Hovingham Hall isn’t always open to the likes of you and me, but it is for this month. Matt Clark is given a guided tour.

STREET parties to celebrate Kate and William’s big day may be a distant memory, but at Hovingham Hall the Worsley family are about to mark their own royal wedding, because this month is the 50th anniversary of the marriage of Katharine Worsley to The Duke of Kent in York Minster.

It was the first Yorkshire royal wedding since 1300 and the reception, attended by many of the crowned heads of Europe, was held at the hall. But now its staff are busy getting the place ready to welcome some less regal guests.

For most of June, Hovingham Hall will open its doors to the likes of you and me.

The Worsley family moved here in 1563 after buying the Manor of Hovingham, but it took them 200 years to really make their mark, which they did with panache.

The Palladian house we now see was built between 1750 and 1770 by the sixth Thomas Worsley, who also had royal connections, being surveyor general to George III and a close friend; he even taught the king how to ride.

Thomas had two passions: horses and architecture. So he was determined to ensure his horses would have pride of place in his new house.

But the plans proved too costly and instead of a grand pile with separate stable block, Thomas had to compromise. He took the radical decision to construct the house around the stables and that’s why as you approach from the tree lined Hall Green, a huge riding school forms the entrance.

The present owner is William Worsley and his wife Marie-Noelle, who kindly gave me a preview of the house ahead of this year’s opening.

The first surprise is that you enter from the rear of the property and hidden from view is a stunning façade which faces open parkland. The second surprise is the ground-floor rooms with their vaulted ceilings which were originally designed to be stables.

But not for any old horses.

“Thomas was passionate on Haute Ecole, which is modern dressage,” says Mr Worsley.

“His friends thought he was very strange because they were hunting squires and bred big hunters, whereas he bred these very fine horses. But he actually made enough money from his stud to pay for the riding school.”

The horses didn’t stay in the stables for long though and now the vaulted rooms house tapestries and statues. The Samson Hall is named after the statue of Samson slaying the Philistine, which is now in the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Next door is the Hunting Hall; a great partying room says Mr Worsley, who designed the fireplace with his brother Giles and architect Chris Cotton in 2004 as a tribute to his architect ancestor.

“This is the only house in the world approached via a riding school. Quite why he did it I don’t know, but it makes an amazing space and a very grand entrance. The façade of the house is quite similar to William Kent’s Horseguards and this house is very much after Palladio, very much of Italian influence.”

Another source of Italian inspiration was the Roman villa discovered in the grounds more than 300 years ago. The Yorkshire Archaeological Society has postulated a theory that it may have been the country seat of the Emperors who lived in York, including Constantine. And with a nearby church dedicated to his mother Helen, there is plenty of circumstantial evidence to support the claim. “If you think of beautiful places around York, this stands out as a likely place, so there is sense to the theory. Also the Emperors’ country seat has never been discovered and as this has been the centre of an estate since Roman times, it could well have been Hovingham.”

Could the wheel have turned full circle, a Roman inspired house on the site of a Roman Emperors’ summer palace? It’s a fascinating proposition.

All the state rooms are upstairs and the newly decorated Ionic Room, which leads through to the vast Ballroom, a nine-metre cube which was originally above the stables. A visitor once commented: “It would be easy enough to smell without being told these two rooms (the best in the house) are built over the apartment of the huhnhams (horses).”

It took Mr Worsley and his team 36 days to re-hang the paintings in these rooms.

The Drawing Room overlooking the cricket pitch was originally the entrance and is filled with ancestral portraits by French artist Philip Mercier, who lived and worked in York, as well as family photos, including one of Mr Worsley as a page boy at his aunt’s (the Duchess of Kent) wedding in York Minster.

Further along, the Dining Room demonstrates the influence of Thomas Worsley’s involvement with the royal court. His large salary and position gave him access to some of England’s finest craftsmen and this room boasts Corinthian capitals carved by leading London joiners West and Kelsey.

Until the 19th century it was a state bedroom. Now it’s the family’s room of choice for dinner parties although, as Mr Worsley freely admits, like the rest of us they spend most of their time in the kitchen.

Hovingham itself is the estate’s village and they like their cricket here. The ground in front of Hovingham Hall is said to be the oldest continuously played-on private pitch in England.

The fourth Sir William Worsley captained Yorkshire in 1928 and 1929 and down the years he hosted many of the county’s greatest players, including Sutcliffe, Hutton and Boycott. Not to mention Fiery Fred Trueman.

“I adored my grandfather. Most people couldn’t handle Freddie, but he did. I was once at a dinner and Freddie didn’t know I was there. He said there were only three people he really respected and one was Sir William Worsley. I thought that was rather nice.”

These days the village cricketers are the only members of the public normally invited into the grounds but don’t miss the chance this month to witness one of Yorkshire’s most spectacular and extraordinary stately homes. “Houses like this weren’t built for cosy living; they were for show and political positioning. These days they are hugely expensive to run and jolly hard work; they were designed for a previous time when you had many servants. The only plus is we don’t use most of these rooms so they don’t get as dirty as an ordinary house.”

Except in June perhaps.

• Hovingham Hall is open to the public until June 28 from 12.30pm to 4.30pm.

Admission is £8 for adults, £7.50 concessions, £3 for children aged 5-16. A family ticket costs £20.