MAY DAY BANK HOLIDAY PERUSING AT ICKWORTH HOUSE
We decided to take advantage of the extended May Day Bank Holiday weekend by visiting Dr C’s mum in the beautiful Suffolk countryside. A few years back she had gifted us a lifetime membership to the National Trust. A timeless gift that has given us access to some beautiful grand properties and gardens in England’s glorious countryside. We had explored the many locations based in and around our area and had long had the grand Rotunda of Ickworth House on our hit list.
A LITTLE BIT OF HISTORY…
Ickworth House is the baby of the 4th Earl of Bristol (Earl Bishop). He entered the church however when his two elder brothers died he was given the title of the 4th Earl of Bristol. The Earl was a lover of simplicity and proportion ensuring that his masterpiece Ickworth House would fit this bill. Construction was started in 1795 but unfortunately the Earl died in 1803 and his son inherited the property. The Earl had spent a lot of his time travelling around Europe throughout his life, obtaining different pieces of artwork and treasures which he intended to house at Ickworth in the form of a gallery. Unfortunately this artwork was seized in 1798 during the Napoleonic era. The 4th Earl of Bishops son (5th Earl-1st Marquess) inherited the building work and later moved in with his family in 1829.
The idea of having a central house with two wings housing galleries was no more as the 5th Earl made the East Wing his family home and the central Rotunda the gallery as visitors could see this upon entry into the magnificent Rotunda building. The Hervey family’s (surname of the Earl of Bishops family) passion for collecting art continued as the years went by. The west wing was actually just built to lend the building symmetry and used for storage.
The National Trust has beautifully restored the building and today it actually houses one of their most prestigious art collections with paintings by renowned artists such as Hogarth and has an impressive silver collection (largest in the National Trust) and abundant books, fans and furniture. If you are an art and treasures buff, this place will be right up your street!
LETS TAKE A LOOK INTO THIS MAGNIFICENT DWELLING
THE SERVANTS BASEMENT….
We start with the servants work quarters in the basement. On the day of our visit there was actually a ‘living history’ event, which is where the volunteer interpreters re-enact a day in the life of the servants from the mid 1930s. It is a little strange to start off with as they walk straight passed you going about their daily duties but do not engage in any kind of conversation. You can follow them around the basement and drop in on their conversations and you can even walk straight into the kitchen where the cooks were preparing herbs, jam tarts and quiches. All the beautiful aromas were making us hungry but we carried on making our way through the house as we gate crashed their afternoon tea! If you’re a fan of beautifully laid dressers like me, there are a couple of exhibits for you drool over! Talk about dresser goals!
The Living History days are scheduled each month so if you fancy this experience, you can pencil in dates in what’s on
THE GROUND FLOOR…..
THE FIRST FLOOR…..
THE ROTUNDA AND THE STATUE….
In the main hall of the Rotunda there is a sculpture of ‘The Fury of Athamas’ which depicts a Greek tragedy of madness and murder. This statue had been commissioned by the earl Bishop himself.
The whole experience at Ickworth House is very hands-on and you are actually encouraged to open drawers and cupboards and touch the artefacts.
Although we only really had time to stroll through Ickworth House, there are also the gardens to consider. Think of beautifully manicured lawns with well placed ornate statues and walled gardens. You can take a leisurely stroll through the well cleared paths imagining the ladies of the house taking afternoon tea and partaking in croquet on the lawn. Additionally if you fancy going the whole hog and making a weekend of it, adjacent to Ickworth House is an old manor which houses the very grand Ickworth Hotel. I’m told they do a very tempting afternoon tea in the orangery.
Ickworth House estate for me ticks all the boxes when it comes to visiting true British grandeur and this can be enjoyed by all. There is enough to do for everyone. A beautiful house, a stunning art collection, gardens, a café, events and play areas for the children and and somewhere to stay, if you can’t bear to leave right away! Infact we are looking forward to returning during the summer so we can promenade down those beautifully walled gardens.
If you’re planning a visit, head on over to The National Trust for more on the history and background of Ickworth House.
Now, I was wondering does anyone else have a love for these properties of the past? What are your favourites in Suffolk and do they feature in your Bank Holiday plans? Drop me a comment below and make some recommendations so I can plan another day out!
See what else I got up to over the May Day Bank Holiday.
Bury St Edmunds
Tel: 01284 735270
You can find out more information on The Ickworth House National Trust website