Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Great Country Estates of Britain Series. Part Ten: Houghton Hall...

Houghton Hall in Norfolk has been the ancestral home of the Marquesses of Cholmondeley since the establishment of the title in 1815. It was built for the first prime minister of Great Britain, Sir Robert Walpole (later to become the 1st Earl of Orford), and is a seminal example of Palladian architecture.

Walpole was the leader of the Whigs (initially a political faction which later became a political party, opposed to the Tories, to the Monarchy and in particular to the Carolingian and Stuart Kings. They came to prominence during the rebellion. Walpole came to power during the reign of George I - II and helped secure the Hanoverian succession effectively quelling any future Jacobite pretenders. He was leader of the party for 2 decades, and was England's first 'Prime Minister' from 1730 to 1742.

He was also the first minister to inhabit 10 Downing street, which was gifted to him personally by George II. He would not except it as a personal gift, but did accept it as a ministerial residence, for the First Lord of the Treasury (a position still held by English prime ministers today.

David George Philip Cholmondeley is the 7th Marquess of Cholmondeley (Viscount Malpas from birth until 1968, then Earl of Rocksavage until 1990), and the current Lord Great Chamberlain of the United Kingdom. He lives with his family at Houghton Hall.

Above: An older photo of the current Marquess

Houghton's chief architect was Colen Campbell, of Vitruvius Britannicus fame. He was a leading Georgian Architect, and was in with Palladians such as Lord Burlington. He designed Burlington House. 

As you can see from the previous design, the domes were added later. These were designed by James Gibbs, another famous architect (noted for the Oxford Camerata and the church of St Martin in the fields). He was a neoclassical and Palladian architect, although he was shunned from the official circles of Palladians such as Burlington because Gibbs was a Tory and a Catholic.

Above: Houghton with Gibbs' domes
Below: Cut sections through domes

Much of the interior was designed by William Kent, of Holkham Hall fame et al. Below is his famous Stone Hall

Below: A sketch of the famous chimney piece.

Above: The Chinese bedroom
Below: More of Kent's interiors...

Above 4 photos copyright Houghton Hall 

Above and below interior shots by Paul Barker in English Country House Interiors, by Jeremy Musson, Rizzoli, NY, 2011. Via Style Court.

The Park and Gardens
The estate comprises 1000 acres (and abuts the Queen's private residence, Sandringham). Charles Bridgeman was the 18th centrury landscape designer employed to develop the grounds. He demolished the previously geometric and slightly baroque gardens (and along with them the village of Houghton) and relaid a more natural landscape style park (in a similar style to Lancelot Brown) with wide avenues.

The present Marquess spent a lot of time in the 1990s and 2000s restoring much of the gardens. Below is the 5 acre award winning walled garden.

Hedges and typical English flower borders feature greatly within the gardens...

Above: Berry Cage
Below: Croquet Lawn

Above 2 photos by Ell Brown via Foter

The church of St Martins also lies within the grounds of Houghton Hall, remaining from the previous village that was shifted to make way for the hall's grounds...

Houghton holds annual horse trials...

The hall has its own stable block, based around a quadrangle...

Above: Interior of Quad
Below: Exterior of stables

Above photo by Ell Brown via Foter

The family has another country seat apart from Houghton Hall, Cholmondeley Castle (surrounded by a 7,500 acres estate) in Cheshire...

Alas, like so many families have been forced to do, the Cholmondeley's have had to sell several paintings in lieu of inheritance tax. Luckily, as national treasures, they remain on public display at the National Gallery and the V&A. To add insult to injury, in 1990 Jean Baptiste Oudry's White Duck painting was stolen from Houghton...

They have also auctioned furniture from time to time...

Above: A red lacquer bachelor's chest (Ca. 1705) recently auctioned once graced Houghton. It was acquired by Sybil Sassoon (1894-1989), Countess of Rocksavage, in Deauville before 1921, subsequently passed to her brother, Sir Philip Sassoon of Trent Park, Hertfordshire, and thence by descent at Houghton Hall, Norfolk, to her grandson David, 7th Marquess of Cholmondeley, by whom it was sold.

More recently the current Marquess has brought back the art works which his ancestor, Sir George Walpole, sold to Catherine the Great for The Hermitage. You can preview some of the artworks here. 

That concludes this installment in the Great Estates series. For more information do visit The offical site for Houghton Hall

1 comment:

  1. I've never been to Houghton myself but after having seen the sumptuous interiors I think that a visit is in order. Thank you David for this interesting post!
    Bye for now

    I hope you are getting some relief from the heat up there!


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