COLUMN: Dorothy left behind the hall for love

You probably know the widely told tale of the elopement of Dorothy Vernon of Haddon Hall '“ who was said to have run away with her disapproved of lover John Manners in 1563.

In this legend she escapes whilst a party is going on, slipping out of the door over a bridge, and to her waiting beloved who whisks her off on a horse.

You may not know however, that Sir Arthur Sullivan – best known for his operas with words by W S Gilbert – penned a work about this event.

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‘Haddon Hall’ written in 1892, is a light opera in three acts, with music by Sullivan and a libretto by a man named Sydney Grundy.

The premiere was held at the Savoy Theatre in London, on September 24 1892, and it ran for 204 performances.

As the words admit: “The clock of Time has been put forward a century and other liberties have been taken with history.”

There is a lovely description of Haddon Hall in Act 1: “The green old turrets, all ivy thatch, above the cedars that girdle them rise.”

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The change of date to 1660, allowed Grundy to add humour by picking on the Puritans and their rather fun-less view of life, making them the butt of jokes.

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He has them singing a chorus, parodying their disapproval: “Down with Princes, down with peoples! Down with churches, down with steeples! Down with love and down with marriage! Down with all who keep a carriage! Down with lord and down with lady - Up with everything that’s shady!”

The elopement scene – more romantic in tone of course – has the characters singing: “The horses are waiting - And ready am I! The storm is abating - Come, love, let us fly! Oh, grant me one moment! The horses are waiting! Dear Haddon, goodbye!”

The story of Dorothy continued to fascinate people and her legend also inspired a 1924 silent film starring Mary Pickford as the heroine.

The hall itself has been the setting for films such as Jane Eyre, The Princess Bride and Pride and Prejudice, so you may well spot this lovely place in many a starring role.

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