On the 10th March my Mum and I headed towards Horringer in Suffolk for a weekend stay at Clarice House residential spa. This was our 3rd visit to Clarice, an early Mothers Day celebration for us both.
Clarice House sits comfortably at the end of a tree lined drive, snug amongst the foliage that frames it. The staff offer an informal, friendly yet professional welcome and are warm and attentive. The restaurant caters for all needs and serves aromatic, taste explosions served in 3 courses for both lunch and dinner, each dish is a work of art and everything is cooked fresh on the premises, including the delicious bread rolls. The rooms are varied, luxurious and comfortable, offering modern needs in a historic atmosphere.
I love everything about Clarice and on this visit I planned to capture some of it's character in my new Venezia 9x12" sketchbook. The sketchbook arrived just in time and I plan to use it solely for my sketches of historical houses, halls and castles and there will be many through the summer as these beautiful pieces of history are a passion of mine, and instinctive love that grips you from youth, stops you in your tracks and makes you feel you belong and never want to leave. A longing for times and skills lost to the 20th century.
I had a huge problem trying to find any history on the house, all of my searches brought up past price lists for the spa treatments or residential spa, eventually I gave up and hoped I would be able to discover more on my stay. It was Saturday night while I was sketching the fireplace in the main reception that I overheard a gentleman talking to a couple beside me. Clarice House history poured from his tongue and, hard as I tried, I couldn't write it all down quickly enough so I excused myself and asked if he might jot some dates down for me. Bill Goreham did much more than that, he printed out an A4 from the computer, a piece he had worked on that explained the house history in full. I was thrilled and remain very grateful. (Thank you Bill!)
Clarice house, otherwise known as Horringer Court, was originally called The Red House and was thought to be one the Bury monks farms or rest houses. In the 18th century it was used as an overflow for servants of the guests of the Earl of Bristol when they visited Ickworth House. In 1830 it was owned by Mr William Steggles and the brick, chalk and lime works started and by 1837 gravel was already being dug. The 1841 census states that agricultural worker Robert Pearson, his wife and six children lived in the house, taken over by Rev. Robert Stote-Fox in 1869 who planted the grounds with flowers and trees, the quarries now abandoned. In 1892 Rev. Stote-Fox died and his widow rented the property to local J P Edward Hawkins and in 1898 he purchased it. Edward Hawkins made huge changes, gutting the property and rebuilding it almost from scratch in Elizabethan style as well as renaming it "Horringer Court". His and his wife's initials can still be seen in the stained window in the lobby and stairs landing. The building we see today is his conception and it came at high cost, sending him into financial difficulty and his marriage in jeopardy.
In 1904 Mr James Jump owned the house passing the honour to Mr Blagge by 1912. In 1916 it was purchased by the honourable Captain Malcolm Bowes-Lyon, Uncle to the Queen Mother, who reportedly used the grounds to exercise his horses and men. After the war it was sold to fellow officer Captain James Grace who died in 1928 leaving the house empty for two years before Mrs Buxton, relative of the Gurney and Barclays bank family, purchased the property.
In 1947 it passed to local businessman Rowland Todd and in 1950 the chalk caves were found to have the largest and most important roost of rare Brandts bats in eastern England by 1974 they were blocked up with bars to prevent disturbance and became an SSS1. In the mid 60's Todd died his artistic wife following him in 1970, her paintings can still be seen hanging around Clarice House. Their Son John Todd lived in the house alone until finally selling. The house became a home for mentally handicapped adults then as a residential nursing home, during this time some of the house was demolished because of deteriation.
In 2000 Mr Stewart King purchased the property and after extensive renovation, refurbishment and building work he has turned it into the leisure complex we see and admire today.
All of my sketches were created using Staedtler pigment liner, sepia pitt pen, watercolour pencils and Verithin coloured pencils.