River Wissey Lovell Fuller

A Day out in Suffolk

September 2007

Graham describes a delightful vivit to Helmingham Hall, where the gardems a splendid.

Helmingham Hall is really a place for gardeners to visit although the Hall itself is most imposing. It was completed in 1510though the deep, wide moat that surrounds it dates back to Saxon times. The Tollemache family who had it built and still live there, came over at the time of the Norman Conquest. Tollemache or "Talemache" as it was then, was old Norman for purse-bearer and, indeed, Hugh Tollemache was Purse bearer to King Henry 1st.

The Hall is a beautiful courtyard manor house built in the traditional half-timbered style with an overhang to the upper floor both outside and inside the courtyard. Many of the brick chimneys are original and there are two bridges across the moat each with its own drawbridge which is pulled up every night. The moat is heavily stocked with fish and a 25lb pike has been seen.

We visited the Hall in July when the gardens were a profusion of colour. There were so many parts to the gardens including the parterre, the knot and herb garden, many shrub and herbaceous borders, different seasonal borders, a rose garden and a wild flower garden. There is also a vegetable garden, an apple tree walk and a very unusual gourd tunnel. There are also several seats for the visitor to pause and rest. The whole of the estate is set in a 400 acre deer park and we were most fortunate to see the large herd on the move. Finally, there is the family church on the estate which dates back to 1258.

Sadly, the Hall is not open to the public but the church is. There is an excellent tea-rooms plus gift shop and, if you arrive early, you may be lucky enough to buy vegetables from the Hall's gardens. The location is on the B1077 midway between the beautiful little town of Debenham, and Ipswich. However, if you decide to make a visit, you will have to go soon as the last two open days are Wednesday and Sunday the 12th and 16th of September.

Graham Forster

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