25 of East Anglia’s best stately homes
- Credit: IAN BURT
From Tudor mansions to Georgian palaces, East Anglia is blessed with some of the country's best stately homes. Take a stroll into the past and peek into the lives of those who made thier home in Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex.
1. Layer Marney Tower
Layer Marney, Colchester, Essex
Layer Marney Tower is an incomplete Tudor palace built in the early part of Henry VIII's reign. It has the tallest gatehouse in the country and stunning views over the Blackwater estuary. It was built by Henry, 1st Lord Marney and Henry VIII's Lord Privy Seal, who wanted a house to reflect his wealth and importance. The ornate terracotta decorations are of Italian design. In the garden there is perfume for much of the year and some beautiful and unusual trees on the lawns where visitors can picnic. Layer Marney Tower remains a family home. Also on site: Tearoom and shop.
Opening times: April to June and September, Wednesday and Sunday, 12 noon – 5pm. July and August, Sunday to Thursday, 12 noon – 5pm. Bank Holiday Sunday and Monday, 11am – 5pm. Admission: £7 adults, £4.50 children, £20 family ticket.
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2. Raynham Hall
East Raynham, Norfolk
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Work on the double gabled H shape house began in 1618. For nearly 400 years, Raynham Hall has been the seat of the Townshend family. It features unique wall decorations painted by Wm Kent and an elegant ironwork balustrade with the original glass lanterns. Recitals are held in what used to be the great hall. The park is largely grass and trees but two new gardens are being created: a vegetable garden and a flower garden. An ancient lime avenue leads down to the lake. The hall is reported to be haunted, providing the scene for possibly the most famous ghost photo of all time, the famous Brown Lady descending the staircase.
Opening times: House and gardens are open by appointment only. Admission: £35 per head including afternoon tea and guided tour
3. Audley End
Saffron Walden, Essex
Audley End was one of the greatest houses of early 17th-century England - a palace in all but name. It is now one-third its original size, but is still large, and retains much of its original character. It has fine Robert Adam and Jacobean revival interiors and Lancelot 'Capability' Brown remodelled the grounds to create one of England's finest landscape gardens with extensive views and a serpentine lake. The elegant garden buildings, such as the bridge over the River Cam, are the work of Robert Adam - the neoclassical designer who also designed a suite of rooms inside. Currently in the stewardship of English Heritage, it remains the family seat of the Lords Braybrooke.
Also on site: Café, play area and shop. Opening times: April to September. House: Monday to Sunday, 12 noon – 5pm. Stables, Service Wing and Gardens: Monday to Sunday, 10am – 6pm.Admission: £17.50 adults, £10.50 children, £45.50 family ticket. Concessions available.
4. Christchurch Mansion
A beautiful Tudor house, the grounds originally belonged to the Priory of the Holy Trinity, but after the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII, the land was bought by Sir Edmund Withipoll, who built the mansion in 1548-50 - the ground floor remains largely as he left it. The mansion houses a collection of pottery and glass, a contemporary art gallery and paintings by artists including John Constable and Thomas Gainsborough. There are rooms preserved as past inhabitants would have known them, including a Tudor kitchen, a sumptuous Georgian saloon and a collection of Victorian toys and games. The house sits in a public park with beautiful trees, lawns and ponds.
Also on site: Tearoom and shop.Opening times: March to October, Tuesday to Saturday, 10am – 5pm, Sunday, 11am – 5pm, Mondays closed. Admission: Free.
5. Mannington Hall and Gardens
Built in the 15th century, the hall was bought by Horatio Walpole in 18th century - it is still the Walpole family home today. Many of the window mullions and revels are carved from the local carrstone found in the north west of Norfolk. The roof is covered with Norfolk pantiles and has various chimneys which were added in the mid-19th century. Gardens surround the moated manor and roses are prominent, especially in the walled Heritage Rose Garden. The grounds also feature a lake, shrubs, trees, follies, a scented garden, wildflowers and extensive walks.
Opening times: The marked walks are open every day from 9am – dusk. Dogs on leads permitted. Gardens: May 28 to September 3, Sundays, noon-5pm, Wednesdays, Thursdays & Fridays, 11am-5pm. Admission: £6 adults, £5 concessions. Under 16s free. Car park £2. Hall open by appointment only.
