You may already be familiar with Harewood House – it’s often been featured in artworks, TV shows and movies. Elton John has performed here, Joseph Turner turned it into an iconic artwork and it’s the star of shows such as Brideshead Revisited and Emmerdale. So what’s the full story behind Harewood House?
An opulent royal estate, Harewood House is one of the most beautiful destinations in Leeds. Think of it as the British equivalent to Paris’ Versailles!
The history of Harewood House
Harewood House is an 18th century stately country home, approximately eight miles north of Leeds city centre. One of the Treasure Houses of England (a collection of the foremost stately homes in England), this historic Georgian property also features extensive gardens, a serene lake, an impressive bird garden, and a small animal farm. Designed by York architect John Carr and interior designer Robert Adam, the Grade I-listed building was built between 1759 and 1771 for Edwin Lascelles, 1st Baron Harewood, a wealthy West Indian plantation owner. England’s greatest gardener, Capability Brown, designed its famous 1,000-acre gardens.
Inside the House
Today, the Lascelles family still owns the House, although it’s open seasonally to visitors to explore its exquisite rooms, gardens and award-winning Terraces. Even if you’re not a history buff, you’ll be in awe of the rare furniture from the legendary Thomas Chippendale, the interior designs on the State Rooms, and the outstanding collection of Italian Renaissance paintings. Don’t miss the corridors below stairs where you can dress up and see what life was like as a servant in days gone by.
However, it’s the outside that draws most of the visitors, who particularly come to see the Harewood Bird Garden. Here, you’ll find more than 30 different species of exotic birds from all around the world, including tiny Humboldt penguins, Chilean flamingos, blue and gold macaws and the endangered palm cockatoo. You can even adopt one of these threatened animals and help support the Bird Garden’s conservation work!
How does your garden grow?
Aside from the birds, there are also several other green spaces to explore, such as the Terrace, the Lakeside Garden, the Himalayan Garden and the Walled Garden. The Himalayan Garden was once a favourite of Princess Mary and is a lush picturesque garden with a quaint bridge over a running stream. Plants here include orchids, cobra lilies, blue poppies and more than 50 different kinds of rhododendron. It’s best to visit the garden between May and July when all the flowers are in bloom in a dazzling display of colour.
And there’s still more to see on the Harewood House grounds! If you keep exploring, you’ll find the All Saints Church and cemetery, believed to date back to the 12th century, or why not wander around the alabaster tombs which tell the history of Harewood’s previous lords and ladies. But wait, there’s still more – there’s also a castle tucked away here! Harewood Castle is the oldest building, built in 1366. You can take a guided tour through its medieval remains during the season. Harewood House opening times are from March to October, although it’s best to check the website for precise dates.
Harewood House events are always popular, with tickets often selling out in advance. There are often summer food festivals, antique fairs, dance performances, bird watching outings, historic exhibitions and open-air movies, as well as regular penguin feeding sessions and animal meet-and-greets. Tours take you through the Harewood House history, architectural and landscaping feats, and Leeds’ medieval past.