Burton Agnes is a symmetrical red brick Tudor/Jacobean house, built between 1601 and 1610 and designed for Sir Henry Griffith. The architect was Robert Smythson who also designed Hardwick Hall and Longleat.
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The three storey hall has been in the same family for more than 400 years with very few alterations. Some mullioned windows were replaced with sash ones. The property itself has been owned by the same family since 1173 when a different house stood here. It was built in 1173 by Roger de Stuteville. The only remains of this original Norman house are the lower chamber, the piers and the 15th century stone-vaulted ceiling.
Entry to the property is through a gatehouse and avenue of yew trees. The turreted brick gatehouse was built in 1610 and shows the arms of James I. Externally the house has five-sided, semi-circular and square bays with battlements, balustrades, and carved stone cartouches. The entry door is at the side of one of the bays.
From an entrance hall there is a screens passage leading to a great hall. The passage and its fireplace have carved into them many Biblical scenes as well as mythological figures. The great hall has outstanding plasterwork, Elizabethan carving and panelling. An inner hall has a painting of the daughters of Sir Henry Griffith, the builder. More carving is found in the drawing room.
The red drawing room has painted and gilded Elizabethan panelling with a carved chimney piece showing the Dance of Death. A Chinese room has mid 18th century lacquer panels. A garden gallery has a collection of impressionist and post-impressionist paintings.
The dining room contains an Elizabethan chimney piece, once in the long gallery which has a barrel ceiling. In the dining room are Chippendale chairs and a Gainsborough painting.
The oak staircase is original to Tudor times and leads to an upper drawing room replete with furniture from Adam, Hepplewhite, Sheraton and Kent periods. Other rooms in the house reflect the style of their 1730s renovation.
The bedrooms also have carved panelling and plaster ceilings. Collections of 17th century furniture and French Impressionist paintings are located in many of the rooms. The long gallery, sited at the top of the house, runs its whole length. A barrel ceiling is decorated with a plasterwork pattern of honeysuckle. On the walls is a collection of 19th and 20th century paintings. Modern artwork is also on display in the library and upper drawing room.
The ghost of Anne, the youngest daughter of Sir Henry Griffith, who was fatally wounded by robbers, is said to haunt the Queen’s state bedroom. When dying she extracted a promise from her sisters to preserve her head in the Hall. When this dying wish was not carried out, she haunted the room until her sisters dug up her grave in the adjoining churchyard and carried out her wish. It is thought her skull still remains hidden in one of the walls.
In the grounds and garden are a maze, 4000 species of plants, a jungle garden, ponds and fountains, a walled garden, a potager filled with herbs and vegetables, herbaceous borders, fruit beds, and giant board games. There is a national collection of campanulas, and walks in the woodlands.
The gardens won the HHA Christies Garden of the Year Award 2005. The garden is open at snowdrop time and also has an orchid week and other special events and festivals. There is a woodland sculpture walk.
Be sure to visit the village church, St. Martin’s in the grounds. Built 800 years ago, it has seen much alteration over the years but still exudes the feeling of centuries.
Burton Agnes Hall and Gardens
Driffield, off the A614 near Bridlington
Tel. 0 1262 490 324
Open: April-end Oct, daily, 11am-5pm; gardens also open some days in Feb, Nov, and Dec—check website for full details
Historic Houses Association member; tea-room; village church; shops; parking; special events; weddings
Web: Burton Agnes Hall
Photos © by Barbara Ballard except snowdrops and gardener’s fair courtesy Burton Agnes Hall and Gardens.