6. Otley Hall
This stunning Grade 1 listed, 16th Century moated hall has been voted one of the top 20 historic houses in the UK and is regarded as the oldest house in Suffolk to survive largely intact. It was built around 1401 by the Gosnold family who lived there for over 250 years. Bartholomew Gosnold travelled to the New World in 1602 and named Martha's Vineyard and Cape Cod before establishing a settlement at Jamestown, the first English speaking settlement in the U.S. Highlights include the Great Hall and Linenfold Parlour, both of which look out onto the Rose Garden. Otley Hall has 10 acres of award winning gardens. Still a private home, it is owned by Ian and Catherine Beaumont.
Also on site: Café. Opening times: May to September, Gardens and café, every Wednesday, 11am - 5pm. Admission: £3 (£5 for annual pass). Tours of Otley Hall available by appointment only.
7. Sandringham House
The much-loved country retreat of Her Majesty The Queen, Sandringham House has been the private home of four generations of British monarchs since 1862. Set in 59 acres of stunning gardens, it was built in 1870 by the Prince and Princess of Wales, later King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra. The main ground floor rooms, regularly used by the Royal Family, are open to the public and the decor and contents remain much as they were in Edwardian times. The walls are hung with family portraits and the house has an important collection of Oriental arms and armour. The landscaped gardens feature woodland walks, rockeries, lime avenues and a beautiful Stream Walk.
Also on site: Restaurant, gift shop, play area and plant centre.Opening times: Sandringham House, Gardens and Museum, and Sandringham Church, will open daily from April 15 to July 21, and then again from July 29 to October 29. House: 11am – 5pm. Gardens: 10.30am – 6pm. Admission: £15.50 adults, £7 children, £38 family.
8. Gainsborough's House
Gainsborough's House is the birthplace of the painter Thomas Gainsborough. It dates back to around 1520 and four distinct periods can be seen in its architecture. Gainsborough's parents, John and Mary, probably moved to the house in 1722 and the artist was born five years later – the youngest of nine children. The house remained as a private residence until 1920, after which time it had various functions including a guest house and antique shop. In 1958, Gainsborough's House Society was formed to buy the house and establish it as a museum and monument to Thomas Gainsborough - it opened to the public in 1961. The rooms explore his achievements and his time in Suffolk, and portraits of the Gainsborough family and works by Gainsborough Dupont, the artist's nephew, are on display. The garden is larger than a first glimpse suggests and boasts a huge mulberry tree, dating to the early 1600s. James I had encouraged the planting of mulberry trees with the idea of establishing a silk producing industry.
Also on site: Shop.Opening times: Monday to Saturday, 10am - 5pm, Sunday, 11am - 5pm. Admission: £7 adults, £2 children, £16 family ticket, under 5s free.
9. Glemham Hall
Little Glemham, Suffolk
Built circa 1560 by the de Glemham Family, Glemham Hall is now owned by Major Philip Hope-Cobbold who was born at the house and inherited it from his uncle in 1994. The 3,000 acre estate hosts a working farm, as well as country fairs, open air theatre and art classes.
Tours of the house and gardens can be booked in advance - visitors will see most of the Hall, from the cellars up to the old servants' quarters in the attics, whilst learning about its history and stunning architecture. The gardens feature an avenue of Irish Yew, a Rose Garden, herbaceous borders and a Summerhouse. Tour prices: from £12 per person.
10. Felbrigg Hall
Felbrigg Hall is a 17th-century country house noted for its Jacobean architecture and fine Georgian interior. It was home to the Felbrigg family, before being sold to the Wyndham family. Thomas Wyndham was a councillor to King Henry VIII. Later residents included John Wyndham (1558–1645), probably the builder of Felbrigg Hall. The last owner before it passed into National Trust ownership was Robert Wyndham Ketton-Cremer. The original heir, Robert's brother Richard, was killed in action in the Second World War. The house contains its original 18th-century furniture, one of the largest collections of Grand Tour paintings by a single artist and an outstanding library. Some of the stained glass windows date from the 15th-century. Outside, thre is a walled garden, orchards and an orangery. The rolling park, with a lake, 520 acres of woods and waymarked trails, is a great place to explore nature and wildlife.
Also on site: Tearoom, gift shop and plant centre. Opening times: Open daily, 11am to 5pm.Admission: £10.40 adults, £5 children, £25.80 family.
11. Hindringham Hall
This Grade 2* moated house has a story dating from 1100AD, with its occupants' lives reflecting both the religious and economic issues of the last 900 years. There are many fine architectural features including finials, stepped gables and internally the original medieval buttery walls. The moat dates from the 12th century and has been designated as a Scheduled Ancient Monument. The grounds feature a walled vegetable and fruit garden, the Daffodil Area and water gardens.
Also on site: Café and plants for sale. Opening times: House: open for fixed tour dates only, £20 per person. Gardens: Open April to September, Sundays, 2pm -5pm, Wednesdays, 10am - 1pm. Admission: £7.50, under 16s free.
12. Kirstead Hall
A Grade 1 listed Elizabethan manor house Circa 1570 with stepped Flemish gable ends.
The house has blue diaper decoration and a pin tiled roof and stands in four acres. The gardens are partly walled and feature a Grade 2* octagonal dovecote. The dairy wing is used by the owners as an antique restoration business and tours include a visit to see work in progress. Tours are conducted by the owners. Opening hours: Kirstead Hall is not open to the public – pre-booked tours only.
13. Hoveton Hall
Set in the Norfolk Broads, Hoveton Hall Estate covers 620 acres of parkland, gardens, woodland, arable and grazing land. The fine Regency hall was built between 1809-1812 and the design is attributed to Humphry Repton and his son John Adey Repton. It bears similarities to Sheringham Hall, Repton's last commission. The estate has been owned by the Buxton family since 1946 and was passed to Harry and Rachel Buxton in 2013. The estate holds events throughout the year and is available for private hire.
Also on site: Café. Opening times: Gardens: April 14 to September 29, Sunday to Friday, 10.30am – 5pm. Hoveton Hall is not open to the public. Admission: £7.50 adults, £4 children, £20 family. Under 4s free. Concessions also available.
14. Kentwell Hall
Long Melford, Suffolk
Kentwell has been a lived-in family home for over 500 years. The Clopton family came to the Manor of Kentwell Hall in 1385 when William Clopton married the Kentwell heiress. Here the family remained for some 300 years. Successive members built the present hall between about 1500 and 1550. The last Clopton descendant died at Kentwell in 1661. The present owner, Patrick Phillips, bought the house in 1969 and for 35 years there has been a non-stop effort to save the hall, re-create its gardens and form a traditional farm. Events include Tudor re-creations and the popular Halloween attraction, Scaresville. The public can see rooms used by the family - usually with obvious signs of use – and landscaped and walled gardens, moats, ponds, a maze and ancient trees. Farm animals include sheep, Suffolk Punches, goats and donkeys.
Also on site: Tearoom. Opening times: Gardens: 11am to 5pm. House: 12 noon to 4pm Check website for special events: www.kentwell.co.uk Admission: £12.50 adults, £9.50 children, £41 family. Under 5s free. Concessions also available.
15. Euston Hall
This stately home has many treasures, including a splendid art collection largely collected by the Earl of Arlington who built Euston Hall between 1670 and 1676. Home to the Dukes of Grafton for over 350 years, it was originally H - shaped and modelled on a characteristic Suffolk Tudor House. The 2nd Duke remodelled it in 1750, using designs by Matthew Brettingham (who went on to design Holkham Hall in Norfolk.) The picturesque courtyard, now the main entrance, contains Lord Arlington's stable block and a service wing. The Park was designed by the noted landscaper and polymath William Kent in the mid-18th Century and is one of only seven surviving Kentian landscapes in Britain; it features an eye-catching octagonal folly and the Church of St Genevieve.
Opening times: Visitors can walk in the long yew tree avenues and visit the newly restored Hall on select dates in 2017 when it will be open from 10am to 1pm. There will be a tea room for light refreshments on the Open Days.Admission: £12 adults, £5 children (Hall tour and gardens).
