See inside some of the grandest family homes in Norfolk and Suffolk

PUBLISHED: 08:04 14 January 2019 | UPDATED: 08:48 14 January 2019

Elizabethan Kirstead Hall. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Elizabethan Kirstead Hall. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY


Owners of some of the most remarkable homes in East Anglia share their halls, farmhouses, moated manors or towers with visitors as part of Invitation to View 2019.

They are the houses you glimpse beyond high hedges, down long driveways or across parkland, the kind of place you might imagine you could only visit if you were dripping with titles – or delivering the groceries. But owners of some of these fascinating homes are inviting you in.

The Invitation to View programme began with a handful of grand homes in Suffolk, and then expanded into Norfolk and Cambridgeshire. This year it features houses from Cornwall to Yorkshire. where people can book visits without being part of a group – and are usually shown around by the owners. Not all the houses are enormous, there are farmhouses, a former pub and even an extraordinary council house in the Invitation to View programme.

The owners of these lived-in and loved family homes share centuries of history, and usually some home-made refreshments too, with their visitors. Some have generations of family stories to tell, or monastic ruins or an art collection, or exquisite gardens to show.

This year’s Invitation to View programme begins in East Anglia at Hoveton Hall on Wednesday, February 13, with a chance to see drifts of snowdrops and enjoy a light lunch as well as tour the grand Regency house. Then invitations are extended to some of the most magnificent family homes in the region throughout the spring, summer, autumn and winter - to the last tours of the year at the remarkable rescued and restored Old Hall, South Burlingham, near Acle, on December 20 and Heath Farmhouse near Harleston, where Christmas decorations include a tree with lit candles, on December 23.

House studies

Brinton Hall

One of the first homes to welcome Invitation to View visitors this year is beautiful Brinton, near Holt. On February 15 and 20 guests will be able to enjoy the drifts of snowdrops which are sparkling through the gardens and parkland, as well as the hall itself, which dates back more than four centuries. Four generations of the Bagnall-Oakeley family have lived here, and many more generations of Breretons before them. The staircase is believed to have once graced Lord Nelson’s London home. Archaeological discoveries on display will include stone age tools and Roman coins.

Old Hall, South Burlingham

She was picking at flaking plaster when the claw emerged. Fierce grey lines scrabbled from the wall and, as the outer layer crumbled away, a dog painted almost 500 years ago, stared back at her.

Today the long attic room at Old Hall, South Burlingham, is alive with huntsmen and hounds, trees, a wild boar, domed and turreted buildings, all unleashed after centuries beneath up to nine layers of lime-wash.

The paintings are just part of the story of a fascinating house, a few miles south of Acle. Margaret and Peter Scupham bought it, boarded-up and at risk of falling-down, from the county council more than 25 years ago.

Trespassers had lit fires in some of the main rooms, historic ceilings had been covered, fireplaces blocked and partitions added, and the roof was in a parlous state. They gradually stripping away modifications to discover Tudor fireplaces patterned with roses, original walls and ceilings, and 16th century oak floorboards. It was in an attic that loose plaster came away to reveal the painting of a dog. Experts found the entire room had been painted with hunting scenes, in the 1580s.

The house was once called Mermaid Manor, for the charming plaster mermaid and merman on the porch, and in the 1920s was divided to provide homes and smallholdings for servicemen returning from the First World War.

Clifton House, King’s Lynn

Begun in 1250, this home has a unique five-storey tower. Its wine cellar is the earliest brick structure in Norfolk, its kitchen has the largest domestic medieval tiled paving in England, and there is a magnificent staircase and Tudor, Stuart and Georgian interiors.

More private properties open through Invitation to View include:

•Bressingham Hall, near Diss. Country mansion at the heart of world-famous gardens. March 19, April 16, May 21, June 18, September 17, October 22.

•Brinton Hall near Melton Constable. February 15 and 20, May 23, June 6, July 18, August 15 and 22.

•Clifton House, King’s Lynn. May 24, June 14 and 28, July 5 and 12, September 13 and 20.

•Earsham Hall, near Bungay. Mansion with medieval origins, and a host of ghost stories. March 26, April 25, May 17, June 10, August 28, September 12, October 12, November 28.

•Heath House, near Harleston. Elizabethan farmhouse in the Waveney valley. May 2 and 31, June 27, August 21, September 18, December 23.

•Henstead Exotic Garden, near Beccles. Tropical gardens with palms, bananas, bamboos, ponds, streams, a tiered walk and a Victorian folly. June 15, July 2 and 20, August 2, 17 and 31, September 20.

•Hockwold Hall, near Thetford. Tudor manor house dating back to the 13th century with five acres of beautiful gardens. April 10, May 1, June 5, July 10, September 18.

•Hoveton Hall, near Wroxham. A 19th century hall, parkland and gardens. February 13 with a snowdrop walk and lunch, May 16, June 18, july 17, September 8.

•Kirstead Hall, Brooke, near Norwich. Elizabethan manor house built to an E-shaped plan with stepped Flemish gable ends. May 24, June 20, July 23, August 7, September 1.

•Linden House, Eye. Tudor farmhouse, converted into an 18th century townhouse, once occupied by suffragette sisters. August 2, 9, 14 and 16.

•Mannington Hall, near Aylsham. Moated 15th century hall bought by the brother of first prime minister Robert Walpole in the 18th century and still a Walpole family home. Rose gardens, themed borders, a ruined church and Victorian follies. May 15, June 25, July 16, August 6, September 6, November 8.

•Old Hall, South Burlingham, near Acle. April 23, May 7, June 24, July 5, October 9, December 20.

Raynham Hall, near Fakenham. The Townshend family have lived on the site of this 17th century mansion since Norman times. April 4, June 26.

•Roos Hall, near Beccles. Tudor manor house set in its medieval parkland alongside the river Waveney. June 30

•St Peters Hall, near Bungay. Half moated manor house dating back to 1280. Tour includes adjacent brewery.April 30.

•Silverstone Farm, Dereham. Owned by garden designer George Carter the tour includes part of the 1920s farmhouse and two acres of formal gardens. April 7.

•South Elmham Hall near Harleston. A 13th century bishop’s palace within a four-acre moated site. May 23, August 22, September 26.

•Voewood, High Kelling, near Holt. One of the finest Arts and Crafts houses in Britain. March 20, April 17, May 15, September 25, October 16, November 13, December 11.

•West Stow Hall, near Mildenhall. Turreted gatehouse, and its hall, connected by a colonnade and dating back to the 1500s. February 3, March 17, April 9, May 14 and 16, June 12 and 16, July 8, September 26.

•Wingfield College, Eye. Behind a Georgian facade is part of a 14th century college for priests including a great hall and partial cloisters. May 23, June 18, September 26.

•Wolterton Hall, near Aylsham. 18th century mansion. April 25, May 21, June 27, July 24, August 29, September 24.

Visits to all Invitation to View homes must be booked in advance at or on 01946 690823.

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