This beautiful historic house in Much Marcle, Herefordshire, is a living monument to much of England’s history. It remains a home and not a museum although it contains a wealth of period furnishings, paintings and decorations.
The family trust which presently run Hellens, and her sister property Southside House www.southsidehouse.com, serves both the community and the general public, particularly in the field of education. We work to provide historical, environmental, and literary projects and activities, for schools and students of all ages, through the two properties.
History In 1096 the Manor was granted to the de Balun family who witnessed the signing of the Magna Carta by King John. Thereafter by marriage,deed or gift it passed through the powerful Mortimer family to the Lords Audleys by 1301, who were created Earls of Gloucester in 1337. A nephew, James, one of the Black Prince’s 12 boon companions,rented the Manor yearly from his uncle the Earl for a pair of silver spurs. He eventually leased it to Walter de Helyon whose family gave their name in time to the house. Their descendants still live here, and Walter’s effigy can be seen in St Bartholomew’s Church. (see www.muchmarcle.net).
Among Hellens’ attractions are the haunted rooms prepared for Bloody Mary Tudor and her tutor Fetherstone; the Stone Hall and its great fireplace bearing the Black Prince’s crest and the Minstrel Gallery.
The Music Room has a fine frieze and panelling. The gardens are being redeveloped along Tudor and Jacobean lines, reflecting the House’s history. They incorporate a rare 17th century octagonal dovecote, a walled knot garden, a yew labyrinth and a short woodland and pond walk. There are also the Derby Coach and family carriages to be seen, as well as the Old Cider Mill house.
More Recent HistoryIn the 19th century Hellens was owned by the Radcliffe Cooke family. Charles Radcliffe Cooke, born at Hellens, was the local MP. Known as the ”Member for Cider” he was a passsionate supporter of the farming industry in Herefordshire. He encouraged the growth of the cider industry, and was a great believer in the health-giving properties of cider. Our cider mill dates from his time. See Events & Activities.
In the early 20th century Hellens was rented for ten years to Ursula and Alex Whaley. Ursual was sister to Lascelles Abercrombie who founded the Dymock Poets. More information on the Dymock Poets can be found on the Dymock Village website.
The house then passed to Lady Helena Gleichen, queen Victoria’s great-niece, and sister to Dr Axel Munthe’s portrait painter, and thereafter to her cousin Hilda Pennington-Mellor. Hilda was also related to the Cookes, the Walwyns, and to the Dukes of Wharton. She and her son Malcolm Munthe created the charitable trust which runs Hellens today.
ConservationFor the past fourteen years, a group from the National Association of Decorative and Fine Arts Societies (NADFAS) have generously donated their time and expertise to help conserve the historic fabrics and hangings in Hellens.
In 2011 NADFAS completed a pair of beautiful, hand-embroidered Crewel worked curtains to replace the existing threadbare brocades in the Music Room. Their design is based upon a traditional tree of life pattern, incorporating crests and imagery from within Hellens walls. Each member of the group created their own signature motif all of which have been cleverly woven into the design– look for dragonflies, bumblebees, hedgehogs and butterflies to mention just a few! Not including time at the drawing board, advanced sewing lessons and the multiple samplers created, the curtains took 4741 hours to complete!
Our wonderful NADFAS Ladies are currently working on a set of needlepoint seat covers for the chairs in the White Dining Room, inspired by the Tudor panelling of the room and a 17th century herbal found upstairs. It is slow progress working 276 stitches to the inch and after almost 2 years there is still a lot to do (and a great deal more coffee and cake to be had) until they are finished!