A romantic moated manor house, full of history and surrounded by gardens and woodland
An Introduction to Oxburgh Hall
Oxburgh Hall is situated in Oxborough village, to the south west of Swaffham in an area known as the 'Brecks'. The hall itself is a beautiful moated manor house, managed by the National Trust. The house was built in the late 15th century by Sir Edmund Bedingfield and his descendants have lived here pretty much ever since. The staunch Catholic family have seen the house come under constant threat and over the years it has been subjected to fire, war, dereliction and even a threat of demolition. Thankfully it survived and has been restored, much of which took place in the mid 19th century. The interior of the house contains both Tudor and Victorian rooms which contain many treasures and surprises - such as needlework by Mary Queen of Scots. Henry VII stayed in the King's Room when he visited Oxburgh in 1487 and little has changed in this room since. Outside, the building is surrounded by a romantic moat with most of the gardens situated to the east. A chapel was added in 1836 and is a good place to see Victorian craftmanship. The grounds also contain some beautiful woodland walks. Please note that dogs are only allowed in the car-parking area and not in the grounds, gardens or inside the hall itself. The courtyard of the hall contains a shop, cafe and toilets.
We start our tour of Oxburgh in the grounds of the hall. You can walk around all four sides and get the best views of the hall across the moat. The moat not only offered a line of defence, it was also popular for swimming by the family in the summer. The gatehouse is the oldest part of the house, but the entire structure is built from skillfully carved bricks and stone. Many parts of the building were added and adapted during the 19th century leaving the splendid mix of styles we see today. Particular attention should be given to the chimney stacks, turret towers, oriel windows and the battlements. Oxburgh was certainly built as a statement of status and power!
Oxburgh Hall near Swaffham
The west and south elevations of the hall
The south elevation of the hall
The top of the towers on the gatehouse
The bridge over the moat, leading to the courtyard
We now move over the bridge and enter into the Courtyard. The courtyard and gatehouse are similar in style to that of a Cambridge or Oxford college. The accommodation on the right hand side (as you enter the courtyard) would have been occupied by the family, with the left hand side taken up by kitchen (now the cafe) and service staff. Today, in the Courtyard you will find a cafe, toilet and National Trust shop, plus the main entrance to the hall for visitors.
The National Trust Shop in the Courtyard
The Gatehouse from inside the Courtyard
The main door into the hall
Moving Inside, the South Corridor takes visitors into the Ground floor rooms of the hall. The Saloon's primary function was as a picture gallery and many fine 19th century portraits are displayed here. The West Drawing Room contains many pieces of heavily carved dark wood furniture, set around a fireplace. The Library was created during the mid 19th century and filled with books on a wide range of subjects such as history, theology, philosophy and some classics. But there are also books on farming and also a significant collection of medieval manuscripts. The Dining Room contains heavily carved wood panelled walls and an elaborate fireplace.
The West Drawing Room
Portrait of George II in the Saloon
The Antwerp Cabinet, made in the mid 1600's and one of many fine pieces of furniture at Oxburgh
The Dining Room
The Libraries Secret Door
The north wall of the Library seems to contain a complete wall of books. However, closer inspection reveals that the shelves of books actually contain a concealed doorway leading to the Dining Room! The imitation book spines contain fake books that include Victorian puns relating to family history.
The magnificent North Staircase takes visitors to the upper floors of the hall. No doubt the star room is the brick walled King's Room, which is contained in the Gatehouse tower. Tapestries were once hung on the walls and as bed curtains. The bed curtains are now displayed in the darkened Marian Hangings room when it was discovered that these amazing embroideries were worked on by Mary Queen of Scots during the late 16th century. The Queen's Room also displays a number tapestries and fabric banners.
