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Oxburgh Hall

Visited May 2017

Location Oxborough, Norfolk
Entrance Fee Yes
Railway Station Nearby No 
Parking Yes
Facilities Cafe, Gift Shop, Toilets
Map

 

Oxburgh Hall is a beautiful example of a late medieval fortified manor house. The builder of the hall Sir Edmund Bedingfield was given a licence to crenellate in 1482. This was the date of the construction of the gatehouse, still surviving today as one of the oldest parts of the building.

 


 

 


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As well as the gatehouse, the fortified elements of the building include a moat, castellations on the towers and gun ports. However, the hall is built of brick which although certainly adds to its beauty, would have done very little for its ability to withstand any serious attack. As in other structures such as this, it was more of a status symbol of a man whose position in court was on the rise (for a similar example of aspirationalism see Herstmonceux Castle)

 


 

 


 

Unfortunately for the Bedingfeld family their fortunes changed drastically over the next hundred years. England's split with the Roman Church was very difficult for them as the family remained staunchly Catholic. This led to mistrust of them at court, and they also suffered under the restrictions placed on them for the practising of their faith. They were at times subject to financial penalties and this meant that not a lot of money was available to carry out major building works at Oxburgh: meaning that much of the building that survives today is the original structure. The persecution of Catholics during the reign of Elizabeth I most probably led to the family building the impressive priest hole disguised as a garderobe, or toilet. This still survives today and the more adventurous visitor can climb down the hole and emerge up into a small chamber where priests would have once hidden. 

 

The Bedingfeld family were also staunchly Royalist, which caused problems during the Civil War, when the house was turned over by parliamentarians and much damage done. It was only after the restoration of Charles II that the family were able to start restoring both their fortune and their property. Although even then there were setbacks- the 4th Baronet demolished the medieval Great Hall in 1775, 'an act of vandalism' as one of his later successors noted.

 


 

 


 

Although owned by the National Trust, the Bedingfeld family still live at Oxburgh Hall so there are limitations to the rooms available on show. The main atrraction is the King's Room, named after the visit of Henry VII, although bizarrely it was not this room that he stayed in. The turret of this room contains the priest hole. Further down the corridor is a room containing the Marian Hangings, which are the embroideries of Mary Queen of Scots. She was never at Oxburgh, but the tapestries came from Cowdray Castle in Sussex via the marriage of Cowdray heiress Mary Browne to Sir Richard Bedingfeld in 1761.

 

At the top of  brick stairway is the Queen's Room, named after surprise surprise Elizabeth of York, King Henry's wife who stayed here with him. There is a small chapel leading from this room. There is also access to the roof from here, a view as far as Ely would be possible if there were not trees in the way.  One can also appreciate some of the decorative chimneys from this vantage.

 

Outside there are extensive grounds, with plenty of scope for walking- through woods or across vast, flat Norfolk fields. In the woods there are several lodge cottages once used by Oxburgh Hall workers. There is also a picturesque summerhouse built in the 1850's and  a den building area, where children are encouraged to use the available tree branches to make structures to play in. All good fun.

 

The tea rooms serve good food and are quite reasonable. You have to order and pay for your food first, in a corridor leading to the old kitchen. You then wait there to be taken to your table. A slightly odd system but it seems to work, and queues at busy times were well managed this way.

 


 

 


 

More info:  National Trust Oxburgh Hall

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