Bark Hall is a minor stately home in England.
Bark Hall is the ancestral home of the Bark family, who can trace their roots to the Norman conquest. The Domesday Book records that construction of a motte (moat) and bailey (heap of dung) was commenced in 1072, on land originally owned by the Saxon lord Ruthguff Churlcarl. The castle was occupied by one Gilles de Farques, whom can be seen in the Bayeux Tapestry, bothering King Harold’s livestock. Farques Hall was, as the name suggests, not considered of great importance for several centuries, although it was mentioned briefly in the Englysshe Chronicle of 1274:
“God’s mercie to thee, good dame. Pray tell, what lies North of here?”
“Sir, ryde North and thou shalt see Farques Hall.”
“Then I shall not do so. That soundeth rubbysshe.”
Further mention of the Hall and its occupants, now named Bark, occurs only in 1453, when the House of Bark played an important role in the dynastic conflicts that had crippled the nation.
The War of the Veg
The War of the Veg was a minor offshoot of the Wars of the Roses, centering on the conflict between the House of Tuber and the House of Stalk. The House of Stalk was aided by the House of Bark, a related branch of the dynasty. Both Tuber and Bark were recognised by their distinctive emblems, which are used to this day. House Tuber (now House Tuba) has as its emblem a heraldic sackbut reversed and inserted sideways, with the motto “Tuba Mirum” (generally translated as “My Wonderful Tuba”). House Bark’s emblem is a stem upstanding full crimson and engorged arising from two heads of cauliflower against a bed of watercress and tossed rocket leaves: its motto is “Hark to my Bark”.
The War of the Veg ended at the Battle of Legume, when Edmund the Unready of House Bark was taken by surprise when he left the battlefield to attend to a rear action, following which the College of Heralds ritually dishonoured him and publicly discharged his heraldic device. Notable members of House Bark at that time included the knights Vaylance the Watchful and Posityve the Retainer, who was noted in the field for his charge.
The Early Modern Period
Throughout the Tudor period, the hall was converted from grim fortress to luxurious home. Windows were enlarged, peasants fished out of wells and the famous maze claimed its first victims. Even the severed heads on the battlements were given little flowery hats. It was at this point that the distinctive architectural melange took root.
The main building is famed for its elaborate frontage in the Pre-Cambrian style, despite its troublesome corniches and unexpected buttressing, as recorded by John Ruskin in his history of second-rate Gothic architecture, Stones of Menace (it is also said that ‘unexpected buttressing’ was cited by Ruskin as grounds for divorce of his second wife). Much of the expansion of the original fortress was carried out in the reign of Charles the First, when, in keeping with the times, the work was carried out in Cavalier fashion. The unforgettable Misery Chapel was added during the Commonwealth by Puritan warlord Praisegod Grindbone, and is renowned for its complete lack of decoration, save for a mural of God hating everybody. Grindbone later achieved fame in creating an instrument capable of playing hymns whilst providing no pleasure to the listener, known as the Miserichord.
Following the Restoration, more frivolous additions included Lady Molly’s Jolly Brolly Folly, and the Nell Gywnne Gallery, where King Charles II staged England’s first example of Grotesque Baroque Burlesque (see also the Samuel Pepys Show). During the Raj, Lord Reginald Bark, a noted architect, used the family home as the basis for his designs for Eyesoor Palace, the home of the Maharajah of Eyesoor, of the province of Uttar Desastra.
The Modern Era
In the early twentieth century, Lord Horace Bark sought to introduce a more cosmopolitan atmosphere by welcoming representatives of Italy, Japan and Germany to the house and, on several occasions, trying to give it and the rest of Britain to them. Unfortunately, his plans were cut short by unexpected strangulation, following which the house was taken over by the wartime Special Detonations Executive. In late 1943, the North-West Wing was badly damaged by falling bombs thought to have originated from the North-East Wing. Following the war, the house fell into (further) disrepair and was eventually converted into the head office of Consumer Solutions Ltd, a company specialising in the sustainable delivery of content-based policy in the developing marketplace and therefore having no function at all. However, in 2003, the discovery of a huge cache of explosives and sabotage gear in the maids’ quarters enabled the staff to “persuade” British Heritage to cough up enough cash to get the place open once more.
The Deconstructionist Era
The art collection is varied and remarkable. Peter Breugel’s Weeping Tinker has long been a source of speculation. The Gouty Cavalier is featured on postcards available at the gift shop. Euphonius Bloch’s Agonising Tryptich hangs along King William’s West Vestibule (formerly, prior to subsidence, King William’s East Vestibule), but the authorities have been informed. New wings of the hall are being propped up, and renovations continue as once-lost rooms, and family members, are uncovered. The allegedly haunted South Passage has been cleaned and repainted, and the Grey Lady is now a White Lady again.
Visiting Bark Hall
Today, Bark House is open to the public, provided that it is not actually in the process of falling down and nobody makes any loud noises. Visitors are welcomed between the hours of 1 and 4pm, and pelted with stones at any other time. Exit is through the gift shop or one of the window-frames. The management does not accept responsibility for misuse of the ducking stool.
SatNav users should take great care in entering the correct postal code, since failure to do so may lead you to seeing Farques Hall.