The King's Room
The North Staircase and Sir Henry Bedingfield Portrait
The North Bedroom
Part of a tapestry hanging in the Queen's Room, made in 1623 and depicting the Queen of Sheba
Octagonal turret roof of the King's Room Closet
The Cavendish Hanging, one of the embroideries on display in the Marian Hangings room at Oxburgh Hall
The Priest's Hole
Leading from the King's Room Closest, you will find a concealed entrance into a Priest Hole. These were used by Catholic families during the 16th century to hide Catholic Priests and avoid persecution and sanctions from the protestant government. The hole was cramped and unlit with the priest having to spend days or even week's hiding in the hole from the authorities. The Priest Hole at Oxburgh is one of very few in the UK that visitors can actually crawl into.
The dark interior of the Priest's Hole
The Entrance to the Priest's Hole
The Gatehouse Staircase takes you up from the Queen's room onto the Roof of Oxburgh Hall. The stairs themselves are a good display of 15th century workmanship, with intricate brickwork and carefully designed windows. Once on the roof, you can take in the wonderful panoramic views in all directions. At one time the roof was a useful look-out for would be attackers and a series of slots allowed missiles to be thrown down. The area around the hall was once situated in the middle of marshy fenland, but drainage dykes have now allowed it to be cultivated and taken over by pretty countryside.
The panoramic view from the roof of Oxburgh Hall
The roof of Oxburgh Hall
The Catholic Chapel is located in the grounds of Oxburgh Hall and was built during the 1830's. It is still owned by the Bedingfield family, who use it regularly for Mass. The centre-piece of the chapel is the Retable (the ornament at the front), which depicts carvings and paintings from the Passion. The chapel also houses the tomb of the 6th Baronet, who built the chapel in the first place.
The Chapel of the Immaculate Conception and St Margaret
Oxburgh Hall Catholic Chapel
One of a number of round stained glass windows in the chapel
Oxburgh's Gardens star attraction is the Parterre de Compartiment, laid out in 1845. The idea was taken from a garden seen in Paris, where different coloured flowers are separated by gravels (and other different coloured materials). Located just over a clipped yew hedge from the parterre is a long Herbaceous Border containing many different shrubs and climbers.The Victorian Kitchen Garden is enclosed by castellated walls and contains many vegetables and herbs. There is also an Orchard containing different varieties of Norfolk apple and pear.
The view over the Parterre Garden, located just to the east of the hall
The Herbaceous Border
The Walled Garden
The Woodland and Wilderness surrounding Oxburgh Hall contains some beautiful walks (unfortunately dogs not allowed). A wooden drawbridge leads to My Lady's Wood, a pathway taking you along a stream under a canopy of oak and beech, to a thatched summerhouse. There are also woodland walks south west of the hall and north west of the chapel.
The view of the hall from My Lady's Wood
Pathways in My Lady's Wood
Walking in the woodland
SOMEWHERE FOR LUNCH OR TO STAY THE NIGHT
Although there is an excellent cafe in the courtyard of the hall, you may like to visit the Bedingfield Arms instead. Situated just outside the main gates of the hall, this coaching inn (since 1783) serves a selection of cask ales to accompany fresh dishes made with local ingredients and served either in the bar or restaurant. The Bedingfield also has 14 bedrooms (some allowing dogs) on a B&B basis and is a good choice for a short break.
The Bedingfield Arms
The main bar of the Bedingfield Arms
Oxburgh Hall Summary of What to SEE and DO
Walk around all four sides and view the house across the moat
Explore the rooms of the house and discover the treasures and surprises contained within them
Crawl in to the Priest's Hole and imagine hiding there from the authorities!
View embroidery by Mary Queen of Scots, displayed on the upper floor
Climb the stairs to the roof for panoramic views of the surrounding area
Visit the Catholic Chapel and view the magnificent altarpiece
Wander the paths around the gardens and see the parterre and walled garden
Walk through the woodland and enjoy views back over the hall
Visit the National Trust shop
Enjoy a refreshment in the cafe
Oxburgh Hall is one of the most romantic National Trust properties in the UK and offers plenty to occupy the entire family. Bring your camera, as it is a great place to take some excellent photo's! A visit to this house will not disappoint. Pity you cannot bring dogs into the grounds though.