“ Address: Driffield / East Yorkshire / YO25 4NB/ Telephone: 01262 490324 / Between Driffield and Bridlington on the A614. Burton Agnes Hall is an exquisite Elizabethan house filled with treasures from art to furniture and porcelain that has been collected by our family over five centuries. Beautiful gardens surround the Hall along with a jungle garden and more than four thousand plant species to admire. „
I have seen the sign to Burton Agnes Hall every time that I have visited Bridlington or Flamborough Head over the years. It is a place that I had always thought that I would like to pay a visit too, but then the fleeting thought would be gone, and forgotten about until my next journey to the East Yorkshire coast. Maybe it is something to do with the lovely, picturesque village of Burton Agnes itself that stirs my imagination every time, for the Hall cannot be seen from the main road that passes close by at all.
A few weeks ago I finally made this small detour off the main A165 Hull to Bridlingon road. My visit to Burton Agnes Hall was an interesting experience, albeit a somewhat sad one as this is a place that I always also promised to take my Grandmother too, but unfortunately she is no longer here for me to fulfil that promise. Instead I visited here with my partner and a couple of friends.
Despite the fact that Burton Agnes Hall is not visible from the road it is only after about a hundred metres along a narrow driveway from the road before it comes into view. I have always believed in first impressions and this is one that will stay with you for quite some time. As far as grand English Country houses go this is about as grand as they get. It has been listed amongst the top twenty English houses alongside Windsor Castle, Buckingham Palace, Chatsworth House and Blenheim Palace.
Burton Agnes Hall dates from the early part of the 1600's when it was built for its first owner, Sir Henry Griffith. Robert Smythson, a leading architect of that time, designed it and it is built in a traditional Jacobean style. Robert Smythson was the Master mason to Queen Elizabeth 1 and is credited with the design of several prominent English buildings. If you consider that it took almost a decade to complete this should give you some idea of the scale of this house. Today this building is a Grade 1 listed building that is owned and managed by the present owner, Hon Elizabeth Susan Whitelaw, the daughter of the 1st Viscount Whitelaw and her son Simon.
It is known that a much older building stood on this same spot and there are still a few remains of this original Norman building that can still be seen here. It is thought that the original Burton Agnes Hall was built in 1173 by Roger de Stuteville and that it took its name from one of his daughters, Agnes.
This house is still lived in by the present occupiers so there are certain areas of the building that are out of bounds to the general public but approximately 50% of the house can be visited. The two areas of the house that I will always remember the most vividly are the main hall and the long gallery.
The long gallery as its name suggests is where the majority of the large paintings can be found. These include several portraits of the prominent family members amongst other paintings that have been collected over the centuries. The ceilings of the long gallery are also noted for their magnificent chimney columns and their plaster ceilings. These original features have recently been restored twice, in 1951 and again in 1974.
The main hall is the sort of place that makes you draw a deep breath as you step inside. Here there are more paintings and other works of art along with tapestries, carvings and contemporary furniture. The feel here however is much more modern than that of other areas of the house. As I stood at the entrance to this room I tried to work out how many times my own living room would fit into this vast space.
As with most buildings of this age there are many tales associated with it from over the centuries and as you walk around the house there are information placards that tell the visitors of its rich life. One such story is that of Sir Henry Griffith's daughter, Anne who was promised the most beautiful house in England by her father. She spoke about this place constantly and dreamed of living here but just a few weeks before the final stones were laid she was brutally attacked and a few days later died from her injuries. It is said that as she lay on her death bed she made her sisters promise that if she died they would cut off her head and place it in the main hall. When Anne died she was initially buried in the churchyard here but soon afterwards strange things began to happen and it was all believed to be the doing of the unhappy ghost of Anne. Eventually her body was exhumed and her skull was put on display in the main hall. Almost immediately peace returned to Burton Agnes Hall. Eventually this skull was built into one of the walls in the hall where it still remains today.
Once you have visited the house the gardens should not be overlooked. I was fortunate to visit on a warm, sunny day and the gardens were full of people just strolling around, enjoying the sunshine and the open spaces. Close to the house there is a walled garden, which originally provided a source of fresh fruit and vegetables for the house as well as a supply of fresh cut flowers. Today, this walled garden has been fully restored back to its former glory and it has recently won several awards. Also close to here there are many bushes where the topiary skills of the grounds men have been tested. There is also a maze and a jungle garden. The latter contains many exotic plants of over 4,000 different species.
Burton Agnes Hall is a fine example of Elizabethan architecture but it is without doubt that it has survived in the condition that we see today because of the attitudes and efforts of the owners, who clearly have a vision and a belief that our heritage should be preserved. Various owners of this house have been avid collectors of paintings, furniture, porcelain and bronzes, all of which can found here. There are however much more modern pieces here too. In 1949 the ten owner, Marcus Wickham-Boynton made the decision to open up this house to the public. Following his death in 1989 care of the house and estate was handed over to his daughter, the Hon Elizabeth Susan Whitelaw who now takes care of things with assistance from her son, Simon. I am told that both of these characters can regularly be seen around the house and will often greet the guests, although there was no sign of either of them during my visit.
I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to Burton Agnes Hall and I would certainly recommend a visit here if you are in the area. It does however work out a little bit expensive. The current admission charges are:
House & Gardens:
Adult - £6.00 (9 Euros)
Child - £3.00 (4.5 Euros)
Concession - £5.50 (8.25 Euros)
Adult - £3.00 (4.5 Euros)
Child - £1.50 (2.25 Euros)
Concession - £2.75 (4 Euros)
The house and gardens are open at the following times:
1st March - 31st March: Thursday through to Sunday from 11am until 4pm
1st April - 31st October: Daily from 11am until 5pm
1st November - 23rd December: daily from 11am until 5pm.
Burton Agnes Hall
Telephone: 01262 490 324
Fax: 01262 490 513