Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Ickworth House

Walking through the elaborate rooms and weaving corridors of this incredible neoclassical structure, its easy to see why numerous generations of the Hervey family have relished the opportunity to call such an extraordinary building home, and why it is now one of the region‘s most popular attractions with visitors, tourists and local residents alike.

Ickworth House is located in the sleepy village of Horringer, just a few miles from the picturesque town of Bury St Edmunds. On entering the gates of this incredible property and taking a drive down the impressive gravel driveway, there is a definite sense of both opulence and grandeur. Team that with the house itself, standing at an impressive 600 feet in width and more than 100 feet high, you can truly begin to appreciate the elegance and stately presence of this unique property.

Construction here was started in the 18th century, after the eccentric 4th Earl of Bristol decided that he wanted to build an elaborate property, complete with rotunda, to showcase the treasures he collected from all over the world. For the next 200 years, the property was home to the Hervey family. Today, it contains a collection of paintings from artists including Titian, Poussin and Gainsborough, as well as an impressive Georgian silver collection, as well as a selection of Regency furniture. This quirky collection, as well as the house itself, became a status symbol of the family’s extraordinary wealth and good fortune, and somewhere for the Earl to combine his passions for art, Italy and having a party.

The gardens here are an equally impressive spectacle, created in the early 19th century. The Italianate gardens, the earliest example of its kind in the country are immaculately kept, and the remainder of the gardens are separated into individual sections, each with its own unique theme, including the Victorian Stumpery and the Temple Rose Garden which are alive with plant, animal and bird life. There’s also a kitchen garden, which has been carefully transformed into a peaceful vineyard, producing the famous Ickworth Walled Garden Wines which can be bought on site.

On top of these carefully landscaped gardens, there’s 1800 acres of parkland which was, in part, designed by Capability Brown. Following the park’s many walking routes allows you to take in highlights including the towering obelisk, built as a memorial to the 4th Earl, as well as the magical Fairy Lake, a serene expanse of water buzzing with wildlife. Several of the walking routes also take in Ickworth Church, where the majority of the Hervey family are now buried.

Today, Ickworth House is open to the public in the care of the National Trust. Originally, only part of the house was handed over in 1956, before the 7th Marquess of Bristol also gave them the East Wing in 1988, due to his deteriorating financial circumstances, as well as an impending eviction suit for his behaviour whilst living at the property. The National Trust refused a request to re-sell the property to the 8th Marquess in 1999, and the East Wing is now home to the luxurious 27-bedroom Ickworth Hotel.

The West Wing remained uncompleted until 2006 when a joint partnership between the National Trust and Sodexho Prestige brought about the opening of the wing as a centre for conferences and events. The first wedding took place there in 2006. It also houses a gift shop, restaurant and orangery.

Under the careful supervision of the National Trust, Ickworth House now also offers a wealth of facilities for a fun filled family day out, including a play area; trim trail, family cycle route, woodland walks, and a huge expanse of ground suitable for family picnics.

Ickworth offers visitors the unique opportunity to step back in time and live a day in the life of the owners of this fascinating property, experiencing their extravagant tastes and understanding the history of one of the most talked about families of their time.

Red Pepper Creative

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Dunwich's Haunted Hot Spots

Formerly a thriving coastal town, Dunwich was characterised by its many impressive churches, quaint rural houses and striking cliff tops. It was considered as an important port in the UK and once stood proud as the capital town of Suffolk.

But, during the 16th and 17th centuries, Dunwich was fiercely battered by a series of violent storms, leaving its coastline in tatters; its shape transformed forever by the relentless force of the elements. Dozens of the town’s striking buildings crumbled from the cliff tops into the depths of the sea, lost forever.

The modern day Dunwich is a sleepy seaside cluster of houses; unrecognisable in comparison to its heyday, and this once flourishing town now stands eerily quiet. Many mysteries remain in Dunwich, and several of its most famous landmarks are believed to be haunted or visited by its previous town folk.
The sea, which is home to the ruins of a generation of buildings, sits directly under the menacing Dunwich cliffs. An Elizabethan sailor is said to roam this wild stretch of beach before heading into the sea in search of his lost love,. It is also said that, from time to time, the distant sound of church bells can be heard chiming from under the waves, reverberating across the desolate pebble beach, onto the cliff tops and beyond.

Away from the shoreline towards the Dunwich heath is the woodland; a dark, tangled forest wrapped in a veil of secrecy. Legend says two lonely souls haunt this landscape; firstly a Victorian squire who gallops through the darkness on horseback, as well as a man who died from a broken heart after pursuing the love of a lady far superior in class to himself.

Although many of Dunwich’s churches and churchyards were lost to the sea during the horrific, historic storms, the ruins of Greyfriars remain. Walking through the gates of this 13th century friary into the ruins, you can look out across the cliff tops towards the sea, to imagine what lies beneath.

The Ship Inn, Dunwich’s recently renovated flagship pub is said to be home to a ghost in the attic room. A previous owner of the pub reported that she once woke up in the depths of the night to find a ghostly figure sitting at the end of her bed. She is said to have watched the figure vanish into one of the walls, but renovation works years later have uncovered a previously hidden door behind the wall which the ghost is thought to have disappeared through, as well as another room attached to the pub, which the landlord had no previous knowledge of.

Dunwich undoubtedly remains scarred by the events of the 16th and 17th century, which changed both its geographical layout and societal position forever. Although the present day residents of Dunwich may appear unfazed by the numerous ghost stories connected to their sleepy seaside village, this place certainly feels eerie enough to warrant some ghostly goings on.

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Red Pepper Creative