At Long Melford
The Benedictine abbey at Bury St Edmunds owned the manor of Melford even before 1066. It was Henry VIIIís dissolution of the monasteries that placed it in private hands by 1547. He put his own man, William Cordel, in as tenant. Cordell, a lawyer, shortly became the owner and built the red brick hall on display today. He added an eastern wing to enclose the courtyard. Turrets were another addition. It was in the 18th century that the sash windows replaced the original mullion ones, and in 1838 a gatehouse was added.
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In 1578 Queen Elizabeth was a guest. The house belonged to a Catholic, Countess Rivers, during the civil war, and the Parliamentarians sacked it in 1642. The once wealthy countess, who was forced to mortgage the property as a result, died in debtorís prison. Another family member took up the mortgage, and his heirs continued in residence until 1786 when they sold the hall to Sir Harry Parker, 6th baronet. His relatives were well known for their illustrious naval careers. The 12th baronet, Sir Richard Hyde Parker, is the 21st century resident.
During World War II the house was occupied by the military and suffered a terrible fire. Sir William, father of the current resident, restored the hall and in 1960, it was transferred to the National Trust. A very large specimen beech tree sits in the grounds. A banqueting house is in the garden.
A tour of Melford Hall:
The hall: The windows have panels of amorial glass which were put in place by the 9th baronet. Furniture includes two Elizabethan court cupboards and Charles II high-backed chairs. Chinese porcelain and ivory figures belonged to a Spanish galleon captured in 1762. There are pictures of mythological subjects above the panelling and portraits of family members around the fireplace. Doric columns replaced the original screens c.1815, and a fireplace was added at the same time.
The Hyde Parker room: There are portraits of the Parker family, rococo console tables, and part of a set of early 18th century dining chairs in this room, severely damaged by the fire.
The blue drawing room: Surviving the fire were the cornice, panelled walls, and carved wood rococo style chimneypiece. Furnishings include a Queen Anne burr walnut card table, early Georgian settee, Louis XV writing table with Sevres inlay plaques, Chinese porcelain, and a seaweed marquetry clock.
The library: This was added in 1813 when the space between the west front turrets was converted. There are two rooms. One is designed in octagon shape with Ionic scagliola columns. It has rosewood bookcases with brass inlay. The 5th baronetís portrait is over the fireplace. The larger library room has a dado of oak with panels of yew wood veneer. The furniture is thought to be by Morant and Co. Scenes of naval action dominate the paintings in this room. By the staircase is more Chinese porcelain.
The staircase: The staircase, in the Greek revival style, was added in 1813 by Thomas Hopper. There are circular brass grilles, once part of a central heating system.
The boudoir: The chimneypiece and panelling here are dated c1740 In the cabinets are a pair of 19th century Meissen vases, early wine glasses, and Furstenberg and Meissen dinner service pieces. Two gilt chairs are French from the 18th century. There is a Louis XIV Boulle clock.
The Gallery: The stained glass window is a portrait of Queen Elizabeth I. Countess Riversís portrait hangs here.
The chapel: This was once the minstrelsí gallery of the banqueting hall.
Beatrix Potter room: Beatrix Potter, a cousin of Ethel, Lady Hyde Parker, visited Melford hall, and some of her watercolours and sketches are on display.
The corridor: Portraits hang on the walls.
The west bedroom: This is the room that Beatrix Potter stayed in. Furniture is mid-Victorian.
The north bedroom and its dressing room: This room is furnished in the 1750s style. There are a Florentine cabinet, Chinese porcelain, and naval pictures in the room.
When visiting the hall, allow time to visit the town of Long Melford with its attractive, very long high street and interesting shops. Don't forget to visit the church.
Long Melford, Sudbury, Suffolk
Tel. 01787 379228
Open: house and grounds, April-end Oct, Wed, Thu, Fri, BH, 1-5pm; on weekends from noon 5pm for grounds, noon-1pm only for house
Light refreshments only; second-hand bookshop; plant sales; car park
Photos of exterior, beech tree and Long Melford houses © by Barbara Ballard
Other photos © and courtesy National Trust Photo Library