Houghton Hall
For the building of a similar name in the East Riding of Yorkshire see Houghton Hall
Houghton Hall, East Riding of Yorkshire
Houghton Hall is a stately home in the East Riding of Yorkshire, England, set in . Located on the estate is the village of Sancton. The hall is a Grade I listed building....

. For the ruined building in Bedfordshire see Houghton House
Houghton House
Houghton House is a ruined house located near Houghton Conquest in Bedfordshire, on the ridge just north of Ampthill, and about 8 miles south of Bedford. It is a Grade I listed building....


Houghton Hall (icon ) is a country house in Norfolk
Norfolk is a low-lying county in the East of England. It has borders with Lincolnshire to the west, Cambridgeshire to the west and southwest and Suffolk to the south. Its northern and eastern boundaries are the North Sea coast and to the north-west the county is bordered by The Wash. The county...

, England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

. It was built for the de facto first British Prime Minister, Sir Robert Walpole
Robert Walpole
Robert Walpole, 1st Earl of Orford, KG, KB, PC , known before 1742 as Sir Robert Walpole, was a British statesman who is generally regarded as having been the first Prime Minister of Great Britain....

, and it is a key building in the history of Palladian architecture
Palladian architecture
Palladian architecture is a European style of architecture derived from the designs of the Venetian architect Andrea Palladio . The term "Palladian" normally refers to buildings in a style inspired by Palladio's own work; that which is recognised as Palladian architecture today is an evolution of...

 in England. It is a Grade I listed building surrounded by 1000 acres (4 km²) of parkland adjacent to Sandringham House
Sandringham House
Sandringham House is a country house on of land near the village of Sandringham in Norfolk, England. The house is privately owned by the British Royal Family and is located on the royal Sandringham Estate, which lies within the Norfolk Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.-History and current...


Those who most influenced the initial development of plans and construction at Houghton were:
  • Colen Campbell
    Colen Campbell
    Colen Campbell was a pioneering Scottish architect who spent most of his career in England, and is credited as a founder of the Georgian style...

    , who began the building (1722)
  • James Gibbs
    James Gibbs
    James Gibbs was one of Britain's most influential architects. Born in Scotland, he trained as an architect in Rome, and practised mainly in England...

    , who added the domes
  • William Kent
    William Kent
    William Kent , born in Bridlington, Yorkshire, was an eminent English architect, landscape architect and furniture designer of the early 18th century.He was baptised as William Cant.-Education:...

    , who designed the interiors (circa 1725-1735).
  • Thomas Ripley
    Thomas Ripley (architect)
    -Career:He first kept a coffee house in Wood Street, off Cheapside, London and in 1705 was admitted to the Carpenter's Company. An ex-carpenter, he rose by degrees to become an architect and Surveyor in the royal Office of Works...

    , Kent's rival, supervised much of the building work

The house has a rectangular main block which consists of a rustic basement at ground level, with a piano nobile
Piano nobile
The piano nobile is the principal floor of a large house, usually built in one of the styles of classical renaissance architecture...

, bedroom floor and attics above. There are also two lower flanking wings joined to the main block by colonnade
In classical architecture, a colonnade denotes a long sequence of columns joined by their entablature, often free-standing, or part of a building....

s. To the south of the house there is a detached quadrangular stable block.

The exterior is both grand and restrained, constructed of fine-grained, silver-white stone the Gibbs-designed domes punctuate each corner. In line with Palladian conventions, the interiors are much more colourful, exuberant and opulent than the exteriors.

The parklands surrounding Houghton was redesigned in the 18th-century by Charles Bridgeman
Charles Bridgeman
Charles Bridgeman was an English garden designer in the onset of the naturalistic landscape style. Although he was a key figure in the transition of English garden design from the Anglo-Dutch formality of patterned parterres and avenues to a freer style that incorporated formal, structural and...



