Blickling Hall, Norfolk

This impressive English country house, began life as a manor house. In the 11th century it was owned by Harold Godwinson (later to become the King of England), and then William I gave it to his chaplain. By 1091 it had become the country palace of the bishops. Towards the end of the 14th century, Sir Nicholas Dagworth (an important aide to Edward III) settled at Blickling, and had a rectangular, moated house built. By the end of the 15th century, Blickling Hall had passed into the ownership of the Boleyn family, and tradition has it that this was the birth place of Anne Boleyn, although no evidence exists to substantiate this. Eventually, in 1616, the estate was sold to Sir Henry Hobart and his descendants remained at Blickling Hall until 1940.

Many similarities exist between Blickling Hall and Hatfield House, as a result of Sir Henry employing the same architect to re-design Blickling Hall in 1619. Robert Lyminge, the architect, was asked to incorporate much of the existing medieval fabric into the new Jacobean building, which presented him with a real challenge. However, the magnificent red-brick house with leaded-light windows, many turrets and extravagant gables, gradually developed. To further enhance the design, Lyminge came up with the original idea of building identical service ranges to flank the house and allow for a grand forecourt to be formed. The Long Gallery was the most spectacular creation, 123ft (37.3m) in length, adorned with an intricately plastered ceiling, and offering fine views of the gardens on the east side of the house. Unfortunately, Sir Henry Hobart died before the work was completed.

In 1671 Charles II was made welcome at Blickling Hall and, before departing, conferred a knighthood on the current Hobart's eldest son. By 1683 the estate at Blickling was only a quarter of the size it was in 1625 due to debts, but a dowry, gained through marriage, temporarily solved the problem. Nonetheless, financial problems continued until, in 1728, Blickling Hall came into the ownership of Baron Hobart (later the first Earl of Buckinghamshire) and its fortunes slowly recovered. In the 1760s the 2nd Earl of Buckinghamshire was responsible for dividing the Jacobean withdrawing room into the splendid Chinese bedroom and dressing room that can be seen today. He also received the huge collection of books (some 10,000) from a distant cousin, and the Long Gallery was refurbished to accommodate the library.

With alterations and enhancements continuing throughout the generations, it is pleasing to note that attempts have been made to reflect the Jacobean nature of the house. The gardens also are a testament to inspired planting and good husbandry during the last 300 years. Blickling Hall has certainly had a colourful, sometimes turbulent, past with a fascinating array of important owners and visitors all making for a thoroughly interesting history, and a most enjoyable visit.


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