Published date: June 2020
This magnificent building was built in the 1720s for Great Britain’s first Prime Minister, Sir Robert Walpole. Located half a mile off the A148 King’s Lynn to Fakenham road, roughly 13 miles east of King’s Lynn and 10 miles west of Fakenham, Houghton Hall is a fine example of Palladian architecture, with plush interiors by William Kent.
One of Norfolk’s most beautiful stately homes, Houghton Hall is currently home to the 7th Marquess of Cholmondeley and his family, a direct descendant of Sir Robert Walpole. Set in traditional parkland with white fallow deer, Houghton Hall has an award-winning five-acre walled garden with a spectacular double-sided herbaceous border, a kitchen garden with arches and espaliers of pears and apples and a formal rose parterre to delight visitors.
The State Rooms were sumptuously decorated by William Kent and include beautifully painted ceilings and suites of carved and gilded furniture. Once used to impress the distinguished guests of Sir Robert Walpole, for entertaining on a grand scale, they were also used to display some of Walpole’s most valuable paintings. The State Bedroom has a famous shell bed and is lavishly decorated with green velvet and silver gilt embroidery and fringing. The Stone Hall ceiling is breath-taking and other highlights include, the Great Staircase with Borghese Gladiator, the Red Saloon, the White Drawing-Room, two thrones in the Tapestry Dressing-Room, Embroidered Bedchamber, Sir Robert’s Library and Marble Parlour.
Houghton Hall is home to an impressive collection of contemporary sculpture and other works by world-renowned artists such as Anya Gallaccio, Stephen Cox, Jeppe Hein, James Turrell, Richard Long, Phillip King, Henry Moore and Rachel Whiteread. Visitors to Houghton Hall may also be interested in visiting the model soldier museum, gift shop, fully licensed café, picnic area and playground.
The Soldier Museum at Houghton Hall is located in the west stable block and is the largest private collection of model soldiers in the world. Started by the 6th Marquess of Cholmondeley when he was a schoolboy, he continued collecting throughout his life, commissioning whole scenes to his specification. There are many reconstructions of famous battles, such as Waterloo and Omdurman, as well as paintings and militaria.
St Martin’s is a medieval church that dates from the 13th century and has been enlarged and restored over the years. Most notably by Sir Robert Walpole, who rebuilt the tower as a memorial to his grandfather Sir Jeffery Burwell in around 1730. Sir Robert, his two wives, his brother Galfridus and his successors, the 2nd, 3rd and 4th Earls of Orford are all buried here, as are the 5th Marquess of Cholmondeley and his wife, Sybil.
To find out more about Houghton Hall, including opening times, admission costs and latest exhibitions, please go to their website.