Local BBC Sites

Page last updated at 16:03 GMT, Wednesday, 27 January 2010
Shandy Hall in Coxwold was once home to Laurence Sterne

Shandy Hall
Shandy Hall already had a rich history before Laurence Sterne took up residence

In the 1760s Shandy Hall, in the village of Coxwold, was the home of Laurence Sterne. He wrote Tristram Shandy and A Sentimental Journey while he lived there and had an enviable reputation as a writer and preacher.

Shandy Hall is a rather grand title for the unassuming house that takes its name from the book by Laurence Sterne, and although he only lived there for eight years, the house is now synonymous with Sterne and Tristram Shandy.

However, the house already had a rich history before Sterne took up residence. It was simply known as 'The Parsonage' in 1760 and has continued to enjoy a chequered existence since Sterne's death.

The building began life as a medieval long hall and there is smoke damage in the roof which suggests a central hearth in the centre of the hall.

There is evidence the house was there by the mid 1400s because some spectacular wall paintings were uncovered during a 20th century restoration.

Rare wall painting at Shandy Hall
The rare wall paintings were in danger of being damaged

These place the house around the same time as the main part of the nearby church, establishing its long ecclesiastical association.

The three nationally rare wall paintings, including one of a 16th century soldier, are in one of the Hall's bedrooms. With a house this old, there are always repairs to be done, and the wall paintings and the fabric of the house were in danger of being damaged by a leaking roof.

Thanks to a grant from English Heritage, the Laurence Sterne Trust, which owns the building, will be able to repair the roofing and help pay for consolidation work to the paintings.

The one of the Tudor soldier is thought to date from around 1520. The man bears an uncanny resemblance to Henry VIII, with a headdress of four stylised plumes.

Painted in mainly red ochre on a wattle and daub panel, it was discovered behind 18th century panelling during renovation works in the 1960s. The two other paintings comprise a painted ceiling beam in the same bedroom as the soldier and another design on a wattle and daub panel in the parlour, featuring entwined foliage around the Christian symbol IHS.

An archaeological dig in 2006 confirmed that Coxwold was a centre for pottery making and that Shandy Hall formed part of a whole system of medieval buildings, which ran along that side of the village.

Over the years the house was adapted, extended and changed. In the 17th century a ceiling was put in, the fireplace was moved to an outside wall and the house we see today began to emerge. Sterne did plenty of alterations himself. It's thought he added an extension overlooking the garden and changed the layout of the house.

Laurence Sterne's study, Shandy Hall
Whilst he was at Coxwold, Sterne wrote part of Tristram Shandy

After Sterne's death, the house became a place of 'pilgrimage' just like the former homes of Shakespeare, Wordsworth and Beatrix Potter.

During the 1920s and 1930s the owners of the house served teas in the garden and for 6d you could have tea and a look round the house.

It later became a farmhouse and was split into two homes until the 1960s when it was bought from the Newburgh Priory estate by the newly formed Laurence Sterne Trust.

The Hall isn't a conventional museum, it's also home to curator Patrick Wildgust who works hard to make sure the house is open to visitors, artists and Sterne devotees alike.

He plans exhibitions, educational visits and events, both in the house and gardens, to raise awareness of the hall and Sterne's work and life, as well as raise much needed funds.

The house is full of Sterne memorabilia with paintings, engravings, pottery and much more, all evoking his work.

Agatha Christie's Harrogate mystery
03 Dec 09 |  History
The Dickens connection in Malton
06 Nov 09 |  Arts & Culture


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific