Joy as antique cupboard returns home to Oxburgh Hall after almost 70 years

Lynsey Coombs, National Trust curator, taking a look inside the armoire at Oxburgh Hall.  

Lynsey Coombs, National Trust curator, taking a look inside the armoire at Oxburgh Hall. - Credit: National Trust Victoria McKeown

Is it is an ornate piece of furniture that evokes another era - a time that's both romantic and gothic, when every item in a crammed country mansion had its own intriguing tale to tell. 

And now a  17th Century 'armoire' style cupboard has been returned to its former home at Norfolk's Oxburgh Hall after an almost 70-year absence. 

Oxburgh Hall. Picture: Ian Burt

Oxburgh Hall. - Credit: Ian Burt

The dark oak cupboard was auctioned off along most of county house's other contents in 1951, when the debt-ridden estate itself was put on the market. 

Although the Bedingfeld family - who owned Oxburgh until that year - were able to save the house from demolition at the eleventh hour, almost 900 items including furniture, carpets, oil paintings and books had already been sold. 

Lynsey Coombs, National Trust curator, inspects the armoire at Oxburgh Hall.  

Lynsey Coombs, National Trust curator, inspects the armoire at Oxburgh Hall. - Credit: National Trust Victoria McKeown

The hall was donated to the National Trust in 1952, and they have since managed to buy back some of the objects sold off the year before .


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The armoire has been the latest addition, having been bought for £6,500 thanks to an Arts Council/V&A grant and trust members' donations. 

Anna Forrest, a National Trust curator, said: “We believe the armoire first came to Oxburgh at some point in the 19th century, when Sir Henry Paston-Bedingfeld, the sixth baronet, carried out extensive building works and alterations to Oxburgh’s interiors in the Gothic Revival style to recreate its medieval past.

A close-up view of the armoire at Oxburgh Hall.

A close-up view of the armoire at Oxburgh Hall. - Credit: National Trust Victoria McKeown

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“Heavy oak furniture was used alongside ancient textiles and neo-Gothic wallpapers to enhance the historic atmosphere of the house. When viewed in isolation, you may not think that this furniture is of great significance; however when seen collectively, the collection is a vital component of the surviving ‘romantic’ interiors that were created in the 19th century and of which so few remain."

Ms Forrest said the armoire probably originated from Brittany in France and was one of four heavily carved cupboards from the hall that were sold off. The fate of the others remains unknown.

The armoire in its new home, in the Saloon at Oxburgh Hall.

The armoire in its new home, in the Saloon at Oxburgh Hall. - Credit: National Trust Victoria McKeown

She added: "Breton furniture appears only occasionally in English auctions, which makes the re-emergence of this item even more special. We’re delighted to see the armoire return for visitors to enjoy.”

Oxburgh Hall is currently undergoing one of the National Trust's largest conservation projects - a £6 million restoration of its roof, windows, chimneys and medieval gatehouse facade.






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