I asked one of my Wednesday room guides if she had a favourite object I could talk about and she suggested that I talk about our beautiful Webb staircase.
I thought it would be interesting to expand this and start a new series where we have a look at different rooms in the house starting with, of course, the staircase hall.
The staircase hall is set back from the the main entrance of the house, away from the rooms that guests, unless they were staying overnight, would be invited into.
Its main feature is the staircase with the impressive fumed oak balustrade. Fumed oak is oak that has been smoked, a bit like a kipper, which brings out the grain of the wood.
The flat banisters up the stairs are a typical Webb detail, which look like a splat – one of my favourite words – the back of a Windsor chair.
The wallpaper, ‘Batchelor’s Button’, which was designed by William Morris in 1892, was put up when Mrs Beale first decorated in the 1890s. It was repaired in 1906 and varnished to protect it from grandchildren’s wayward elbows and sticky fingers and has been there ever since.
The stair carpet is a copy we had specially made in 2001 of the Axminster carpet supplied to the Beales by Morris & Co. in 1906 when the original was too worn out to be safe any more.
The central light fitting is one of our original W.A.S. Benson light fittings, similar to but larger than the ones in the hall. It’s wrought iron with an opaque glass shade made by Powell & Co. Glass Manufacturers, London.
My favourite thing in the staircase hall is the Webb designed table at the bottom. It has got seven legs and is a lovely oval shape, not circular as it might at first appear.
The most striking picture in the staircase hall is the massive replica of a cartoon by Ford Maddox Brown of the Manchester city hall murals. It shows the introduction of Christianity to the Saxon Kingdom of Northumbria (c.586 – 632/33), which included Manchester, through the baptism of King Edwin.
There are also the two portraits of Mr and Mrs Beale at the bottom of the stairs – make sure you stop to say hello next time you visit!
Are there any rooms you’d like to know a bit more about? Please let us know in the comments or on our Facebook or Twitter.