Sunday, July 27, 2008


Spent the hottest day so far this year at Ickworth House near Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk. Took hundreds of photos for current feature I'm researching.

Ickworth had been in the ownership of the Hervey family from the 15th century. The house, park, and a large endowment were given to the National Trust in 1956 in lieu of death duties. As part of the handover agreement, a 99-year lease on the 60-room East Wing was given to the Marquess of Bristol. Around ten years ago, the 7th Marquess of Bristol, partly for financial reasons, and partly in response to an eviction suit stemming from his behaviour on the property, sold the remaining lease on the East Wing to the National Trust. The Trust subsequently refused to re-sell the leasehold to the 8th Marquess of Bristol on his succeeding to the title in 1999. There is now a 27-bedroom hotel in the East Wing.

The front of Ickworth House is over 600 feet long, and the rotunda is over 100 feet high. The rotunda was based on the designs of Mario Asprucci, an Italian architect; the architects who adapted the design and oversaw construction were Francis Sandys and his brother Joseph Sandys. Begun for the eccentric 4th Earl of Bristol in 1795, the house was still unfinished when he died in 1803 and was completed by the 5th Earl of Bristol (later 1st Marquess of Bristol).

It contains paintings by Velázquez, Titian, Poussin, and Claude Lorraine, as well as an unrivalled series of 18th-century family portraits by artists such as Gainsborough, Reynolds, Vigee-Lebrun, Batoni, Angelica Kauffman, Ramsay, Van Loo, and Hogarth. In addition, Ickworth has arguably the best collections in Britain of fine Georgian silver. The house also contains very good examples of Regency furniture and porcelain.

The West Wing at Ickworth House went uncompleted until 2005, when a joint partnership between the National Trust and Sodexho Prestige led to its renovation and opening as a centre for conferences and events. The first wedding in the property's history took place in 2006.

All the Hervey family, from Thomas Hervey (d. 1467) up to the 7th Marquess of Bristol, have been buried at Ickworth Church, which is located in the Park, a short walk from the house. The church is Norman with some later additions, and possesses a 15th-century wall painting of the Angel of the Annunciation, a 15th-century font, and roundels of Flemish glass from as early as 14th century, as well as numerous marble achievements to different members of the Hervey family over the centuries. It remains in the hands of the Hervey family and is now derelict and unsafe.