16. Oxburgh Hall
Kings' Lynn, Norfolk
Despite being built during the Wars of the Roses, Oxburgh Hall was never intended to be a castle but a family home. Completed in 1482 for Sir Edmund Bedingfeld, it has housed the family for 500 often tumultuous years. It survived a dreadful fire during the Civil War, periods of near dereliction and a threat of demolition. Oxburgh stands within a square moat about 75 metres on each side. The entrance, reached by a three-arched bridge, is dramatised by a grand fortified gatehouse. The hall is well known for its priest hole and wall hangings. The 70 acre estate, now part of the National Trust, has a number of woodland walks, including a 'Woodland Explorer' trail, along with landscaped and walled gardens. Also on site: Tearoom and shop.
Opening times: House: Open daily, 11am – 5pm. Gardens, Tearoom and Shop: Open daily, 10.30am – 5pm. Admission: £10.40 adults, £5.20 children, £26 family.
17. Helmingham Hall
This moated manor house was built by John Tollemache in 1480 and has been owned by the Tollemache family ever since. The house is built around a courtyard in typical Tudor style and is set in a beautiful park with 900-year-old oak trees and red deer. The exceptional gardens feature a 19th century box parterre, edged with a spring border, an Elizabethan kitchen garden and double cruciform herbaceous border, all surrounded by a Saxon moat.
Also on site: Coach House Tea Room and The Stable Shop.Opening times: Gardens: May 1 to September 17, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday (and Bank Holidays), 12pm - 5pm. Admission: £7 adults, £3.50 children. The house is not open to the public.
18. Anmer Hall
This Georgian country house has formed part of the Sandringham estate since 1898 and was a wedding gift to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge from the Queen. To accommodate the Duke and Duchess using the house whilst William worked as a pilot for East Anglian Air Ambulance, a £1.5 million refurbishment was carried out. Paid for from Royal family funds, this included a new roof, kitchen, a conservatory designed by architect Charles Morris and an extensive tree-planting programme to afford the Duke and Duchess greater privacy.
The house and grounds are not open to the public.
19. Somerleyton Hall
Somerleyton, Nr Lowestoft, Suffolk
Set in a 5,000 acre estate, Somerleyton is a beautifully preserved Tudor mansion. Victorian entrepreneur Sir Samuel Morton Peto bought the house in 1843 and created today's Anglo-Italian masterpiece. The formal gardens feature a yew hedge maze, created by William Andrews Nesfield in 1846, and a ridge and furrow greenhouse designed by Joseph Paxton, the architect of The Crystal Palace. There is also a walled garden, aviary, a loggia and a 90 metre pergola covered with roses and wisteria. The house is now held by Hugh Crossley, 4th Baron Somerleyton and the family live there.
Opening times: The hall and gardens will be open from April 13 to September 28, 10am to 5pm, on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Sundays and Bank Holidays. Entrance is by tour only and Wednesday is garden only. Admission: £11.45 adults, £6.50 children, £30 family. Concessions available.
20. Melford Hall
Long Melford, Suffolk
Melford Hall is a beautiful Elizabethan house set in 120 acres of parkland and lakes. It played host to Queen Elizabeth I in 1578. The abbots of Bury St Edmunds used a medieval building on the site which was incorporated into the Elizabethan structure. It has survived looting in the English Civil War and a disastrous fire during World War II. Sir Harry Parker bought the house in 1786, and it remains home today to the Hyde Parkers, one of Britain's most distinguished naval families. They still farm its 3,500-acre estate though the hall is now part of the National Trust. Beatrix Potter visited her cousin at Melford Hall many times and visitors can see the room she used and the gifts she left behind.
Also on site: Tearoom and gift shop. Opening times: Wednesday to Sunday (and Bank Holidays), 12 noon – 5pm. Admission: £7.80 adults, £3.90 children, £19.50 family.
21. Houghton Hall
Built in the 1720s for Great Britain's first Prime Minister, Sir Robert Walpole, Houghton Hall is one of England's finest Palladian houses. The State Rooms were sumptuously decorated by William Kent. They were used for entertaining on a grand scale and were the backdrop for some of Walpole's most valuable paintings. Walpole spared no expense although he only visited Norfolk twice a year. The hall is surrounded by 1,000 acres of parkland and the landscaped grounds are home to the 5-acre walled garden - one of Houghton's most popular attractions. Also on site: Cafes, play area and pop up shop.
