River Wissey Lovell Fuller

Another day out just over the border in Suffolk

July 2004

Graham describes a delightful day exploring Somerleyton Hall,

Somerleyton Hall is a lovely example of the early Victorian grand mansion. An old manor house had been on the site since 1240, but when Sir Morton Peto, a self-made entrepreneur bought the property in 1843, he immediately set about improving the house. However, following several severe financial reverses, he was forced to sell his beloved home in 1863. Sir Francis Crossley, the founder of the famous carpet-making business, was the purchaser. The family still own it today.

In 1916, Sir Savile Crossley was created Baron Somerleyton. The present Lord and Lady Somerleyton have recently moved from the hall and the only son and his wife and family now live there. They have always been a very "hands-on" family and much-loved by their staff whom they have always treated well.

Unfortunately, not very much of the house is open to the public. The dining room and library are really gorgeous but the remaining rooms did not inspire me. I was particularly upset by two huge stuffed polar bears in the hall (so-called trophies of Lord Somerleyton's Arctic expedition in 1897) and several tigers - head rugs in the ballroom.

However, the real joys of Somerleyton Hall are the gardens, twelve acres in total. We went in late May and the rhododendrons were in full bloom. I have never seen such vivid-coloured shrubs, and a purple and a scarlet variety appearing to be almost Dayglow. There are several glass-houses with many exotic species of plants, and many specialist gardens such as the Winter Garden, the Sunken Garden, and so on. There is a marvellous maze, in which we did not get lost although many did, and many specialist walks the most beautiful by far being the wisteria walk. Somerleyton Hall has a licence for weddings and this last walk was obviously popular for the photographs as the ground contained many sprinklings of confetti.

In the house, around a quadrangle, one can find the tea-room and, inevitably, there is a shop which is very well stocked with all sorts of items. It is also possible to to buy plants that have been grown on the estate.

Somerleyton Hall is just two miles over the bridge at St Olaves. If, to my mind, the inside of the house was less than I expected, the external grandeur is breath-taking. However, it is the gardens that I came away remembering, and hopefully I shall never forget.

Graham Forster

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