Oxburgh Hall Part 2 – Interiors, ground floor

Library-chair-Oxburgh-HallFollowing on from Oxburgh Hall Part 1 let’s now take a tour of the interior of this National Trust moated manor house. As we wander through the ground floor rooms we find essentially a nineteenth-century, neo-Gothic revival aesthetic. As with any property surviving over 500 years the handful of grand rooms open to visitors is an eclectic mix of period layers, but essentially the top gloss is a Victorian version of Gothic.

The-Saloon-Woolworth-Chandelier-Oxburgh-Hall
Nineteenth-century cut glass chandelier. It is either of English or American manufacture and was brought to Oxburgh Hall in 1985. It is known as the ‘Woolworths Chandelier’ as it was purchased by the NT using funds from a charitable trust connected to one of the heirs to the Woolworths fortune.

The first noteworthy room on the tour is the Saloon. This is a large space built to be a picture gallery by the architect John Tasker in 1775. Today, all is not quite what it seems. For example, beneath the residual Neo-classical frieze (see chandelier photo) is a red Gothic Revival wallpaper. The original Pugin design for a red flock wallpaper was made by  J D Crace, but the paper on the walls today is a replica. This large room is also hung with a number of oil paintings that turn out to be mostly 19th-century copies of earlier royal portraits.

Lady-Arundell-of-Wardour
Lady Arundell of Wardour – oil on canvas. Circa 1694 – 1744

There are a few earlier primary pictures such as this portrait of Lady Arundell of Wardour that may have adorned this specific space when it was first built. Lady Arundell was a distant cousin of Sir Henry Arundell Bedingfeld’s (1689-1760) wife. As an interesting and valuable original painting, it was sold from the estate in 1951 before the house was given to the NT. However, in 2007, it was bought back by the NT for £11,250 from an auction at Sotheby’s in London and then restored to Oxburgh Hall.

Collectors' Cabinet - the Antwerp Cabinet
The Antwerp Cabinet – tortoiseshell, ivory, ebony and gilded copper.

The decision to style this room, despite its 18th century origins, with royal portrait copies, heavily carved neo-Gothic furniture, flock wallpaper and a 19th-chandelier giving it a high Victorian sensibility, is puzzling. Perhaps this is more a nod to a version of the manor house when it was in its Victorian heyday.  Of course, all these derivative oils may have been collected/bought by the Bedingfelds during the 19th century to boost their credentials during the period when the old English Catholic families were returning from exclusion. Interestingly, there is also a question mark as to the authenticity of one of the Oxburgh grand furniture pieces, the splendid Antwerp Cabinet. It looks like a Collectors’ Cabinet that was traditionally made in Antwerp during the period 1650 to 1670, but according to the experts it has features that suggest it may have been constructed in the 19th century to look like an older piece.

The West Drawing Room was also originally a Neo-classical room with floral chintz wallpaper, but was substantially changed in 1865. Today there is a painting by the renowned 18th-century portrait painter Angelica Kauffman hanging to the right of the original Neo-classical fireplace.

Angelica-Kauffman-portrait-of-Mary-Walsh
Portrait by Angelica Kauffman. Sitter is Mary Walsh, Mrs Ralph Clavering. Oil on canvas. c 1780

It’s a portrait of Mary Walsh also later known as Mrs Ralph Clavering, another Bedingfeld’s wife’s relative. It too was sold in 1951, but in 2008 it was also purchased back at Sotheby’s in London for £79,250 and returned to Oxburgh Hall by the NT. And, here’s what the NT has to tell us about finding the funding to make the purchase. It is an excerpt from their blog – Treasure Hunt, National Trust Collections:

It was clear that we would need significant funds to buy back the personable Mrs Clavering. However, the volunteers who run the second-hand bookshop at Oxburgh generously contributed a substantial sum, and we also managed to secure a grant from the MLA/V&A Purchase Grant Fund. In the end we had just enough to beat off the competition, and the picture is now back at Oxburgh.