This new building was placed on the site of earlier Walpole family houses. Sir Robert Walpole became the 1st Earl of Orford in 1742. Ownership passed to his son and grandson, the 2nd
Robert Walpole, 2nd Earl of Orford
Robert Walpole, 2nd Earl of Orford , was a British peer, styled as The Lord Walpole from 1723 to 1745.-Family:He was the eldest son of the King's First Minister, now regarded as the first Prime Minister, Sir Robert Walpole , and his first wife Catherine...

 and 3rd earl
George Walpole, 3rd Earl of Orford
George Walpole, 3rd Earl of Orford was a British administrator and peer.-Life:Lord Orford was the only child of the 2nd Earl of Orford and his wife Margaret Rolle, Baroness Clinton in her own right. His parents separated shortly after his birth...

s. On the death of the 3rd earl it reverted to his uncle the 4th Earl of Orford, better known as Horace Walpole. On his death in 1797 possession passed to the family of his sister, Lady Cholmondeley, who had died aged just 26 in 1731, more than 65 years before.
Sir Robert Walpole's daughter, Mary, had married George Cholmondeley, 3rd Earl of Cholmondeley
George Cholmondeley, 3rd Earl of Cholmondeley
George Cholmondeley, 3rd Earl of Cholmondeley KB, PC , styled as Viscount Malpas from 1725 to 1733, was a British peer and Whig politician.-Life:...

 and Houghton Hall was modified and maintained by her Cholmondeley family across a further span of generations. The growth of Houghton's library illustrates this family history. For instance, Colonel Robert Walpole checked out a book about the Archbishop of Bremen from the library of Sidney Sussex College
Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge
Sidney Sussex College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge in England.The college was founded in 1596 and named after its foundress, Frances Sidney, Countess of Sussex. It was from its inception an avowedly Puritan foundation: some good and godlie moniment for the mainteynance...

 at Cambridge
The city of Cambridge is a university town and the administrative centre of the county of Cambridgeshire, England. It lies in East Anglia about north of London. Cambridge is at the heart of the high-technology centre known as Silicon Fen – a play on Silicon Valley and the fens surrounding the...

 in 1667 or 1668. The overdue library book was discovered at Houghton in the mid-1950s; and it was promptly returned—288 years later.

The house has remained largely untouched, having remained "unimproved" despite the Victorian passion for remodelling and redecorating. Houghton still belongs to the Marquess of Cholmondeley
Marquess of Cholmondeley
Marquess of Cholmondeley is a title in the Peerage of the United Kingdom. It was created in 1815 for George Cholmondeley, 4th Earl of Cholmondeley. Each Marquess of Cholmondeley is a descendant of Sir Robert Walpole, the first Prime Minister of Great Britain....

, and parts of the structure and grounds are opened to the public throughout the year.


Houghton once contained part of Sir Robert Walpole's great picture collection, which his grandson the 3rd earl
George Walpole, 3rd Earl of Orford
George Walpole, 3rd Earl of Orford was a British administrator and peer.-Life:Lord Orford was the only child of the 2nd Earl of Orford and his wife Margaret Rolle, Baroness Clinton in her own right. His parents separated shortly after his birth...

 sold in 1779 to Catherine the Great of Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

 to pay off some of the estate's accumulated debt. Included in the current collection of paintings is Thomas Gainsborough
Thomas Gainsborough
Thomas Gainsborough was an English portrait and landscape painter.-Suffolk:Thomas Gainsborough was born in Sudbury, Suffolk. He was the youngest son of John Gainsborough, a weaver and maker of woolen goods. At the age of thirteen he impressed his father with his penciling skills so that he let...

's oil painting of his own family -- Thomas Gainsborough, with His Wife and Elder Daughter, Mary (circa 1751-1752).
Walpole's collection of marble Roman busts was also noteworthy.

In the early 1990s, Hans Holbein
Hans Holbein the Younger
Hans Holbein the Younger was a German artist and printmaker who worked in a Northern Renaissance style. He is best known as one of the greatest portraitists of the 16th century. He also produced religious art, satire and Reformation propaganda, and made a significant contribution to the history...

