Welcome back to an A to Z of discovery with Kiplin Hall and Gardens. Today we explore the letter R, for Royal Air Force.
Visitors to the historic house will know of the contrast between the beautifully resorted period rooms and the run-down WWII apartment on the 1st floor, which includes an indoor bathroom. The bathroom is somewhat of a time capsule; a Georgian fireplace, Victorian bath, 1950’s plastic curtains, and 1960s wallpaper! Quite a sight. The kitchen and living space next door are run down but has a 1930’s range for cooking and a sink.
In 1942 Kiplin Hall was requisitioned by the RAF as No.224 Maintenance Unit, supplying ammunition and bombs to the Fighter Command airfields at Catterick and Scorton and the Bomber Command airfields at Middleton St George and Croft. The first and second floors of the Hall were turned into flats for the RAF officers, and the men lived in out buildings and huts in the grounds. The bombs themselves were stored in dumps in the woods around the Hall.
In order to protect the site from the risks of being bombed itself the small serpentine lake that was present at the time was filled in for fear reflected moonlight would give away the position of the Hall and surrounding landscape to enemy planes.
Like many requisitioned houses Kiplin was left nearly derelict. Many historic houses were demolished in the 1950’s and 1960’s as the owners could not afford to repair them or pay the high death duties and land taxes. Bridget Talbot, the last owner of Kiplin Hall before the charitable trust, fought hard for compensation for the damage done during the war years. But was unsuccessful. Kiplin very narrowly escaped demolition, Bridget was unable to make a telephone call to book the demolition because she was injured in a car accident on a pedestrian crossing and suffered a broken leg! Perhaps fate stepped in to prevent the call from being made.
As you may have read in earlier additions of this series, L is for Lake, the restoration of the Kiplin Hall was actually funded by income from a large gravel quarry on site. Which is now a lake, enjoyed by water birds, wildlife, and human visitors.
Today the skies over Kiplin are quiet and offer an expansive backdrop to views of the hall and gardens, home to geese, herons, swans, dragonflies, bats and other winged beasties. Visitors may catch a glimpse of aircraft on the horizon which still fly from RAF Leeming, and the visitor attraction plans to launch a Drone Policy in the coming months, allowing access to certain parts of the site for licensed drone pilots to train.
Kiplin Hall is open to visitors 6 days a week, closed on Thursdays. As the cooler autumn weather arrives the Tea Room will be returning to indoor seating from 11th September, although visitors can still enjoy their food and drinks to takeaway for picnics outdoors if they’d prefer. For more information on visiting Kiplin go to www.kiplinhall.co.uk