Next we walk past the West Staircase which is adorned by the most fascinating painted leather wall covering (early 18th century from the Low Countries), but it’s cordoned off. Then it’s into the library. This room displays more of a wholesome expression of Victorian Gothic as it appears less restored and has a more authentic feel.

Oxburgh Hall library with Buckler fireplace
The Library, Oxburgh Hall.

Naturally, a library has many books and along with the room’s original Buckler fireplace (1831) and the (mostly original) heavily carved Victorian Gothic furniture, the library contains little groupings of ephemera that bring the room to life.

For example there is a table set with a cut glass decanter, glasses, pipes and matches, and, predictably, a family photograph. Oddly the chosen photograph is not an early photographic portrait – though it could be. They could have used the 19th-century photograph of Margaret Paston who married Sir Henry Bedingfeld in 1826. It was she, together with her husband, who was primarily responsible for the creation of this room. Obviously, the original image cannot be displayed in daylight, but a good quality copy could be easily made.

The-Dining-Room-Oxburgh-Hall

After the library we walk into the Dining Room which used to be the library during the 18th century. Like much of Oxburgh Hall this is another room reworked by the Victorian architect J C Buckler. During the 1830s Buckler oversaw the installation of the heavily carved wooden panelling some of which also includes earlier carved sections dating from 1635 and 1731. The room has an enchanting atmosphere created by the slightly distressed, gilt and scarlet wallpaper thought to be designed by the Victorian stained glass artist, Thomas Willement.

However, the most beautiful arrangement in the room is the octagonal table in the bay window.

Octagonal table made by the Belgian cabinetmaker Malfait.
Octagonal table made by the Belgian cabinetmaker Malfait.

How delightful it would be to sit here, sipping coffee and gazing out over the moat towards the Norfolk countryside.

As National Trust visitors when you enter Oxburgh Hall you turn right, but if you’re “U” then you turn left . . . . . . . .  a bit like boarding a plane!

Turn-Left-no-private.jpg

 

 

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Author: agnesashe

Artisan, blogger and passionate East Anglian working from home.

9 thoughts on “Oxburgh Hall Part 2 – Interiors, ground floor”

    1. I do like some Gothic Revival interiors, but perhaps one small room intensely decorated would be enough for me. Nowadays, I guess most of us find too much pattern somewhat overwhelming.

      1. Yes, that is what is interesting to me, how tastes have changed. But then, I don’t have my house looking the same as I did 25 years ago, either. Maybe these people might have a whole new look if things had progressed rather than being preserved – the problem of having an important house, I guess! You must think of the past!

    1. That’s nice of you to say so, but I’m no expert on the history of interiors, sadly, just VERY opinionated! 😁 Honestly, Gwen, you should have read the chunks I wrote and removed concerning the ‘art’ hung in two of the rooms. As an art historian one of the themes you’re encouraged to consider is the nature of artifice and authenticity and when I applied my critical eye to this strange house it was less than the sum of its average parts. Its saving feature is the moat and as my father remarked to me even that looks more impressive in photographs.

      1. One of my favourite words is synergy, the total being more than the sum of the individual parts. I liked to apply it to teamwork in the office. So what is the opposite word? Sounds as if you have discovered the definition! How lovely you could go with your father. I am just on my way back from a day trip to Kakadu in Northern Territory, and our last stop was to view aboriginal rock paintings. We were allowed to photograph them, but I am debating the ethics of posting those photos on my blog. It seems the kind of thing that should require the permission of the elders first. I might just explain the colours and significance.

  1. Mmm – that’s very tricky. Thinking about and considering other people’s visual culture – it’s difficult for Westerners to appreciate the sincere, spiritual importance of their rock paintings. So much of Western art, including religious art, has been about conscious, overt display that I think we assume that it’s the same the world over, but, of course, it’s not. I’m very sensitive to the possibility of treading on somebody-else’s ‘living’ culture. I suppose it depends on how the elders feel about it themselves.

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