's "Lady With a Squirrel and a Starling" (1528) was removed from the walls of Houghton where it had hung since 1780. It was put up for auction to raise money to pay inheritance taxes and for maintenance of the house and grounds; and eventually, negotiations led to the painting's sale to the National Gallery
National gallery
The National Gallery is an art gallery on Trafalgar Square, London, United Kingdom.National Gallery may also refer to:*Armenia: National Gallery of Armenia, Yerevan*Australia:**National Gallery of Australia, Canberra...

 for £17-million tax free because of special incentives in England for selling works of art that are considered national treasures.

In the 21st century, art market inflation has placed enormous temptations in the way of the old families with substantial collections. In recent years, ownership of several pieces have been transferred in lieu of tax from the Cholmondeley's to the Victoria and Albert Museum
Victoria and Albert Museum
The Victoria and Albert Museum , set in the Brompton district of The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, London, England, is the world's largest museum of decorative arts and design, housing a permanent collection of over 4.5 million objects...

 . Some artwork, such as William Hogarth
William Hogarth
William Hogarth was an English painter, printmaker, pictorial satirist, social critic and editorial cartoonist who has been credited with pioneering western sequential art. His work ranged from realistic portraiture to comic strip-like series of pictures called "modern moral subjects"...

's portrait of the Cholmondeley family is unlikely to be let go, and it remains on view at Houghton; but the marquis admits that he is very aware that risk of theft is neither negligible nor negotiable. Jean-Baptiste Oudry
Jean-Baptiste Oudry
Jean-Baptiste Oudry was a French Rococo painter, engraver, and tapestry designer. He is particularly well known for his naturalistic pictures of animals and his hunt pieces depicting game.-Biography:...

's White Duck, stolen from the Cholmondeley collection in 1990 is still missing.

Parkland and gardens

Charles Bridgeman's landscaping plan for the parkland at Houghton remains intact. His "twisting wilderness paths" were cleared in the early 18th century; and they have been maintained since then.

Bridgeman replaced the formal geometry of intersecting avenues with blocks of woodland and parkland which, as he saw it, was better able to compliment the Hall's compelling architectural statement.
The ha-ha barriers at Houghton was an innovative feature credited to Bridgeman. In his 1780 "Essay upon Modern Gardening," Horace Walpole explained: "The contiguous ground of the park without the sunk fence was to be harmonized with the lawn within; and the garden in its turn was to be set free from its prim regularity, that it might assort with the wilder country without."

Sir Robert Walpole constructed a watertower (1731–1732) with the appearance of an architectural folly
In architecture, a folly is a building constructed primarily for decoration, but either suggesting by its appearance some other purpose, or merely so extravagant that it transcends the normal range of garden ornaments or other class of building to which it belongs...

. It was designed by Henry Herbert, 9th Earl of Pembroke
Henry Herbert, 9th Earl of Pembroke
Lt.-Gen. Henry Herbert, 9th Earl of Pembroke, 6th Earl of Montgomery PC FRS was the heir and eldest son of Thomas Herbert and his first wife Margaret...

. It was restored in 1982.

In this well-established context, a number of contemporary outdoor sculptures have been commissioned in recent years by David Cholmondeley, 7th Marquess of Cholmondeley
David Cholmondeley, 7th Marquess of Cholmondeley
David George Philip Cholmondeley, 7th Marquess of Cholmondeley, KCVO, DL , was styled from birth Viscount Malpas until 1968, and subsequently Earl of Rocksavage until 1990...

. To the east of the house is a circle of Cornish slate at the end of a path mown through the grass. This land art
Land art
Land art, Earthworks , or Earth art is an art movement which emerged in the United States in the late 1960s and early 1970s, in which landscape and the work of art are inextricably linked...

 feature was designed by the British sculptor Richard Long
Richard Long (artist)
Richard Long is an English sculptor, photographer and painter, one of the best known British land artists. Long is the only artist to be shortlisted for the Turner Prize four times, and he is reputed to have refused the prize in 1984...


