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The forbidden landscapes of Holkham Hall

September 12, 2014

Under a day of glowering skies we paid a visit to Holkham Hall, one of the few stately homes of Norfolk that I have missed in my many travels in the county.

Holkham Hall (c) John Bainbridge 2014

Holkham Hall (c) John Bainbridge 2014

I would like to say I was impressed, but really I wasn’t.

I think it’s a ghastly pile, more like a barracks or a workhouse than anything homely.  The most interesting building on the estate is the Ice House, a rather beautiful semi-thatched building of a most unusual design. The interior of Holkham Hall – or at least the bits you are permitted to see – is, in my opinion, like some awful municipal art gallery, full of not particularly impressive paintings.

However, I was interested in the current Great War exhibition, which has a lot of information on estate workers who served in the trenches. And the Bygones Museum is well worth a look, with many artefacts from rural history and some quite splendid motor vehicles.

Ice House at Holkham Hall, (c) John Bainbridge 2014

Ice House at Holkham Hall, (c) John Bainbridge 2014

The cafe is best avoided if you are a tea drinker. They dunk a teabag in a cardboard cup and leave it floating there for you to try and retrieve without making a mess.

And, of course, the greater estate is very attractive, particularly in the vicinity of the vast Holkham Beach, which I use in the final scenes of my thriller “The Shadow of William Quest”.

It is interesting that the coastal section of the estate is one of the few bits of the whole kit and caboodle that offers anything in the way of public rights of way.

The rest of this vast chunk of Norfolk is verboden unless you pay an fee.

The University of East Anglia’s recent Pathways to History survey clearly showed that rights of way were fewer in the vicinity of the landed estates.

Says it all really!

Landowners in past centuries, mostly themselves magistrates, would invite a fellow magistrate (landowner) over and between them they would close a public highway, quicker than you could say “Man Trap”.

Man Trap at Holkham Hall, Norfolk (c) John Bainbridge 2014

Man Trap at Holkham Hall, Norfolk (c) John Bainbridge 2014

And talking of man traps there was a very good example in the Bygones Museum. Worth looking at – I’ve put a lot about man traps and the way the great estates closed rights of way in my little book “The Compleat Trespasser” (See above, you can get one in paperback or on your Kindle).

As for Holkham the museum is well worth looking at, as is the Ice House. Personally, I would give the rest of it a miss.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. September 16, 2014 2:44 am

    Hopefully they don’t still use any kind of mantrap to discourage trespassing?

  2. September 16, 2014 6:43 am

    You do wonder…

  3. September 21, 2014 4:45 pm

    Is this not a National Trust property? Your depiction of the cardboard cup and tea bag sounds about as standard for one of their own brews!

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