Oxburgh Hall, Norfolk

In 1482, when Sir Edmund Bedingfeld was granted a license by Edward IV to crenellate, he built the medieval, moated manor house that stood as a glorious status symbol, romantically adorned in the nature of a castle. Few alterations have changed the structure of Oxburgh Hall, although the original Great Hall was demolished in 1775, and it was extensively remodelled in the mid-19th century. Lavish enhancements were made, including a new suite of neo-Tudor rooms and, externally, the addition of splendid oriels and fancy twisted chimneys of moulded terracotta, giving the house a very gothic Victorian appearance.

Oxburgh Hall has been the home of the Bedingfelds since the early 15th century, and family members still occupy some parts of the house today. During the 16th and 17th centuries, they were continually persecuted for upholding their Catholic beliefs, yet they remained loyal to the Crown. Proof of this can be seen from the many documents on display in the Kings Room (named after Henry VII's visit to Oxburgh Hall in 1487). Also to be found in the centre cabinet in this room are Henry VIII's written instructions to Sir Edmund Bedingfeld regarding the funeral arrangements for Catherine of Aragon. Elizabeth I visited the Hall in 1578, despite having been held in the Tower of London (during the reign of her half sister Mary I) under the custody of Sir Henry Bedingfeld, who was the Governor of the Tower, and then under close house arrest for a further twelve months at Woodstock by him.

There are many fascinating, and beautiful, features at Oxburgh Hall. A magnificent spiral brick staircase (The Gatehouse Stairway) extending from the Armoury right up to the roof is just one example of the skilled craftsmanship employed in the construction of this fine house. In a small room, adjacent to the King's Room, are some unique examples of the embroidered wall hangings, completed by Mary, Queen of Scots during her captivity at Tutbury Castle. The 'Marian' hangings were the result of many hours of labour by Mary, and Elizabeth, Countess of Shrewsbury (the famous 'Bess of Hardwick'), who sewed companionably to pass the time.

What was once a very prestigious, family house, can still be much appreciated today as, under the care of the National Trust, Oxburgh Hall continues to be well maintained. In recent times, great care has been taken to reproduce some of the spectacular wallpapers used from existing fragments of the original, thereby maintaining a harmony and balance in the decorative order of the house.

Apart from the main house where, incidentally, there are some magnificent views of the surrounding countryside from the roof, the grounds also provide additional interest. There is a small 19th century chapel containing many old and interesting pieces, including a splendidly carved altarpiece; a colourful parterre in the garden to the east of the Hall; a walled Victorian kitchen garden; and 'My Lady's Wood'. Furthermore, just outside the grounds of Oxburgh Hall (across the main car park) is the partially ruined, parish church. Attached to the church is a small chantry chapel, the main place of burial for members of the Bedingfeld family for 300 years, from the late 15th to late 18th century. Recently restored, this wonderful Chantry has some fabulous, early Renaissance terracotta screens - something just not to be missed.


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