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Description: Houghton Hall with Courtyard Walls Attached to North and South
Date Listed: 5 June 1953
English Heritage Building ID: 221600
OS Grid Reference: TF7916528789
OS Grid Coordinates: 579165, 328789
Latitude/Longitude: 52.8268, 0.6578
Explore more of the area around Houghton, Norfolk at Explore Britain.
TF 7928 HOUGHTON HOUGHTON PARK
10/17 Houghton Hall with
5.6.53. courtyard walls
attached to north
and south (previously
listed as Houghton
Country House. 1722-1735 for Sir Robert Walpole, the first Prime Minister of
Great Britain (1717-1742), in rivalry with his brother-in-law's Raynham.
Reputed to have been built largely from public funds, a "house of State and
Convenience" (Colen Campbell) for the "Houghton meeting" house-parties and
for Walpole's picture collection here 1742-1779. Design, published by Colen
Campbell in Vitruvius Britannicus III (1725), under discussion 1721, executed
by Walpole's protege in the King's Works, Thomas Ripley, modified by James
Gibbs, decorated by William Kent. Palladian with some Baroque references. Fine
Whitby stone ashlar, pantiled roofs. 3 storey 9 by 5 bay centre with 4 advanced
angle towers, single storey colonnaded wings, quadrant to west, dog-leg to
east. 2 storey 7 by 7 bay service wings with courtyards beyond. East front
has rusticated basement with plinth and first floor platband. 3 ground floor
centre bays with 2 arched headed sashes and fanlight door, 1793 refacing of
removed external staircase. 4 outer and 2 tower sashes with keystone heads.
Piano nobile sashes with Gibbsian surrounds, and balustrade dados. Venetian
windows with keystone heads to angles. Alternate segmental and triangular
pediment heads to centre, central window has Ionic order with interrupting
rustication blocks, segmental pediment with coat of arms and reclining
supporters, Neptune and Britannia, by Rysbrack. 9 second floor architrave
surround sashes. Rich Ionic entablature with pulvinated frieze, cornice,
balustrade, parapet with coping urns. 4 angle tower stone domes by Gibbs replace
Campbell's intended a la Wilton pedimented towers, actually built on one tower
c.1725-7. Ribbed stone roofs with octagonal lanterns pierced by arches, domes
above. Solid parapet base with single arched window. Weather vanes dated 1725
at south-west, 1727 at south-east. 5 bay returned north and south facades,
inscription over south door "Has aedes Robert Walpole MDCCXXVII incoahavit
MDCCXXXIV perfecit". West front has central 3 bay attached giant Ionic portico,
designed as detached, with rich pediment armorial sculpture. 3 attic Rysbrack
figures, central Emperor or law-giver in toga, flanking Justice with sword
and Minerva with spear as types of Walpole's career. Central pedimented sash,
tower Venetian windows, simpler architraves. Ground floor external staircase
1973 by Marshall Sisson, replacing that removed 1793. Each ridge has 2 massive
stacks with moulded cornices. To north and south colonnade wings, paired Tuscan
Doric to east, single columns to west, both open colonnades of insistent
internal trabiation with pilasters and ceiling panels divided by entablatures.
Flat roofed balustrade parapets with one roundel to each column. Service wings
attached at north and south have to east pedimented 3 bay centre advanced,
2 flanking bays each side. Architrave surround sashes, rusticated angles.
Cornice eaves. Octagonal clock towers with bulbous profile stone roofs. To
west single storey 7 bay elevation with 5 central open arches, outer arched
headed sashes framed to north and south with paired Ionic half columns
interrupted by rustication blocks. Ionic entablature and cornice, roundels
to each column. Returns to garden have 2 outer and 3 inner paired blocked Ionic
half columns, with 3 arched sashes with glazing bars. Internal courtyards.
Attached at north and south screen walls with 2 east side pedimented doors,
north and south returns with angle pedimented aedicules with rusticated angles,
central rusticated piers marking courtyard entrances. Interior: the ground
floor "base or rustic storey (for) hunters and hospitality, dirt and business"
(Lord Harvey) has central stone flagged aisled hall with piers supporting
vaults. Piano nobile above for "taste, expense, state and parade" (Hervey),
little used in C18, has State rooms to north, private rooms to south. Superb
Mahogany woodwork throughout, richest in south west. 3 storey Kent style
staircase with massive balusters, garlanded string and dado. Kent grisailles
through 3 storeys to roof light. Tuscan Doric columnar base in open well
supporting Le Sueur's Gladiator. Balancing 3 storey top lit stone staircase
with fine wrought iron balustrade to north. In south east tower Mahogany
Library. Common Parlour on east front with re-used Grinling Gibbons carving.
Central single cube 2 storey Stone Hall lined with superbly detailed Whitby
ashlar, stone and stucco carving. Architraved doors and aedicules. Antique
busts on brackets, bas-reliefs and swags. Rysbrack chimney piece with caryatids,
bas-relief above with bust of Walpole. Amorini by Arturi on door pediments.
First floor balcony on massive brackets, Ionic cornice with Greek Key fret,
coving with stucco swags and amorini, 4 family portrait reliefs, ceiling
compartment with Garter. Mahogany pedimented door with Ionic half columns at
west is mirror image of door architrave in Saloon on axis to west, balanced
by similar central window architrave. Ionic marble chimney piece with bust.
Ionic entablature with relief frieze of hunting devices, Kent painted coving
and Phaeton's Chariot centrepiece. On east front State Dining Room or Marble
Parlour with 3 groin vaulted recesses, Carrara with Plymouth marble. Rysbrack
chimney piece with Sacrifice of Bacchus. Ionic entablature with frieze enriched
with grapes, Kent compartment ceiling. In north east tower Cabinet Room with
Kent fireplace and ceiling, 1797 Chinese wallpaper. On north front Embroidered
Bedroom with Kent ceiling, Diana; Tapestry Room with Kent ceiling. At north-west
Green Velvet Bedroom, Kent ceiling. On west front White Drawing Room with Aurora
mask chimney piece, profile caryatids. Kent ceiling. Private apartments on
south (not seen) include Yellow Silk Drawing Room, ceiling reproducing late
C17 compartment type from previous house. North wing beyond quadrant housed
Walpole's pictures sold in 1779 to the Hermitage, and chapel converted into
gymnasium by Lord Cholmondeley in 1930's. South service wing, Duke of Lorraine,
later Holy Roman Emperor Charles VII slept here c.1735. Inherited by Horace
Walpole as 4th and last Earl of Orford in 1791, by Cholmondeleys 1797. Original
layout of grounds by Bridgeman. See Isaac Ware Plans, Elevations and Sections
of Houghton (1735), Horace Walpole Aedes Walopianae (1743); Mrs Herbert Jones
Houghton-in-the-Braks (Norwich 1878); Country Life XLIX (1921) pp. 14-22,
40-8, 64-73, 98-107.
Listing NGR: TF7916528789
This text is a legacy record and has not been updated since the building was originally listed. Details of the building may have changed in the intervening time. You should not rely on this listing as an accurate description of the building.
Source: English Heritage
Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.