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

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