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Work behind the scenes in the House

A busy schedule of deep cleaning is currently underway; we’ve polished, dusted and buffed everything from the floorboards to the spectacular Chippendale State Bed. Next on the list is the Gallery mirrors, which will involve delicate work high up on scaffolding.

We have continued work on improving storage conditions for collections not on display, such as textiles, prints and archives, involving a programme of re-housing and re-labelling. Additionally, textile conservators have been advising us on the conservation of Harewood’s Axminster carpets in the Yellow Drawing Room and Music Room, providing us with the opportunity to photograph for the first time the full length of the Yellow Drawing Room carpet, at 3 metres wide!

Harewood House display Lady Worsley costume

We encountered particular interest last year in our iconic portrait of Lady Worsley by Sir Joshua Reynolds, following the screening of a BBC drama, The Scandalous Lady W. Responding to this interest, we are borrowing the historically researched costume used in the programme, to be displayed in the new Information Centre. We hope this will encourage more people to come into the House to see this striking portrait where there will be a small display about Lady Worsley’s fascinating life.

This year the State Floor will be redisplayed to reflect landscape and gardening to celebrate Visit England’s Year of the English Garden and tercentenary of the birth of “Capability” Brown. In the China Room we will exhibit a selection of botanically themed ceramics and we will showcase a range of gardening books and literature from Harewood’s extensive libraries. We are looking forward to welcoming you for another busy season.

Ann Sumner, Historic Collections Advisor

The Oldest and Most Expensive Rum in the World

Our Story Begins

Our journey starts over 300 years ago at a time when adventurous Europeans were colonizing newly discovered corners of the world. The Lascelles family were ambitious, and set out to make their fortune in the West Indies. Initially they had limited success producing tobacco, cotton, sugar and its by-product, rum. Slaves were the main source of labour, and the Lascelles family became both owners and traders of African slaves in the West Indies.

It was in 1711, that Henry Lascelles, son of a prosperous gentleman farmer from Stank Hall near Northallerton, traveled to Barbados to work in the family business. His arrival sparked a remarkable progression in the previously unsuccessful business. With the help of his half-brother Edward, Henry quickly established himself as one of the island’s most energetic, enterprising and ruthless entrepreneurs. The brothers made a success of the business, adding banking to their list of endeavors, often repossessing plantations and slaves when rival owners defaulted on loans.

Within two decades, Henry had become one of the wealthiest and sophisticated entrepreneurs in the West Indies. It is from this fortune that Harewood House was built.

The Oldest and Most Expensive Rum in the World

In 2011, whilst preparing an inventory of wines and spirits in the dark cellars of Harewood House, Mark Lascelles and his colleague Andy Langshaw found something they did not expect.

Harewood Rum

At the back of the farthest cellar they saw two dusty shelves, upon which sat some mysterious looking bottles. Barely discernible under a thick coating of cobwebs and mould, the bottles were black with age, and so toxic looking Mark and Andy were wary about touching them without gloves! Very carefully, they brushed off the layers of dirt. They sniffed the contents with caution. What had they found?

In December 2013, 12 bottles of the Harewood Rum went up for sale at Christie’s in London. Nothing like this had ever come on the market before. Even the experts were quite unsure what to expect! Bidding started at £1,000 and quickly escalated in the electric auction room.

Six bottles of the Light Rum sold for nearly £25,000, with the last bottles of Dark Rum sold for a mind-boggling £7,000 each! No one could believe what they were seeing.

In December 2014, the final sale was even more astonishing. The last 16 bottles sold for a total well in excess of £100,000 making Harewood Rum officially not only the oldest, but also the most expensive rum in the world.

But what should be done with the proceeds?

Geraldine Connor Foundation

Throughout the whole process of discovery and research, everyone was committed to using funds from the rum sale in a positive way. The decision was made to donate the proceeds to the Geraldine Connor Foundation supporting the varied and vibrant Caribbean communities in Britain today.

Geraldine Connor was a larger-than-life character originally from Trinidad. A dynamic and imaginative theatre director, she supported Caribbean communities connecting young people with the arts.

After her premature death in 2011, not long after the rum was discovered, a foundation was set up in her name, to carry on her work in the performing arts especially, but not exclusively, with young people.

The foundations vision is to continuing the work and vision of Geraldine Connor in advancing the development and education of individuals in the arts and culture, and thereby developing professional and life skills, encouraging and nurturing new work and talent, and encouraging and promoting equality, diversity, empowerment and inclusion in society through the Arts.

Since its inception, the Foundation has hosted talks, performances and a free performing arts summer school for teenagers. More projects and performances, including another summer school, will happen this year.

What could be more appropriate than to under-pin the Foundation’s work with the proceeds from the rum sale? Putting something back. An alchemical transformation of base metal into gold.

2015 Exhibition

Join us between 3rd April and 29th June, to explore in detail, the story of the Harewood Rum. It’s your chance to get close to the oldest and most expensive rum in the world. Read more.


Geraldine Connor Foundation




Visit www.gcfoundation.co.uk for info on the Geraldine Connor Foundation.

A update from the Bird Garden

Enjoy rare birds at Harewood House in Yorkshire

Harewood has a pair of African Grey Crane birds for visitors to see

During the winter months our Keepers were hard at work preparing the Bird Garden for the year ahead. Each aviary has been revamped with perching, ground cover and nest boxes, to provide suitable breeding environments. Many of the ducks prefer open grass and woodchip to dabble for insects, whereas the Laughing Thrushes and Wood Rails like the security of shrubs and trees for cover. Some of our single birds have been paired up with mates. The Red Crested Turacos, our African Grey Crowned Crane and the Nene Geese have all been found new companions. The incubation and rearing rooms housed in the Bird Garden have been given a spring clean ready for the breeding season. The first chicks likely to hatch are the small Pekins chicks which you will be able to visit in the Information Centre. When fully grown, these birds will be used as foster mothers, to hatch eggs and rear chicks for other species in the Bird Garden.

Harewood House near Leeds has flamingos

Some of these birds have been at Harewood since 1969

The Chilean Flamingos have undergone a health check looking for any problems. Some of the flock were  originally brought to Harewood in 1969. These older birds require a little more attention. Our experienced vet inspects their feet in particular. We keep a close eye out for age related issues such as arthritis, hip and eye problems. Whilst in the Bird Garden please also spare some time to look at our indigenous wildlife through the new vistas we have created across the lake. Join us in the Bird Garden to learn more about our nesting birds and plans for 2014.