Two modern follies lie in a wooded area to the side of the west front. These and other contemporary works are uniquely labeled "artlandish" at Houghton.

American artist James Turrell
James Turrell
James Turrell is an American artist primarily concerned with light and space. Turrell was a MacArthur Fellow in 1984. He is represented by The Pace Gallery in New York...

 contrived "Skyspace" for Houghton. Turrell's construction presents itself from the exterior as an oak-clad building raised on stilts. From the inside of the structure, the viewer's point-of-view is focused upwards and inevitably lured into contemplating the sky as framed by the open roof.

"The Sybil Hedge" is another folly in this vicinity. It is based on the signature of the current marquis' grandmother, Sybil Sassoon
Sybil Sassoon
Sybil Rachel Betty Cecile Sassoon, Marchioness of Cholmondeley, CBE was Chief Staff Officer to Director WRNS, WRNS HQ, Admiralty from 12 November 1939 until 1946. On 9 February 1945 she was appointed as Supt. of the Women's Royal Naval Service and the following year was made CBE...

. Scottish artist Anya Gallaccio
Anya Gallaccio
Anya Gallaccio is a Scottish artist, who often works with organic matter. She was a nominee in the 2003 Turner Prize.-Life and career:...

 has created a sarcophagus-like marble structure which is sited at the end of a path; and nearby is a copper-beech hedge which is planted in lines mirroring Sybil’s signature.

A 5 acres (20,234.3 m²), walled kitchen garden lies beyond the stables. Over the course of time, the productive area was reduced in size, and the enclosure was mostly grassed over. In 1996, the fallow enclosure was redesigned and replanted. The effort was rewarded in 2008 when it was named Historic Houses Association and Christie’s Garden of the Year. Yew hedges divide the space into a formal grid of discrete areas or "rooms", each intending to provoke a different interest and mood. The hedges, some cut in swags, give height and form. The garden rooms include an Italian enclosure with box parterres; a formal rose garden laid out in a pattern based on one of the William Kent ceilings in the house; a French garden of pleached limes and plum trees which have been underplanted with spring bulbs; and a croquet lawn.

Danish artist Jeppe Hein
Jeppe Hein
Jeppe Hein is an artist based in Berlin and Copenhagen. Hein is widely known for his production of experiential and interactive artworks that can be positioned at the junction where art, architecture, and technical inventions intersect...

 created a "Water Flame" sculpture/fountain for this garden. In all seasons, this jet of water surmounted by a ball of flame illustrates a 21st century folly on a smaller scale than the contemporary pieces outside the garden walls. The work is intended "to surprise viewers and make them question what they are seeing." Hein wants to elicit
"... an incongruous dialogue between the art and the viewer and to use humour to broaden the limits of conceptual art. I want to show that the work isn’t anything on its own, it is only what the public informs it with. The viewers’ role brings the piece to the centre of attention."


Houghton Hall is in West Norfolk, just north of the A148
A148 road
The A148 is an English A road entirely in the county of Norfolk. It runs from King's Lynn to Cromer via Fakenham which it bypasses to the north.-King’s Lynn starting point:...

 King's Lynn
King's Lynn
King's Lynn is a sea port and market town in the ceremonial county of Norfolk in the East of England. It is situated north of London and west of Norwich. The population of the town is 42,800....

 to Cromer
Cromer is a coastal town and civil parish in north Norfolk, England. The local government authority is North Norfolk District Council, whose headquarters is in Holt Road in the town. The town is situated 23 miles north of the county town, Norwich, and is 4 miles east of Sheringham...

 road. A brown tourist signpost on the left points out the road to the Hall at the village of Harpley
Harpley is a village and civil parish in the English county of Norfolk.It covers an area of and had a population of 353 in 157 households as of the 2001 census....


External links

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