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:
- Hopwood DePree’s Downton Shabby: One American’s Ultimate DIY Adventure Restoring His Family’s English Castle
- Experience a day in the life of the Hopwood Hall restoration efforts on DePree’s YouTube channel
- Listen to our interview with Adrian Tinniswood on why so many English country houses are in ruins
- Revisit the famed 1974 Victoria & Albert exhibition “The Destruction of the Country House,” or go visit Agecroft Hall and Gardens in Richmond, Virginia, one of several country homes dismantled and reassembled on this side of the Atlantic. In England? Visit Hopwood Hall itself later this month
- Read Sam Knight’s essay about the National Trust’s recent report on colonialism and slavery: “Britain’s Idyllic Country Houses Reveal a Darker History”
Vintage photographs of the Hall in its glory days (and one from today):
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