Sometimes a building takes hold of you for many reasons, beyond the initial acts of appreciating architecture or landscape. Kirby Hall in north east Northamptonshire is probably the one 'heritage' building I've visited more than any other. It helps by being only a few miles from the two homes I've occupied over the last eleven years. Alone in the fields near Corby (the wretched Rockingham Raceway looms on the horizon) you approach it as if in a dream, finally walking down a rook-haunted avenue of chestnuts to the Weldon stone gateways. On the surface this is an Elizabethan prodigy with gables, obelisks and chimneys against the sky- started by Sir Humphrey Stafford in 1570, finished by Elizabeth's favourite Sir Christopher Hatton. In recent years many will have seen it, but probably not recognised it, as a film location: Mansfield Park, A Christmas Carol and A Cock and Bull Story. Inside, the bare wooden floors and the stunning curves of the bowed-windows are for me the backgrounds to thirty years of happy memories: girls sitting in window seats looking out over the fields, little children stamping their echoing feet from room to room. If you want a test bed for, say, a new relationship, and you love this sort of thing, then Kirby Hall is a good laboratory. If you've never been, get to grips with it soon.
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