Thursday, April 12
ICKWORTH HOUSE, Suffolk. UK
"I have now got to my centre of rest...Sweet Ickworth"
- John, 1st Earl of Bristol.
Even as you approach Ickworth house it is easy to understand the Earl's comment and obvious passion for the land laid out by Capability Brown. The 1st Earl of Ickworth adapted a modest farmhouse at Ickworth which was known as Ickworth Lodge and remained the family home until 1829.
The 4th Earl-Bishop had very different ideas and, inspired by the monuments of Rome, he began to build what is now known as Ickworth House. The unique central rotunda and curvy wings reveal Frederick's eccentric personality and would provide, not only a family home within the rotunda, but the wings would become a showcase for his treasures collected on his Continental trips of 30 years. The foundations for today's Ickworth were laid in 1795 and the rotunda was virtually finished when the Earl -Bishop passed away in 1803, sadly he would never see his dream complete.
"The house...The house...The house..."
- Frederick, 4th Earl of Bristol, written on his sick bed in Naples in 1796.
It was the Earl-Bishop's Son, 1st Marquess of Bristol who completed the house with the help of architect John Field, adapting his Father's plans to suit his family requirements. The last major alterations were made to the house in 1909-1911 when the 4th Marquess commissioned A.C. Bloomfield to remodel the entrance hall and staircase. The property passed to the National Trust in 1956.
Ickworth had a wonderful feel about it, children played, families laughed and had spread their picnics across the lawn in front of the house. Unrestricting, inviting and decadent. Rich yet homely and bulging with character and interest. I found myself repeating the words 'stunning' and 'beautiful' over and over again, room to room, treasure to treasure.
The Pompeian room was completed in 1879 when the 3rd Marquess employed Penrose & Grace to decorate it. The scheme is based on Roman wall-paintings uncovered in 1777 at the Villa Negroni on the Esquiline Hill in Rome. These had a special connection with the family because the Earl-Bishop had purchased some of the original frescoes while in Italy at the time of their discovery. It's a remarkable room within a remarkable house.
Joan and I stayed at the house, managing to leave just enough time for a coffee in the orangery before closing. The grounds remained open so we ventured towards the church we had seen on the brochure map.
St Mary's church sits just behind Ickworth house, well hidden by one of the large trees that decorate the land. Unfortunately it is now redeemed 'unsafe', the one feature of Ickworth now inaccessible to the public. We took the opportunity to rest a while and sat upon the grass opposite to create what would be our final sketch at Ickworth House.
We made our way back to the car through the tree-lined pathway, squirrels busying around us as Ickworth disappeared behind the foliage. Our drive back was full of conversation and the roads were surprisingly clear for a bank holiday Sunday.
How lucky we are to have seen such wonderful places in the company of such treasured friendship.