Houghton Hall was built for Sir Robert Walpole between 1722 and 1735. Walpole was Britain’s first Prime Minister, and this palatial house was intended to celebrate his rising political fortunes. The state rooms have always been a showpiece. They still retain their original decoration, designed by the architect William Kent, and their original furnishings.
Walpole employed the architects James Gibbs and Colen Campbell to draw up plans for the house while William Kent took charge of the interiors. No expense was spared and each room was lavishly decorated using the finest craftsmen of the time. It was to become a place for political entertaining on a grand scale as well as family living.
In 1797 the house passed to the 1st Marquess of Cholmondeley after the death of Horace Walpole, Sir Robert’s only surviving son and fourth and last Earl of Orford. It remains a family home to the present 7th Marquess and his wife and children. Despite long periods of neglect when the house was put up for sale, little has changed since Walpole’s time with much of the original furniture and fabrics still in place as well as a considerable art collection.
BRITAIN'S FIRST PRIME MINISTER: Sir Robert Walpole
David and Rose, the Marquess and Marchioness of Cholmondeley,(pronounced Chumbly) in a private sitting room at Houghton Hall.
Airial view of Houghton Hall
The Stone Hall is the center of the house.
A vast two-storey chamber in marble, stucco and glowing silver limestone that formed the original entrance hall.
The ceiling in the Stone Hall features stucco medallions of Walpole’s wife and children
Thrones used for the State Opening of Parliament are kept in a stateroom at Houghton Hall.
As in other houses of that time, there was a progression of patterns and materials, with the boldest in the The Saloon. The wall covering is called Genoa cut velvet. The records show 164 yards were ordered to cover the walls.
The Saloon was the principal room of state and it preserves 18th-century upholstery and wall hangings of the same material. Over Kent's Ionic pedimented chimneypiece hangs once more Salvator Rosa's Prodigal Son (1651-5), one of Walpole's most treasured pictures.
The main dining room is known as the Marble Parlour because the whole of the west wall with its arched screen and buffet alcoves is of variegated marble. This arrangement originated with James Gibbs, although its final form was worked out between 1728 and 1732 by Kent. The focus of the room is a chimneypiece with a Rys-brack panel of The Sacrifice to Bacchus.
The White Drawing Room covered in white silk.
The Carlo Maratta Room, possesses a chimneypiece of white marble with decorations in black marble. Originally covered in green velvet, the walls were recovered in white silk in 1779. Recently green velvet was once again installed in the room.
The Picture Gallery-At the time of Walpole’s death in 1745, the art collection was one of the greatest treasures on Earth.
Sir Robert Walpole’s private study.
Looking into the Grand Stairway through a cherub decorated pediment.
The Great Staircase, featuring grisaille paintings by designer William Kent.
The Yellow Drawing Room features paintings by Jacques-Louis David, Hogarth, and Gainsborough
The Common Parlour features the almost over-powering grandeur of Kent's carved marble chimneypiece layered with white and purple-and-white marble from Seravezza near Carrara.
State bed with the coat of arms of Sir Robert Walpole, Houghton Hall, Norfolk, England, about 1726
The Embroidered Bedchamber, with bedhangings of oriental-style embroidery. The Brussels tapestry scenes are from the story of Dionysus.
Another Houghton Hall bedroom
The Green Velvet Bedroom
The Green Velvet Bedchamber at Houghton Hall. This bed was designed by William Kent with an enormous shell inspired by Venus' chariot.
The park is home to a herd of about six hundred white fallow deer, as well as small groups of other rare deer species from around the world, such as Pere David, Sambar and Chital.
The stables are even quite elegant!
Houghton Hall gardens
Some of the images are from visitinghousesandgardens.com
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