Trip to Oxburgh Hall, 20 October 2023.
For our October outing, just ten of us, with our trusty driver and his minibus, battled through heavy rain and flooded roads to Oxburgh Hall, which lies between Swaffham and Downham Market in Norfolk.
In between morning coffee, lunch, and afternoon tea in the well-stocked café, we explored this National Trust property. Two of us, with another two visitors, joined the interesting and informative, but rather wet, guided tour around the outside of the building. We heard about the history of the Hall. Home to the Bedingfeld family for 500 years, Oxburgh reveals one family’s unshakable Catholic faith and story of endurance.
Much of the interior dates from the early 19th century, when the 6th Baronet began work to decorate and furnish the Hall in the antiquarian style you see today. He and his wife, Margaret, re-purposed panelling, embossed leather, heavy oak furniture, and ancient textiles. Neo-Gothic wallpapers and fabrics with a recurring theme of heraldic motifs were combined to create a ‘Romantic’ atmosphere – an approach that his son, the 7th Baronet, continued.
Most of us enjoyed the Immersive Gatehouse Experience which allowed us to delve deeper into the history of Oxburgh and its priest hole by following the course of one extraordinary day in 1590. In the Gatehouse, a lookout stands at a window as the family sleeps. For 24 hours the household must hold their nerve, endure, and trust in their faith. The immersive experience in the King’s Room took us to the heart of the action, thanks to the vivid portrayal by two NT volunteers with the assistance of the visitors.
A £6 million project has been completed at Oxburgh Estate, which has seen repairs carried out to the roof, windows, chimneys and medieval gatehouse façade, securing Oxburgh’s future and the collection within. The most ambitious conservation project at Oxburgh to date, the work was completed in 2022. A short film showed the work that has been done, with Peter Minter explaining the contribution of Bulmer Brick Works.
The continuing rain made the extensive gardens and parkland unappealing!
Despite the weather, a most enjoyable day.
Some text is adapted from www.nationaltrust.org.uk/visit/norfolk/oxburgh-estate , where more information and photos can be found.