Opening times: April 30 to October 26, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, Sudnays and Bank Holiday Mondays. House: 12 noon to 3.30pm (last admission). Gardens: 11am – 4pm (last admission). Admission: £18 adults, under 16s free.
22. Holkham Hall
Holkham, North Norfolk
On the north Norfolk coast, Holkham Hall is the seat of the Earls of Leicester. This elegant 18th century Palladian-style mansion is very much a home which the family take pride in sharing with visitors. The Marble Hall is spectacular, with its 50ft pressed plaster dome ceiling and walls of English alabaster (not marble as its name implies). Stairs lead to magnificent state rooms displaying superb collections of ancient statuary, original furniture, tapestries and paintings by Rubens, Van Dyck, Claude, Gaspar Poussin and Gainsborough. Work on the park commenced in 1729 – following designs by William Kent. This event was commemorated by the construction of the prominent obelisk, 24 metres in height, standing on the highest point. The grounds are home to a large herd of Fallow Deer and a small herd of Red Deer. The evergreen oaks were brought to Holkham from Italy. A project is underway to restore the six acres of walled garden originally laid by Samuel Wyatt in the late 1700s.
Also on site: Play area, café, cycle hire and shops. Opening times: House: Open from April 1 to October 31, 12 noon - 4pm on Sundays, Mondays and Thursdays. Park: Open from April 1 to October 31, 9am – 5pm, daily. Walled Garden, Children's Woodland Adventure Play Area, Courtyard Café and Gift Shop, 10am - 5pm, daily. Admission: £15 adults, £7.50 children, £41 family. Parking £3 per day.
23. Blickling Hall
Built on the foundations of the Tudor manor house, supposed to be the birthplace of Anne Boleyn, the imposing Jacobean Blickling Hall was built by Sir Henry Hobart after a lucrative career as a London lawyer. It is constructed of red brick with a gabled façade and elegant corner turrets. Later alterations were carried out in the 1760s and 1770s, resulting in a marriage of Jacobean and Georgian styles. It was passed down through the Hobart and Kerr families over four centuries and contains many family portraits including works by Gainsborough and Reynolds. The hall, now part of the National Trust, is also richly furnished with a fine collection of tapestries and boasts the trust's largest and most magnificent library - the core of which was assembled by Sir Richard Ellys, a cousin of the Hobarts, and contains examples of early Continental printing, magnificent illustrated volumes and many books with superb bindings. Outside, features include an orangery and walled garden, topiary, secret garden and two tunnels perfect for hide and seek. Also on site: Shop, cafes and plant centre.
Opening times: Open daily. House: 12 noon – 5pm: Gardens, 10am – 5.30pm.Admission: £13.55 adults, £6.75 children, £33.95 family.
24. Haughley Park
A privately owned Grade I listed Jacobean manor house in the heart of Suffolk. Built by Sir John Sulyard in 1620, for almost two centuries the house was the centre of a 2,500 acre agricultural estate, mostly tenanted. It was reduced to around 700 acres in the 19th century and the estate was sold to William Crawford a successful lawyer. A fire gutted the north end of the house in 1820 and it was rebuilt in the Georgian style. In the 20th century, Alfred Williams MBE bought the property and started a long restoration before another fire gutted more than half the house. Restoration started again and Haughley Park, still owned by the Williams family, is now used for events and weddings.
Opening hours: The house is not open to the public.
25. Ickworth House
Ickworth, Bury St Edmunds
Built between 1795 and 1829, this Georgian Italianate palace, in idyllic countryside just outside Bury St Edmunds, it is known for its impressive Rotunda - commmissioned by the 4th Earl of Bristol to house his priceless treasures and art. The eccentric, and sometimes infamous, Hervey family created the earliest Italianate garden in England. As the glory days of the country house came to an end in the post-war period, so did the Hervey's tenure at Ickworth. In 1956, the 4th Marquess presented the house and estate to the Treasury in lieu of death duties and it was then passed to the National Trust. Visitors can follow the family's history through outstanding portraits by Gainsborough, Hogarth and Reynolds. Also on site: Café, plant centre and shop.Opening times:
Open daily. House: 11am – 5pm. Gardens: 9am – 5.30pm. Admission: £12.60 adults, £6.35 children, £31.55 family.
Where is your favourite stately home in East Anglia? Let us know in the comments.