My Home: Miranda Seymour - to the manor born

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

As a child, the novelist and biographer was ambivalent about her run-down home. Now she's fallen in love with the family pile – and saved it from ruin

Thrumpton Hall can be thought of as a venerable old lady, ageing gracefully. But I didn't always feel this way. Children want more than anything to be very conventional and very normal, so it was excruciating and, at times, very upsetting to grow up in a house like this. I'd go to great lengths not to ask friends back, to hide my life away from my peers. It takes a long time to feel able to justify such privilege.

Before moving into the main house when I was three, my parents, my brother and I lived nearby, in the village manor. My childless uncle and aunt had the main residence at that time. The place was terribly run-down when we arrived; the staircase was painted with dark varnish and there were rats running around the outside yard.

My father had been deposited here by his parents in 1923, when he was nine years old and could not accompany them abroad. Everyone who had worked here previously had been taken off to war, so the place was pretty much derelict.

By the time we moved here as a family, it needed a lot of hands-on work, much of which my parents did themselves, while employing anyone they could get. The work was too much for most people: one employee would carry a pedometer in her pocket and eventually resigned, because the "mileage" was getting her down.

In retrospect, growing up here was idyllic in many ways, especially for a writer. My brother and I shared an isolated area at the top of the house; we would clamber over the roof and gables, and grow our imaginations. But it didn't feel ideal at the time.

The house became a complete passion for my father, more so than people. He committed his entire life to Thrumpton. When I was growing up, it was very much my parents' place. My father had a vision for the home, into which we fitted.

Once, when I was 17, I had a bob haircut at Vidal Sassoon and my father decided that a wig would be more in keeping with the property, so for three years I was made to wear one, whenever I was here.

I left home not long after the haircut incident, setting off around America on a Greyhound bus, to find myself. Having later moved to London, I married quite young and for a while I wasn't closely involved with the house. It was at rather a gloomy time in my life that I returned here, and it became a kind of haven. I began, very slowly, to fall in love with Thrumpton Hall.

A Jacobean stately home, it has such a rich history, which can be traced all the way back to 1685. This does constrain one when it comes to choosing suitable furniture and fittings. I was in Morocco recently and found myself in a market in Marrakech picking out carpets that I thought would look amazing. But then, shock horror, I realised: you cannot do that!

I did, in fact, put down some flamboyant carpets and a hung a couple of modern paintings the other day and my mother just clapped. I think that said it all: it is very clear that you cannot modernise everything, but some things just work.

A Roman Catholic family had originally owned the property, but they were later implicated in the Babington plot and a sort of repossession took place in 1685.

It is said that the owners then put a curse on the home, that no child ever born here would ever inherit the house. And so it has been, to this day.

There are many rare features in the house and gardens. A priest's secret passage leads to the River Trent, which provides great opportunities to leap out at unsuspecting visitors as they pass by; a first-floor double-cube reception room with school of Grinling Gibbons carving; an 18th-century library; Elizabethan knot garden; spectacular curved yew hedges, and supposedly the finest carved Carolean cantilever staircase in the UK.

What is also extraordinary about this house is that it sits in a lucky dip, in a beleaguered part of the East Midlands. On one side of the hill is a very large, coal-fired power station. But this actually adds a strange charm of its own.

If you climb to the very top of the hill, on one side there is industrial England: the smoke from the great cooling towers, the motorway and the airport.

If you then turn your back on this scene, you're looking down on tall Jacobean brick chimneys, and a house resting in its park. It is a truly ravishing vision of the past. Because it is at the end of a one-street village, a cul-de-sac, it has remained very much back in time, like a little lost world.

It is terrific now to see the house coming back to life through the weddings and functions we hold here, and that it is – at last – paying its way.

There have been times when the constant repairs and problems have been disheartening and the idea of returning here from London, where I have a second home, has seemed daunting. And then something happens as you pass under the red arches leading up to the house: life's stresses start to fall away. It is as if time is going back. It really is magic.

Miranda Seymour, 59, is a novelist and biographer. In 1994 she inherited Thrumpton Hall, a Jacobean home in Nottinghamshire, where she lives with her husband and mother. It is available for hire ( www.thrumptonhall.com). She is appearing at the Althorp literary festival on Saturday ( www.althorp.com; 01604 770 107)

Discover more property articles at Homes and Property
Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
Sport
The Pipes and Drums of The Scottish Regiments perform during the Opening Ceremony for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park on July 23, 2014 in Glasgow, Scotland.
Commonwealth GamesThe actor encouraged the one billion viewers of the event to donate to the children's charity
Sport
Karen Dunbar performs
Entertainers showcase local wit, talent and irrepressible spirit
Sport
Members of the Scotland deleagtion walk past during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park in Glasgow on July 23, 2014.
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
film
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
News
Very tasty: Vladimir Putin dining alone, perhaps sensibly
news
Life and Style
Listen here: Apple EarPods offer an alternative
techAre custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?
Arts and Entertainment
Top guns: Cole advised the makers of Second World War film Fury, starring Brad Pitt
filmLt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a uniform
News
The University of California study monitored the reaction of 36 dogs
sciencePets' range of emotions revealed
News
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
News
Joining forces: young British men feature in an Isis video in which they urge Islamists in the West to join them in Iraq and Syria
newsWill the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?
Arts and Entertainment
The nomination of 'The Wake' by Paul Kingsnorth has caused a stir
books
News
i100
Life and Style
food + drinkZebra meat is exotic and lean - but does it taste good?
Property search
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

BI Manager - £50,000

£49000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client is...

BI Project Manager - £48,000 - £54,000 - Midlands

£48000 - £54000 per annum + Benefits package: Progressive Recruitment: My clie...

VB.Net Developer

£35000 - £45000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: If you're pa...

SAP Business Consultant (SD, MM and FICO), £55,000, Wakefield

£45000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP Business...

Day In a Page

Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

Commonwealth Games 2014

Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game