 25 years of dereliction, this exquisite glasshouse has been brought back to life with funding from Pitchford Estate, Historic Houses Foundation and other generous donors. 

The restored orangery

The restored orangery: Source - Pitchford Hall Estate

The orangery was built in the 1830s by Edward Haycock and converted into a dwelling for Lady Sybil Grant in the late 1930s. Red-haired Lady Sybil was the eldest child of Archibald Primrose and Hannah de Rothschild, said to be the richest woman in England and wife of General Charles Grant, who had served in the second Boer War and both World Wars. 

Lady Sybil was something of an eccentric who had strong sympathy with gypsies and enjoyed telling fortunes. It is unclear whether she moved out of the hall to escape the ghosts or her husband, who remained in his living quarters in the hall – the couple communicated by megaphone! 

Owners Rowena Colthurst and her husband James Nason were determined to make the orangery a focus of arts and culture as part of the wider restorations of Pitchford Hall. The hall was the Colthurst family home for over 500 years, but Rowena’s parents were sadly forced to sell it in 1992. Rowena and James bought it back again 2016 and embarked on a major restoration project. 

It’s slow progress, using traditional craftsmanship and lime plastering- they are now working on the exterior of the West Wing, the oldest part of the house, built in 1549, which has been restored and turned into a seven double bedroomed holiday let, the ‘Generals’ Quarters’; this part of the house also contains the halls’ main oak panelled dining room. 

James is delighted that the orangery is now able to serve its intended function as an events venue – he’s hoping to offer pop up dinners, secret suppers and outdoor cinema in this wonderful space. 

“It has a terrace and walled garden, so it’s perfect as we come out of Covid restrictions,” he said. “We do at last have some events this summer including Historic Houses Guided Tours on June 26 and July 17), an art exhibition by Twenty Twenty Gallery, teas for the National Garden Scheme in August and weddings.  We also hope to hold Pitchford History Festival next year if funding can be secured.” 

  • Tess of the D’Urbervilles is at Pitchford Hall on Saturday, June 19 2021. Doors open at 5.30pm, with the production due to begin at 6.30pm. Tickets are priced at £15-£18 (a booking fee applies). 
  • To book tickets visit https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/hotbuckle-productions-cic/tess-of-the-durbervilles-at-pitchford-hall/2021-06-19/18:30/t-enellg

 Pitchford Hall

About Pitchford Hall

Pitchford Hall is a breathtakingly beautiful, half-timbered Tudor country house in the ancient village of Pitchford, just outside of Shrewsbury. The hall was built for wool merchant Thomas Ottley in the 16th century, although it is thought to be part of an earlier building dating from 1280.

The intricate caved motifs, of vine trails on barge-boards and carved heads and quatrefoils, are by the carpenter John Sandford of the Shrewsbury school of carpentry and can also be seen in the timber work of Drapers Hall in town. The timber frame of Pitchford Hall, with its jettying and mouldings, is believed to have been the prototype for this style of timber carving.

To see some fascinating images of the restoration of the orangery at Pitchford visit arrolarchitects.co.uk