This year, the village of Ford celebrates the life and legacy of an extraordinary woman – Louisa, Marchioness of Waterford, who lived at Ford Castle from 1860 until her death in 1891.
A deeply religious woman and a talented artist, Lady Waterford worked to improve conditions for those who lived and worked on her north Northumberland estate, employing a nurse to look after their health, re-building homes and commissioning a school (now called the Lady Waterford Hall) for local children.
Her most lasting legacy can be seen inside the hall. Here, stunning life-sized watercolour murals adorn the walls along with smaller sketches and paintings by Louisa.
The murals, painted over a 20-year period from 1862 to 1883, portray Biblical scenes and have a local feel as the faces portrayed are those of estate workers, and the plants and animals depicted being Northumbrian.
Over the weekend of April 14 and 15, Ford Castle, Ford Church and Lady Waterford Hall will mark 200 years since Louisa’s birth, in Paris, by hosting an open weekend with exhibitions, tours and talks about her fascinating life.
This offers visitors a rare opportunity to visit the castle, which is normally closed to the public as it is a centre for schools to take activity breaks with Ford Castle Adventure Ltd.
Admission to all venues during the open weekend is by donation.
As part of the celebrations around Louisa Waterford’s life, throughout the 2018 season the Lady Waterford Hall Trust is running a raffle offering an unique opportunity – the chance to win an original Louisa Waterford watercolour sketch (c. 1840) of a young girl.
Tickets are £1 and are available exclusively from Lady Waterford Hall. The raffle will be drawn on October 31.
There is also a celebration ceilidh in the Lady Waterford Hall on the evening of April 14 (tickets in advance from Ford and Etal Post Offices).
A schools art competition is also taking place with work being exhibited at the Watchtower in Berwick from May 26 to June 8.
During the winter, the facilities at Lady Waterford Hall have undergone major refurbishment with a new storage room, a catering-standard kitchen and new toilets, including a fully accessible WC, being installed.
These new features alongside the unique and beautiful main hall will help to make the building a very desirable venue to hire for events and wedding receptions.
For more details about the open weekend, visit www.ford-and-etal.co.uk