Holdenby Palace, built in 1583 by Sir Christopher Hatton, a favourite of Elizabeth I, was at the time the largest private house in England. One of its outstanding features was its 123 oversize glass windows looking down on two courtyards.
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It eventually became a palace for James I and served as Charles Iís (Jamesís son) prison for a while. The house was sold after the civil war to a parliamentarian who proceeded to tear all but one wing down, resulting in a building reduced to 1/8 its former size. What is left was the kitchen wing of the original palace. In the 1870s some restoration work took place under the direction of architect Richard Carpenter.
When visiting five rooms are on display:
Entrance Hall: added in the 1880s; still life paintings on the wall.
Ballroom: redecorated in 1984 by replacing the silk wall covering; portraits of the Lowther family.
Dining Room: original silk wall coverings replace; portrait of Charles I and future James II; notable furniture includes 18th century globes.
Library: survives from original building; fire screen once part of Elizabethan screen that separated the Great Hall from the chapel; books dating from the 16th century.
Piano Room: served as a billiard room in Victorian times; decorated with 1912 French handblocked wallpaper; collection of early and unusual pianos from the British Musical Museum; other musical instruments from around the world.
The 20 acre Grade 1 listed garden is set among lawns and hedges. There are formal gardens, terraces, a rose garden, a walled kitchen garden with Victorian greenhouses, borders, a pond garden with yew hedges, and a silver border reflecting the ownerís interest in silver leafed plants.
In the grounds is a 14th century church.
Holdenby House and Gardens
Six miles north-west of Northampton
Northamptonshire, East Midlands
Off the A428 or A5199
Tel. 0 1604 77074 (estate office)
Open: gardens and falconry centre, May-end Aug, Sun and BH Mon, 1-5pm; gardens only, Sun and BH Mon and Wed, April-end Sep, 11am-5pm except on Wed from 2-5pm; house open some BH noon-4pm, check website for exact days; other times for special events and groups by pre-booked appointment
Historic Houses Association member; wedding venue; schools program; parking
Web: Holdenby House, Gardens, and Falconry Centre
All photos © by Barbara Ballard