Oxburgh Hall, Norfolk – Chapel of St Margaret and our Lady

Tuesday 10 July, a day at Oxburgh Hall. This is one of my favourite NT properties. We came here as children, came with our children, came just the two of us to see an open air performance of Macbeth – heads being thrown around in front of the gateway. It was the set for one of my favourite TV series, the 1994 BBC adaptation of John Hadfield’s 1959 novel Love on a branch line. It had this wonderful hall (though some interior shots were filmed elsewhere), beautiful women, jazz, traction engines, and a steam loco (filmed on the North Norfolk Railway. The grid reference of the Hall is TF 744014, I love the fact it is in the village of Oxborough, and this is the website.

The Hall was completed in 1482 for Sir Edmund Bedingfield, and his family have lived here ever since. (For those unable to get up the stairs Henry, the current resident, shows you round on a dvd). The licence to crenellate was granted by Edward VI, though he wasn’t too impressed with the choice of brick (a building material not often used by anyone except the King). Another Sir Edmund, the third son, inherited the house in 1540. He was Steward of Catherine of Aragon’s household, was charged with keeping her under virtual house arrest at Kimbolton, and then organising her funeral procession. Sir Henry (I assume his son) served Queen Mary, and was Elizabeth’s gaoler for a while. When Elizabeth became Queen he retired to Oxburgh, and managed to hold on to his Catholic faith.

I didn’t photo much of the inside of the House, but here are some of the Marian Needlework. They were produced round about 1570 by Mary Queen of Scots and Elizabeth Countess of Shrewsbury (Bess of Hardwick), produced at the early stages of Mary’s imprisonment. They are beautiful. I also liked the carved fish and the stained glass in the King’s Room (note the windmill). I didn’t climb into the Priest’s Hole.

Sir Henry’s son, Sir Henry, managed to get on the right side of Charles I. He and his sons fought on the King’s side at Marston Moor, he spent time in the Tower, and for much of this period the house was almost abandoned. During the 1680s, the 2nd Baronet, “Great Sir Harry” started the rebuilding. He was OK under Charles II and James II, but under William and Mary he was fined, not allowed to travel more than five miles from Oxburgh, and his sons were educated in Flanders. So it went on.

Major work was done on the Hall from 1830, there is a collection of wallpaper dating to 1859. Like all these families, the C20 was not easy – and Sir Edmund Bedingfield put the Hall onto the market in 1950. It came to the National Trust in 1952. In 2016 a window suddenly dropped into the Courtyard – hence the miles of scaffolding and several million pound now being spent. You can support the roof appeal here. We went out onto the roof, which is always very special. The grass is not usually as parched as this.

Just round the corner is the Chapel. Obviously a Catholic family needed their own chapel. It has been attributed to Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin (1812-52) and was completed in 1838.

The most stunning thing is what the guidebook describes as “the C17 Flemish altar and reredos”. The altar table depicts three scenes from the Passion of Christ, these being the Mocking of Christ, the Deposition and the Flagellation. The semi-octagonal tabernacle is flanked by images of the Conversion (left) and Execution (right) of St Barbara. The triptych which was imported by the 7th Baronet in the 1870s was carved in Antwerp circa 1520-1530 (according to the website – which makes it C16). The elaborate painting and gilded carvings depict scenes from the Passion of Christ. The artwork on the wings is attributed to Pieter Coeke van Aelst the Elder (1502-1550) and when open shows scenes from the Passion and the Life of St James of Compostella. When closed the wings show the four fathers of the church, Saints Augustine, Ambrose, Gregory and Jerome. The triptych was acquired by the National Trust in 1982. There are better photos here.

There’s some nice stained glass – though I’m annoyed my camera refused to focus on the archer, and the woodwork at the back is rather good.

The “elegant recumbent effigy” is of the 6th Baronet – the one we have to thank for the Victorian work.

A War memorial too.

The parterre and garden are gorgeous.





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