Exploring the house at Ickworth

You'll already know that we spent a good few hours wandering around grounds at Ickworth - see the parks and gardens at Ickworth House and that I've teased you with a couple of black and white pictures of the staircase and landing already - see Black & White photos #6: A sneak peek into Ickworth House - well here's the last of my posts from our visit to Ickworth House.

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It really is a lovely place to visit.

The rotunda - which took 37 years to complete - is the eye catcher of the house and rightly so, it was designed to impress and to hold the Earl-Bishop's art collection "in a way which would be instructive to his visitors" but there is so much more to see.

The tour of the house starts downstairs and alongside the stairs that down you below stairs are some fantastic quotes from both family members and servants alike. 

My favourites were from Mary MacRae, Lord and Lady Bristol's granddaughter who said "... the men all shot and they had a lovely time, grumbling if they didn't get as many birds as they expected to" and "Lunch was generally, in the big shoots, taken out to one of the keeper's cottages, silver an' all"

Both of these quotes immediately set the scene of a very busy house both upstairs and below.  We've all seen Downton Abbey and other period dramas so know that the real busy-ness happens below stairs, not that those above stairs would ever really admit to it!

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Downstairs at Ickworth is set out to give you an understanding of how the house works, and it's really effective.  This is the finishing kitchen which is under the main rotunda and was converted as part of a modernisation project in the early 20th-century.

It was only used when the family were entertaining on a grand scale and using the dining room in the Rotunda rather than their family dining room in the east wing.  Food was prepared in the main kitchen and then brought here for finishing before being served; it sounds odd to us but this ensured the food was served hot - something that was quite unusual and that the family were proud of as often at large gatherings this often didn't happen!

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The basement is set up as it would be in the mid-1930s and you are encouraged to explore it, opening drawers or using the 1930s typewriter to bash out a note.

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As you wander around the basement you hear clips which bring each room to life, these are the result of many hours of interviews with surviving servants, family members and friends who used to live and work at Ickworth during the 1900s and they're fascinating.  The volunteers too below stairs (and upstairs) are there to share more about the rooms and the people that used them on a daily basis.

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Back upstairs we headed towards the Pompeian room with its rare neo-classical frescoes.  The room was completed in 1879 and has recently been the object of preservation following water damage from the corridor roof, but the colours are amazing and we spent some time in here just simply in awe.

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The other thing we noticed is the curved corridors.  The floorboards also curve and match the curvature of the walls, how much detail?

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As well as noticing floors, I often notice and am quite taken with ceilings (remember the one from my earlier post of the church on the estate) so here's another painted ceiling I saw as we wandered through the house.

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Upstairs we found ourselves in the Lady of the house's bathroom.  And it was quite literally that - a room with a bath - there was no toilet as we'd expect today, there were still servants for that sort of thing! 

But just look at the tiles, aren't they gorgeous?

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In her bedroom there was a lovely coloured chandelier - sorry the picture is not so good - but the colours, they really were good.

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And then all too quickly, we'd completed the tour.  We returned to the landing with the impressive roof, which we learned was originally meant to be left open but was enclosed for practical heating reasons and that up until relatively recently the Marquess of Bristol would insist on giving local children personal tours to the top of the rotunda!

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So if you're ever in Suffolk, don't forget to pop into Ickworth!

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