Ickworth house dates from 1795 and was the property of the 4th Earl of Bristol and bishop of Derry. It is considered as eccentric as its owner. The exterior entrance front is 180 feet long with two curving corridors leading off from a large rotunda. It is decorated with friezes. The Earl had the house designed to hold and display his large collection of furniture and art accumulated while touring Italy. Paintings on display include those by Gainsborough, Titian, and Velazquez.
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The estate was the home, from the 15th century, of the Hervey family. At the time of the building of Ickworth a Tudor manor house, Ickworth Hall, was on the property. The first earl of Bristol had it torn down in order to build a new mansion. However, he ran out of funds so had to use a farmhouse on the estate to live in.
Ickworth House, started by the 4th Earl, was not completed when he died. His son had the east wing designed for the family to live in rather than as an art gallery. They finally occupied the house in 1829, leaving the west wing empty. Further alterations took place in 1909-11.
‘Capability’ Brown created the park. There are woodland walks, an Italianate garden, a Grade II listed walled kitchen garden (with a vineyard), a church, a canal, and a lake. Also in the grounds is a Grade II listed red brick three-bayed Georgian summerhouse (1703).
Tour of the House:
Note: the unfinished west wing and the east family wing (now a hotel) are not open to the public when visiting the house.
Ground floor rooms:
Entrance hall: built in 1827, scagliola columns and black marble fireplace; portraits.
Staircase hall: large marble group.
Dining room: decorated and furnished in 1824-29; Ionic cornice, 18th century marble chimneypiece; portraits; mahogany dining table and chairs by Banting, France & Co; Chinese export armorial dinner service; gilt side-table.
Library: semi-circular room; used at times as breakfast room and for annual servants’ ball; plasterwork and scagliola columns; rosewood bookcases; paintings.
Drawing room: moulded panels on the walls added in 1909-11; gilded plasterwork; rose silk upholstery on five Italian gilt armchairs; marble inserts on chimneypiece; portraits.
East corridor ante-room: Edwardian fitted cabinet with porcelain collection including 1730 Meissen.
Near east corridor: mahogany bookcases; link between east wing and rotunda.
Smoking room: passage room to the rotunda; portraits.
Far east corridor: portraits.
West corridor and ante-rooms: interior finished in 1879; two busts of prime ministers.
Pompeian room: decor completed in 1879; wall paintings based on Roman ones; ebony bookcases; 18th century centre table inlaid with marble.
First floor rooms:
Museum landing: once had souvenirs; paintings.
Museum room: once a bedroom; Bristol collections of silver, miniatures (considered one of Britain’s best private ones), snuffboxes, and scent bottles; naval paintings.
Bathroom, west bedroom, and west dressing room: decoration completed 1909-11. used for guests; mahogany bed; paintings.
Housed kitchens, servants’ hall, beer and wine cellars, housekeeper’s and butler’s rooms; now used as shop and restaurant.
Ickworth House is located at Horringer, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk.
Tel. 01284 735270 for house; 01284 735350 for hotel.
Ickworth House is a National Trust property; the hotel is not.
Open: house, gardens, park, shop, and restaurant open different days and times depending on time of year. Check National Trust website or members’ guidebook for details.
Parking; events; restaurant; shop; walks in park and woods.
Exterior house photos © by Barbara Ballard.
Other photos courtesy Geograph Britain and Ireland as follows: summerhouse and grounds by Bob Jones; garden by Keith Evans
The National Trust did not allow interior photos when we visited.