Doddington Hall was built between 1593 and 1600 for Thomas Tailor, who was a lawyer. This Elisabethan prodigy house has a wide frontage but is only one room deep in the centre. Internally it was largely updated in the 1760’s, and underwent some restoration in the mid 20th century.
The interior is said to be impressive but the house was not open at the time of my visit.
The grounds include floral and kitchen gardens which are pleasant but not exceptional. Behind the house a vista extends to a pyramidal obelisk. To the right of the house front is a small church, rebuilt in the 1760’s.
On the other side of the house are various outbuildings including a farm shop, and a barn containing a collection of farm wagons.
Abbots Ripton Hall, Cambridgeshire
I visited Abbots Ripton Hall under the Historic Houses Association’s “Invitation to View” scheme.
The Hall was built in the 18th century of red and gault brick, with a plain entrance front to the northeast and a garden front to the south-west, with shutters and loggia. The house was altered in the 1850s and again in the 1970s.
The house has some pleasant ground-floor rooms, including a library, containing some good furniture and pictures. The contents were mostly acquired by the current owner. The glory of the property however lies in the extensive gardens. A huge London Plane tree stands close to the house and is contemporary with it. A series of lawns and paths spread out from the house into wooded gardens containing a long double herbaceous border, a rose garden, a rose tunnel and pergola, and other features.
The Abbots Ripton Brook flows through the gardens, feeding a canal near the house, and a lake.
Many of the plants have numbered labels, and visitors are provided with a guide to the plants. I spotted one flower that was the same as a plant in my garden I had never been able to identify (Anemone).
A view across the lake provides a glimpse of a Chinese fishing pavilion (built by Peter Foster in the 1970s, like many of the garden features.)
The gardens in particular are well worth a visit. I would have liked to explore them further but one of our party was on an electric buggy which might have induced our host (Lord de Ramsey) to shorten the tour.
Finding the Hall, near Huntingdon, was straightforward except that my sat-nav took me to a commercial courtyard on the B1090. Exiting from there to the left, the inconspicuous gates to the Hall were about 100 yards further on to the SE, on the same side of the B1090. Hall Lane, shown on the maps, is the road behind the gates. Once one has actually visited the gardens, the main features are clearly identifiable on Google Satellite View.
Paycocke’s House and Garden, Essex
Paycocke’s is a surviving example of a Tudor merchant’s half-timbered house, standing on the main street of Coggeshall, Essex. Paycocke’s oldest part was owned by John Paycocke, a meat merchant. His son, Thomas, a prosperous cloth merchant, built the front main range as a showroom for his cloth business. In the 18th century, the property came into the hands of the Buxton family, who eventually sold it and moved to London. After numerous changes of ownership and increasing disrepair the house was about to be demolished when bought by Noel Buxton in 1904. Buxton had the house restored, and in 1924 it was donated to the National Trust.
The house is well worth a visit, as the wood carving on the frontage is outstanding, and there is also much carving and some interesting exhibits in the interior. The pleasant garden, whose design dates from the early 20th century, is worth a look. Note that entry to the garden and tea-shop is free, but there is a charge for entering the house. At the time of visiting (Aug. 2022) entry was by conducted tour only, and the last scheduled tour was at 2pm. The website says that advanced booking is advised.
If you arrive by car, with luck you should find free parking on the street near the house, or at the nearby Grange Barn (also NT, not seen).
If you have time, Coggeshall also boasts a clocktower, St.Peter ad Vincula church, The Woolpack Inn, St Nicholas’ Chapel and a host of old listed buildings.
Ingatestone Hall, Essex
I visited Ingatestone Hall under the Historic Houses Association’s “Invitation to View” scheme. The Hall is also opened to the public on selected dates.
At the dissolution of the monasteries, one William Petre, a lawyer from Devon, purchased a manor at Ingatestone that had belonged to Barking Abbey. Petre constructed a brick house that is substantially the same house we see today, still occupied by the Petre family.
Extensions were added at one side, incorporating two priest’s holes. In the 18th century the west wing, containing the Great Hall, was demolished, leaving the U-shaped plan we see today, and the windows and other features were ‘modernised’. The Petres moved to Thorndon Hall nearby and the house was subdivided into apartments.
In 1919 the Petre family moved back to the house and the 16th Lord’s widow immediately set about restoring the house to its original Tudor appearance and layout. This was a mammoth task, which was sympathetically carried out. Today it is hard to distinguish the original parts from the restored or reproduced features of the house.
The conducted tour was very informative. The house interiors and contents are generally in an Elizabethan or Jacobean style, and there are some pleasant grounds to explore. We were able to examine the priest holes.
During our visit a film crew was working in the house, filming an episode of ‘Horrible Histories’.
On approaching the area from the South, take care when leaving the A12, and follow the signage for the village rather than your satnav. My satnav sent me back onto a slip-road and a detour of many miles up the A12 and back.
The Felixtowe Museum is housed in the old submarine mining building to the right of the Landguard Fort entrance.
The exhibit rooms span a range of interests from the military to local social history.
Rooms are devoted to seaplanes, naval matters, defensive mines, a local mental asylum etc.
It is well worth a visit if you are visiting the peninsula. Check opening days before travelling, as the museum is manned by volunteers and the opening days seem limited.
