Newest Review: ... ran out and Samuel Morton Peto went bankrupt. The house was sold to Sir Francis Crossley, the son of a Yorkshire-based carpet manufactur... more
Somerleyton Hall and Gardens, Suffolk.
Somerleyton Hall and Gardens in Suffolk
Member Name: miffy1
Somerleyton Hall and Gardens in Suffolk
Advantages: A beautiful Stately Mansion set in acres of glorious parkland
Disadvantages: You could only access the hall via a guided tour. Not allowed in the upstairs rooms.
We often go out and about in Suffolk and a few weeks back we decided to visit Somerleyton Hall.
Somerleyton Hall is widely regarded as one of the best examples of an archetypal Tudor-Jacobean
mansion and one of the most beautiful stately homes in Britain. The house and fabulous gardens are open
to the public.
Getting to the hall is very easy as there are plenty of brown signs as you near the estate. If you are travelling from London take the M11, A11 towards Norwich, take the A146 to Lowerstoft and then A143 Beccles Rd towards Great Yarmouth. The journey should take about two and a half hours.
As you reach the gate into the estate, you really do get an idea of how vast it is. There is a very long tree-lined drive past the front entrance to the house, round to the car parks. There is ample parking (with spaces for disabled) that is free.
History of Somerleyton Hall:
The grounds of Somerleyton Hall have been home to high status buildings since the post conquest Norman era. In 1240 the existing manorial Hall was rebuilt by Sir Peter Fitzosbert as a magnificent country house on the site of the original medieval Hall.
Four centuries later the house was further enlarged and restyled by John Wentworth and transformed into an archetypal East Anglian Tudor-Jacobean mansion.
The Hall's final and most drastic alteration took place in 1843 under new ownership of a wealthy Victorian entrepreneur Samuel Morton Peto who hired John Thomas, Prince Albert's favourite architect, to carry out extensive rebuilding.
Carved Caen stone was used to dress the exterior red brick of the original house, sumptuous materials utilised to embellish the interiors, paintings commissioned for the house and the parkland was completely transformed and redesigned.
This flurry of activities came to an abrupt end when the money ran out and Samuel Morton Peto went bankrupt. The house was sold to Sir Francis Crossley, the son of a Yorkshire-based carpet manufacturer who purchased the Somerleyton estate in 1863. Since mid-19th century the estate has remained in the hands of the Crossley family who are continuing to play an active role in the conservation of the house and grounds and enjoy living in this magnificent mansion.
Somerleyton on TV:
The TV programme Most Haunted once did a show at the hall and apparently it does have several ghosts. The maze is supposed to be haunted, though we did not encounter anything strange during our visit. You were not allowed in the areas that Most Haunted investigated, which was a tad disappointing!
As well as Most Haunted, the hall has apparently been used in several historical dramas.
What We Thought Of The Place:
As you go from the car-park you are directed to a ticket office where you can buy your entry ticket. Staff here are very helpful. There are also toilets and a small gift shop in this building. The gift shop has a lovely range of books, toys and local jams and chutneys made from produce grown on the estate.
You are then directed along a path through some formal walled gardens where there is a hedge maze. It's not the largest maze we have been in, but it was quite fun to try and find the centre, where there is a raised viewing platform. The rest of the grounds have the most fantastic trees and a small pond, with many paths to explore. It really is beautifully maintained. There is a small garden centre back at the entrance where you can purchase flowers that are grown in the gardens.
As you come to the house it's oppulence is very clear! To think that someone still lives here is quite amazing! One thing we were slightly disappointed in was the fact that you cannot just walk round the house by yourself. You are directed to wait in the orangery (which gets quite hot!,) that is situated just off the tea-room, until the guided tour starts. Before you are allowed in the house you are given kind of elasticated plastic bags to wear over your own shoes to prevent damage to the floors and carpets. They caused a few smiles as everyone put them on and were not in any way very elegant, but you could not enter the house without wearing them!
We found the guides to be really knowledgable about the house and every room you are taken through is clearly explained and questions answered. There are some wonderful artifacts to see and fabulous paintings on the walls. I was amazed (being very interested in art) to see a painting by Wright of Derby on the wall of the dining room. He is one of my all-time favourite artists! The furniuture is as oppulent as the hall, and everything is kept spotless. You are taken through the Ballroom, Dining Room and Library (our favourite room...the books are fantastic!) as well as the entrance halls.
One area of the house that did not go down too well with my daughter though was the Entrance Hall because at the bottom of the staircase stands a huge stuffed brown bear! Apparently the family who lived at the hall were keen hunters back in the Victorian days and liked to show off their trophies. To be honest, I thought they were gross and felt quite sorry for the poor bear.
To make matters worse, the next room contained two enormous stuffed polar bears and several stags heads on the wall, so by this time my daughter was itching to get away from the place.
Another thing that disappointed us was the fact that you were not allowed upstairs. I would have loved to see the more of the house, though what we did see was worth the entrance fee, but I felt that there was a lot more that they could have shown visitors.
After the tour we went back to the tea-room, which sold lots of lovely homemade cakes and scones and some really good coffee too. A couple of peacocks were wandering about outside and kept begging at the door for tidbits! Food was reasonably priced and the waitresses brought them to your table and overall the service was good.
Overall, I thought it was a lovely day out and would go back again, as the estate is so vast that we didn't see it all. Fritton Lake is also on the estate and I think next time we would contrate on visiting that rather than the house again. That said, I loved the hall for all it's artwork. Would never have seen that Wright of Derby otherwise!
The hall and gardens are open to the public from April to September. They are closed every Friday and Saturday though.
Opening hours are:
Gardens: 10am - 5pm
Hall: 11.30am - 3.30pm (last tour)
Tea room: 10am - 5pm
The Gardens and Maze are also open during October:
Thursdays: 10am - 4pm
Sundays: 10am - 4pm
Gardens only: Hall & Gardens
Adult £5.50 (£4.50) £8.95 (£7.95)
Over 60's £4.50 (£3.50) £7.95 (£6.95)
Child £3.50 (£2.50) £4.95 (£3.95)
Family ticket: £25
£20 Over 60's
Private tours: £26 All Day / £15 Afternoon & Evening
All areas of the Hall that are open to the public are accessible by wheelchair.
Wheelchairs available on request.
All areas of the gardens are accessible and grass areas can be used for moving around - paths can be a little difficult after heavy rain.
There are two disabled toilets at the top of gardens and also in the Winter Garden.
Summary: A beautiful Stately Mansion which is well worth a visit