26 May 2023
We set off in the Sudbury sunshine and arrived within an hour at our destination of Euston Hall near Thetford. It is an imposing building in the Palladian style, home to the Dukes of Grafton for over 350 years.
We had a very informative and entertaining guided tour of Euston Hall. The first impression was of a very light and elegant house with many views to the beautiful gardens and pleasure grounds. The original house was built in 1666 by Lord Arlington. In 1672, at the age of 12, his daughter Isabella married Henry FitzRoy. Isabella was heiress of Euston Estate after which the station in London is called. Henry FitzRoy was the illegitimate son of Charles II by his mistress Barbara Villiers and he had the title Duke of Grafton. There were many beautiful pictures by famous artists, among others, Van Dyck, Peter Lely, Joshua Reynolds and Stubbs. The Grafton family had links to the racing world. The 3rd and 4th Dukes were some of the most celebrated horse owners in British racing history and the Grafton Stud was famous.
We heard scandalous tales of Charles II, the Merry Monarch, holding mock weddings in the house and we saw an embroidered sofa cover, done by the 10th Duke of Grafton in an attempt to give up smoking – it didn’t work ! Another member of the family, Admiral Robert FitzRoy commanded The Beagle with Charles Darwin on his scientific expeditions, and he promoted scientific methods of weather forecasting.
There was much to see in the over 10,000 acres of parkland, woodland and gardens, landscaped by John Evelyn, William Kent and ‘Capability’ Brown. We visited the walled garden, the church and the watermill. To complete the day, there was a lovely tented café in the garden run by the WI where we were well looked after. An interesting and enjoyable outing in the May sunshine.