Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Oxburgh Hall - Part one

Oxburgh Hall reflection in moat on a sunny afternoon

Last week I paid a visit to Oxburgh Hall in Norfolk. Despite being built during the Wars of the Roses, Oxburgh Hall was never intended to be a castle but a family home. It was completed in 1482 for Sir Edmund Bedingfeld and the family have lived at Oxburgh ever since. It is now run by the National Trust, although the family still lives there.

Oxburgh Hall gardens in full bloom
The Parterre and hall.

The Parterre at Oxburgh was created in 1848, and were a feature of the 17th and 18th centuries. Traces of coal and cement have been found in the Parterre, suggesting that it was originally coloured with minerals as well as flowers. It became completely overgrown during the Second World War and was later restored. Today it requires 6,500 bedding plants annually, which are raised on site in the greenhouses.

Oxburgh Hall face on with reflection in moat
The Hall in all its red bricked glory.

The hall is usually open to visitors but unfortunately was closed for repairs when I visited, a window had fallen from the roof in August so some major building work was under way. But it wasn’t the end of the world, as there was still plenty to see in the grounds, and the spectacular view of the house from across the moat was worth the entrance alone.

Sunny afternoon at Oxburgh Hall in Norfolk
Swans have made the moat their home, talk about location.

The house contains a set of embroideries which were worked by Mary, Queen of Scots, and Elizabeth, Countess of Shrewsbury (‘Bess of Hardwick’) between 1569 and 1584. It is a common misconception that Mary, Queen of Scots was imprisoned at Oxburgh Hall, but this was never the case.

Oxburgh Hall and rowing boat on the moat
This side of the house was originally enclosed but it was knocked down to create a more open feel.

The Bedingfields of Oxburgh were traditionally Catholics, and like many Catholic nobility they had a priest either resident or visiting to celebrate Mass. In the post-Reformation era it was illegal to prictise Catholicism, but this did not stop the Bedingfields from following their faith. In 1589 they built a secret chamber, a priest's hole, where a priest could hide if the Hall was raided by the aiuthorities. A system of secret signals was devised; the sign that a service was being held was when the washing was left out.

Looking across the moat at Oxburgh Hall in Norfolk
Entrance to the Hall is over the bridge and through the impressive gatehouse.

The house was partially restored in the Victorian period, and many of the interior furnishings are from that period. But disaster was narrowly averted after the Second World war when the 9th Baronet sold the house to a local timber merchant who planned to tear it down and harvest trees on the estate. Lady Sybil Bedingfield sold off much of the interior contents and persuaded other family members to sell their own houses. Together they raised enough money to buy the property back and save it from destruction. In 1952 the family granted Oxburgh to the National Trust.

Chapel at Oxburgh Hall viewed from beneath the trees
A view of the chapel from the 'Wilderness'.

The Chapel of the Immaculate Conception and St Margaret was constructed in August 1835, and the chapel was opened in July 1836. It is still owned by the Bedingfeld family and is used regularly for Mass.

Norfolk stately home chapel of Oxburgh Hall in Norfolk
And a view from the other end.

The chapel is constructed out of recycled materials, some of the stones are very old and could have been taken from houses that were demolished to make way for the original construction of Hall, some of the other bricks seem to have been claimed from the Hall itself during remodelling work.

Ancient religious triptych at Oxburgh Hall chapel
The Oxburgh Altarpiece.

The Oxburgh Altarpiece is comprised of three sections, the altar table, the tabernacle and the triptych. The triptych, which was imported by the 7th Baronet in the 1870’s, was carved in Antwerp in around 1520 – 1530. The elaborate painted and gilded carvings depict scenes from the Passion of Christ.

Interior of chapel at Oxburgh Hall in Norfolk
Looking down the length of the chapel.

That's it, more or less for the house and chapel, in part two we'll explore the grounds and meet some very old oak trees.

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