Wollaton Hall, a flamboyant Elizabethan house, is now surrounded by the suburbs of Nottingham.
This splendid 'prodigy house' was built in 1580 - 88 by Sir Francis Willoughby, who used some of the profits from the coal mines on his estates to pay for the work. Sir Francis, whose family traced its origins back to the 13th century, wished to build a house that would convey a pride in his lineage and ancient possession.
A sophisicated mixture of medieval and Renaissance architectural styles were employed to create the spectacular building.
The unusual ground-plan was taken from du Cerceau's 'Premier Livre d'Architecture', dated 1559, (which Sir Francis had in his library) but the architectural treatment was devised by Robert Smythson, one of the most important Elizabethan architects-masons.
Smythson had already designed the splendid fašades on Longleat in Wiltshire and at Wollaton Hall he adapted this classical style to create a fantasy castle.
Sir Francis choose a prominent hilltop site for his new house, some distance from the old manor-house in the village below.
The building, faced with limestone from Ancaster in Lincolnshire, has a central 'keep' flanked by lower corner towers.
The central feature, with its French-style corner turrets, was designed as a prospect-room, from which Sir Francis could look out over his extensive possessions. This stands over the Hall, at the centre of the house and above the kitchens.
To the west are the service rooms and to the east the main living accomodation. The symmetrical fašades and corner towers are embellished with highly elaborate Mannerist motifs (taken from Flemish pattern books of the day) and the rooms are lit by large mullioned and transomed windows.
The splendid Elizabethan rooms no longer exist as Wyattville remodelled the interior of Wollaton Hall in 1801 - 07.
Soon after the end of World War I the house was abandoned by Sir Francis' descendants and all the furnishings removed.
Today Wollaton Hall is owned by Nottingham City Council and used as a natural history museum.
Only the Hall conveys something of the former splendour of the house.
This extremely tall room is covered by a mock hammerbeam roof and lit from above by round-arched windows. Symthson's stone screen in the Hall has also survived. This is articulated by Doric columns and embellished with strapwork and carved figures, depicting the exploits of the explorer Sir Henry Willoughby (died 1554).
The main staircase on the north side of the house retains the wall paintings created by Laguerre in 1699, although these were later altered by Thornhill.
Several building around the house are worth viewing.
Most notable are the red-brick stables, built in 1794, which now house an industrial museum and Wyatville's early-19th century glass and iron Camelia House. Wollaton Hall's sense of isolation still lingers in the park.
Although the estate is now engulfed by the city of Nottingham the park, with its herd of deer, remains attractively wild.