Halls and houses (and more)
The landed gentry, with their grand houses and large country estates, have made their mark on the area and, whilst many have fallen into disrepair and others have been lost forever, some impressive houses remain, many in comparatively good order. A number remain family homes, generally closed to the public (although some of these, such as Salle Park, Litcham Hall and Lexham Hall, generously open their grounds and, on occasion, their doors, to the public for charity events, such as that run by the National Gardens Scheme or the novel Invitation to View) but others, be they privately owned, like Somerleyton Hall or the grand Palladian mansion of Holkham Hall, in the care of the National Trust, like Blickling Hall or English Heritage, rely heavily on income from public opening to meet the substantial costs of their upkeep and there are, therefore, plenty of opportunities to view the unique and rich architectural heritage of Norfolk.
Although it stands on the site of an earlier Jacobean manor house, the current Somerleyton Hall is early Victorian, the Jacobean manor having been remodelled in 1844, transforming it into the fine example of an early Victorian Hall in the Anglo-Italian style. Somerleyton has been owned and managed by the Crossley family since 1863 when Sir Francis bought the estate from his fellow industrialist friend Sir Morton Peto. The Hall and much of the estate are open to the public, with many visitor attractions, including a yew hedge maze, garden trails and Fritton Lake.
Built in the early 17th century, Blickling Hall is one of England's great Jacobean houses. The spectacular Long Gallery now houses one of the finest private collections of rare books in England. There are 22 hectares (55 acres) of herbaceous borders, topiary yew hedges, lawns, wilderness, orangery, temple and lake. Spring bulbs, summer borders, autumn colours and winter walks make this a garden for all seasons. The Hall is set in an historic park with many beautiful woodland and lakeside walks. A museum in the Harness Room outlines Blickling's Second World War connections with nearby RAF Oulton.
Holkham Hall, home of the Coke family and the Earls of Leicester, was built between 1734 and 1764 by Thomas Coke, the first Earl of Leicester. This Palladian style mansion reflects Thomas Coke's appreciation of classical art developed during a Grand Tour of Europe from which he returned in 1718 with valuable and unique manuscripts and printed books, and many great works of art and statuary which he sought to house appropriately. The house today is little altered from the first Earl's original ideal although the second Earl added, during the 1850s, the vestibule on the north side of the house, the stables, offices, orangery and buildings to the east, and the terraced gardens to the south. Still home to the Coke family, the stunning hall is open to to the public across the Summer and the park is open for free access daily except Christmas Day.
Of particular architectural interest, is the quintessential Tudor house of Oxburgh Hall with its magnificent gatehouse and accessible Priest's Hole. Built in 1482, the 15th century moated house has remained the home of the Bedingfeld family for more than 500 years.
One of the finest 17th-century country houses in East Anglia, Felbrigg Hall contains its original 18th-century furniture and is home to one of the largest collections of Grand Tour paintings by a single artist and an outstanding library. The Walled Garden has been restored and features a series of potager gardens and a working dovecote. The park, through which there are waymarked walks, is well known for its magnificent and ancient trees.
Begun in 1722, and home to the Cholmondeleys since it was inherited by the 1st Marquess in 1797, Houghton Hall was built as the home of Robert Walpole, Britain's first de facto Prime Minister. The magnificent Hall has equally imposing stables, the second set that Sir Robert built at Houghton, which were erected between 1733 and 1735 with external walls are of the local yellow Snettisham stone as a foil to the finer grey Whitby stone of the house.
Built in 1870 by the Prince and Princess of Wales, later King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra, and now the country retreat of Her Majesty The Queen and His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh, Sandringham House is one of the more modern Norfolk houses described here. Sandringham is a friendly and informal place to visit, with knowledgeable guides in every room of the house and acres of beautiful gardens to explore while the museum houses extraordinary collections of Royal vehicles, rare ceramics, photographs and memorabilia.
Built by Thomas Ripley in the 1720s for Horatio Walpole, younger brother to Britain's first Prime Minister, Sir Robert Walpole, Wolterton Hall was abandoned in 1858 On the death of the 3rd Earl, whose son and his son moved to Mannington Hall. However the property was restored when the Earl moved back in 1905 and is now open to the public under the ownership of the current Lord Walpole. The 18th Century walled garden is run by Barker Organics as a smallholding.
Although the medieval moated manor house of Mannington Hall is is open only by appointment, for special interest groups and charity days, visitors may view the house from its gardens, which feature a wide variety of plants, trees and shrubs in many different settings. There are also two rose gardens.
Then there's Norwich, with so many architectural gems we've got a separate page for Norwich's architecture. This includes Norwich Cathedral and the Norman Castle, which, since 1894 has been home to a museum and art gallery. Neither of these magnificent buildings should be missed.
“Blickling Hall is well worth a visit - lovely gardens.”
“Oxburgh Hall: Beautiful moated house, with secret doors and priest hole. Gardens and grounds provide lovely walks. Our 2 and half year old daughter loved the climb up to the roof.
Cafe provides healthy lunches for children in a box and lovely meals for parents too ...”
“Blickling Hall: A very pretty house to visit, with lovely gardens which the children enjoyed running around in.”
“We particularly enjoyed Ickworth House, near Bury St Edmunds. There is arts and crafts for young children and an adventure playground,
Also a lovely restaurant”
“Holkham Hall: The grounds are magnificent and loads of ducks and deer to gaze upon. The Stables Cafe is superb - had cheese, celery
and apricot sandwiches; absolutely wonderful. The pottery shop is great, lots of really classy items for sale.”
“The walk around the grounds [at Blickling Hall] was beautiful - can't wait to get back to visit the house.”
“[Holkham Hall] is expensive but worth every penny. Don&lsquot miss the museaum.”