Holdenby House was built in 1583 by Sir Christopher Hatton, Lord Chancellor, for the purpose of entertaining Queen Elizabeth I. It later became James Iís palace and the place where Charles I (Jamesís son) was held prisoner in 1647 for five months. A walk with a border is named after him. The house had 123 large glass windows and two courtyards. As he died with no issue, James I took over the house and used it to entertain guests.
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The home became the property of Adam Baynes, a Parliamentarian, after the civil war. He destroyed all but one wing. In 1790 the Duke of Marlborough bought the house. Since that time the female line of the Lowther family has inherited the estate.
The Holdenby House on view today is based around the remaining old palace kitchen wing. It was restored in the 1870s and later enlarged. There are a number of rooms on view, including the entrance hall with paintings. A ballroom, with its original silk walls redecorated in 1984 contains paintings of the Lowther family. The dining room also had original silk wall coverings which have been replaced.
Furniture includes 18th century globes. The library is the original from the Elizabethan palace. The piano room, with its 1912 French handblocked wallpaper was once a billiard room. There are a number of early pianos and musical instruments here that are part of the British Musical Museum collection.
Holdenby House garden is a Grade 1 listed garden. It comprises 20 acres that include lawns and hedges, formal gardens, and the terraces of an original Elizabethan rose garden (Rosemary Verey replanted this in 1980, but used only plants that were available in 1580). Original Victorian greenhouses have survived in a walled kitchen garden.
A border, named Tous Tous after Lady Clifdenís daughterís dog, was replanted in 1980 by Rosemary Verey and completed by Rupert Golby. The dog is buried in the garden. He also designed a pond garden that sits among yew hedges. Silver plants are a favourite of the current owner and the silver border section of the garden is continually being expanded.
The Falconry Centre contains many species of birds of prey, flown by the resident Falconer. There may be a chance to fly them yourself. Birds on site include the Lanner falcon, European eagle owl, Harris hawk, and black eagle.
Six miles northwest of Northampton, Northamptonshire
Off the A428 or A5199
Tel. 0 1604 77074
Open: gardens and falconry centre, April-end Sep, Sun and BH Mon, 1-5pm; house open noon-5pm, several days in the year only, ring for details or check website.
Holdenby House is a member of the Historic Houses Association.
Web: Holdenby House
Photos © by Barbara Ballard