These ruins of an abbey built by Premonstratensian canons date mainly from the 14th century. Substantial ruins remain standing, some to full height. A side aisle is roofed and in use as a hall, and other parts are incorporated into a farmhouse, now in use as a school. An adjoining monastic barn is being restored and converted into a hall.
The remains of carved stonework and flint panelling can be admired at various points on the ruins.
Visit time ~30 mins.
The castle was built in the 12th century by King Henry II. Its keep is of unusual design, being circular internally, with three flanking towers which contain the stairs and a number of chambers.
Originally it had a substantial outer wall with defensive towers, similar to Framlingham Castle, but this has entirely disappeared. The main hall is at first floor level, with another circular hall above.
Unlike the outer walls, the keep is well-preserved. Stairs give access to a basement, various small chambers, and the roof. The roof towers contain a former bakery and guardroom.
The flat roof is modern. The original roof was conical and hidden behind the upper walls.
Fine views of Orford Ness, the countryside, and the town can be had from the roof.
The castle makes an interesting visit. Visit time ~ 1.5 hours.
The Landguard Fort lies near the end of a spit of land near the Port of Felixtowe. There have been several forts on this site, but the present one is of 18th and 19th century construction, with a few 20th century additions. The 18th century fort was pentagonal, but two sides of this were replaced in the 1870’s by a curved bastion containing heavy guns, plus a semicircular building enclosing the centre parade ground.
The fort has had various uses, including as a control point for mining the estuary in the Victorian period, as part of extensive port defences in WWI, and as a Fire Command Headquarters in WWII. During WWII the defences included 6″ guns.
The fort’s usage declined after the war, closing by the 1960’s.
The fort makes a very interesting visit. All parts can be explored, and an audio guide is available. One of the casemates contains a huge replica gun. Visit time ~ 3 hours.
Outside the fort, the Felixtowe Museum occupies the former mining building, and the beach, visitor centre and nature reserve are nearby.
The approach to the fort runs between the nature reserve and the modern Port of Felixtowe with its cranes and container ships. There is parking outside the fort and a little further on at the visitor centre. The parking can fill up at peak times e.g. sunny bank holidays.
The castle was built by the Bigod family in the 12th century, and was home to earls and dukes of Norfolk for over 400 years.
The outer walls and towers are well preserved, but the halls and domestic buildings within the walls have not survived. Inside the walls is a poorhouse built in the 17th century. A number of decorated Tudor brick chimneys stand atop the walls. Most of these are purely ornamental.
It is possible to walk around the walkway on top of the walls (anti-clockwise only), access being via the shop in the present Great Hall. This gives good views of the surrounding country.
The castle is impressive and well worth a visit. Visit time ~ 1.5 hours
There is a public pay car park in front of the castle. The fee can be claimed back at the Castle ticket office.
Holkham Hall, North Norfolk
Holkham Hall and estate are essentially the creation of one man, Thomas Coke, who built it in 1734-1759. It is said to be one of the 10 best houses in England. The house is built of buff-coloured brick from brickworks on the estate. First impression is that it’s big, and rather austere-looking. (think of Whitehall or the Bank of England parked in the Norfolk countryside). The central core is quite big, and then there are four symmetrically placed wings, plus the service courtyard. It seems that the house is meant to be viewed from the south. However today’s visitor approaches from the north-east past the service courtyard, and can only see the south front after a trek around the inner park.
The house opening hours are quite restricted, and it can take 2 hours to go around the interior, so it’s as well not to be distracted by any outside exhibits, walks, tea-rooms etc. On entering, the visitor’s reaction is likely to be Gosh!! Look at that!! rather than “nice room”. This is said to be the most impressive hall in England, with alabaster walls, Roman columns, a double staircase, coffered cieling, semicircular vaults, bas-reliefs, side balconies, plasterwork, and lots and lots of gold-leaf. Several of the other rooms carry on the same theme, such as the sculpture gallery (with ancient Roman sculpture), the libraries (with Birds of America and scores of huge volumes of the Cosmographica, a medaeval world atlas, on the shelves), and the Drawing Room, Saloon and South Dining room all built and furnished to impress.
If you stand in the right spot in the saloon you can see an enfilade right from one end of the house to the other, and at 90 degrees to that, a monument out in the parkland to the north, and another to the south, both on the axis you’re standing on. Paintings are well represented, and some are by famous artists, and some are big (or both). The tour ends in the Old Kitchen, in one of the wings – a room big enough to swallow the whole of my house, and probably some of yours as well.
Unusually, the hall has never suffered major alterations, or sales of contents, and still belongs to the Cokes, descendants of the builder.
Outside, there’s the the park and the estate, which stretches to the sea, a walled garden (which I didn’t see), and outbuildings, and some private gardens. Around the service courtyard are the ticket office, tea-rooms and some exhibitions. The Bygones exhibition (a chargeable extra) containing various artefacts and vehicles, is interesting, but could be skipped if you’ve seen that sort of thing elsewhere or are short of time. The history of farming exhibition (free) is quite interesting. It’s worth asking what discounts are available, as with parking (£2.50), guidebook (£6) etc a visit can become quite expensive.
I arrived arround mid-day, but Holkham is a suitable destination for an all-day visit.