Once Upon a Time in Manchester

Hopwood DePree on the quest to restore his ancestral English seat

Lady Susan Hopwood and her dogs on the front lawn of Hopwood Hall in the 1800s
Lady Susan Hopwood and her dogs on the front lawn of Hopwood Hall in the 1800s

Most people who dig deep into their family histories tend to uncover the usual: an unexpected great-great-aunt, a familial home halfway around the world, maybe even a secret sibling. Hollywood producer Hopwood DePree found an ancestral English estate bearing his own name. But Hopwood Hall was falling apart, having sat empty since the Second World War and becoming the victim of age and vandalism. A visit to see the 600-year-old manor—and then another—and another—inspired DePree not only to try to save the hall, but also to trade movie scripts for a hard hat and move to Manchester. He describes his—and the house’s—journey in his new book, Downton Shabby.

Go beyond the episode:

Vintage photographs of the Hall in its glory days (and one from today):

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Stephanie Bastek is the senior editor of the Scholar and the producer/host of the Smarty Pants podcast.


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