As mentioned last week, the reason I choose to record my trip to Houghton Hall now is that it ties in with the trompe–l‘œil I saw at Chatsworth.
Houghton Hall is of course more than just a lesson in artistic techniques, having been created as the playground of England’s first Prime Minister, Robert Walpole – he would spend only five weeks of the year at Houghton but it was a case of ‘no expense spared’ (to an extent), as it was intended to reflect his considerable power and status.
Walpole employed James Gibbs and Colen Campbell to design the house and William Kent did (in my opinion) a splendid job with the interiors. When in the dining room look for the pipe that brings wine directly up from the barrels in the basement!
I don’t deny that my ideal house dates from the early part of the 18th century and this house having been built in the 1720s means that it has a stricter Palladian form and interior of the type that was constructed before the neoclassical style that Robert Adam popularised from the about the 1770s onwards took hold.
There is plenty of unadorned parkland showing for the deer to frolic in.
There is a gigantic cubed double-height entrance hall (not dissimilar from the hall at The Queen’s House as it is based on the same design), an external staircase to the piano nobile, a Royal Suite, piping for wine to come straight into the dining room, and many a fine picture frame for the amazing pictures that originally hung there and which were sold to Catherine the Great. Many are, for one year only, returning to Houghton between May-September 2013.
Seems I visited a year too early.
No expense was spared and each room was lavishly decorated using the finest craftsmen of the time. It was to become a place for political entertaining on a grand scale as well as family living. Pictures were not allowed inside but a smattering of glimpses are available on Houghton’s own website.
To the side of Houghton is a magnificent walled garden.
When we visited it was pouring down and as a result we spent quite a lot of time in the toy solider museum in the stables at Houghton. I am glad we mad a dash to the conservatory inside the walled garden at Houghton though because otherwise I wouldn’t have witnessed the magnificent gardens, truly deserving of its Garden of the Year prize from the Historic Houses Association.
I always think if something looks good in the rain, it’s doing well. Like a man who looks good in jeans; you know he’ll scrub up well in a tuxedo.
I always like deep beds of purple flowers and walkways of sensual delight (the border is of, amongst other things, nepeta, iris, lupins and alliums).
Another good view.
Each section of the garden is well laid out.
Seems like I’ve been going on for quite a while about this house so next time I’ll visit the particular detail I want to compare to the violin at Chatsworth.
In the meantime, I strongly recommend a visit to Houghton.
When visited: 2012
House * out of 5: **** (would have had 5 if its paintings hadn’t been sold)
Garden * out of 5: *****
Theme tune: Take My Breath Away