A visit to Gorhambury

Photo:Gorhambury House

Gorhambury House

Gorhambury Estate website

Photo:Great Hall, painted by Jim Steinmeyer, 1991

Great Hall, painted by Jim Steinmeyer, 1991

Gorhambury estate postcard

Photo:Late 16th century enamelled glass, from St Nicholas Bacon's Tudor Gorhambury - reassembled and displayed in the Great Hall

Late 16th century enamelled glass, from St Nicholas Bacon's Tudor Gorhambury - reassembled and displayed in the Great Hall

Gorhambury estate postcard

Photo:Detail from the Harbottle wool carpet, showing the Royal Arms. The carpet was probably made in Ipswich - on display in the Great Hall

Detail from the Harbottle wool carpet, showing the Royal Arms. The carpet was probably made in Ipswich - on display in the Great Hall

'The Grimstons of Gorhambury' by Norah King, 1983

Photo:A contemporary painted terra-cotta bust of 1568, representing Sir Nicholas Bacon, Lord Keeper and builder of the Tudor Gorhambury - displayed in the Library

A contemporary painted terra-cotta bust of 1568, representing Sir Nicholas Bacon, Lord Keeper and builder of the Tudor Gorhambury - displayed in the Library

'The Grimstons of Gorhambury' by Norah King, 1983

Photo:Gorehambury's newly-restored portico in 1967 - pen and ink drawing by W Bryson, butler to the 6th Earl of Verulam

Gorehambury's newly-restored portico in 1967 - pen and ink drawing by W Bryson, butler to the 6th Earl of Verulam

'The Grimstons of Gorhambury' by Norah King, 1983

Guided tours for members of the Society

By Tony Scott

Following the successful and most interesting talk on Gorhambury given by Viscountess Grimston to members at our meeting on 17 January 2017 a series of member visits to Gorhambury have taken place. The first was on 16 May and due to demand three further visits were arranged - one on 25 May, which is the one I attended, and the others in June.

Entry to the Gorhambury Estate is past the Roman theatre and via a surprisingly long 2 mile drive to the house passing en route several farms and delightful rural scenery which provided a very pleasant introduction to the visit. We were met and guided by two excellent and knowledgeable guides, Tessa Roberts and Daphne Woodrow with the lead being taken by Tessa.

We started the tour by quickly passing through the Great Hall and entering the Dining Room where, like all the downstairs rooms in the house, the walls were adorned with family and other portraits many from the 16th and 17th centuries. This room featured the portrait of Sir Francis Bacon in his Lord Chancellor’s robes by Paul van Somer as well as the Van Dyke portraits of the Earl of Strafford, the Earl of Pembroke and the conversation piece of the Earl of Northumberland and his family.

The Ballroom was originally a dining room the decoration of which owes much to the influence of Robert and James Adam. The pictures here are among the earliest in the collection including a copy of the portrait of Edward Grimston by Petrus Christus painted in 1446 which is currently on loan to the National Gallery. Nearby is a portrait of a later Edward Grimston (1508 – 1599) the Controller of Calais, who had the misfortune to lose Calais to the French during the reign of Queen Mary. He was imprisoned in the Bastille before escaping back to England. Other items of interest were 18th century furniture, including a Chippendale sofa, and large blue and white jars dating from 1690.

The Yellow Drawing Room is graced with an 18th century organ by Robert Gray and a chimneypiece by Giambattista Piranesi (1720 – 1778) commissioned by Edward Walter on the Grand Tour. Outstanding among the pictures is Joshua Reynolds’ conversation piece of four children of James, 2nd Viscount Grimston.

In the Library books are arranged under Sir Francis Bacon’s divisions of learning. On top of the bookshelves are three painted terracotta busts which are contemporary with the sitters – Sir Nicholas Bacon, his wife Anne Cooke and one of their two sons Anthony or Francis. The pictures are a series of Grimston family portraits spanning the latter half of the 17th century and the whole of the 18th, including two by Sir Peter Lely. The chimneypiece is another example of the works by Piranesi and this is adorned on the mantel with pieces of Meissen.

The tour finished in the Great Hall designed by Sir Robert Taylor as a cube. The black and white tiled floor and the portico came from the Tudor house, as did the chimneypiece. Facing the chimneypiece is the earliest known English pile carpet, dated 1570, the date is known with such certainty as it is shown above the Coat of Arms of Elizabeth I in the centre of the carpet. There are more portraits of the Grimston family along with pictures of distinguished men of the 17th century and of the Kings and Queens of England, mainly collected by Harbottle Grimston and known as a “Gallery of the Great”.

Gorhambury is not one of England’s larger country houses, as pointed out by Queen Elizabeth 1 on a visit in 1572 albeit in respect of the earlier Tudor house. She is recorded as saying “My Lord, what a little house you have gotten”, to which Sir Nicholas replied: “Ma’am, my house is well, but it is you that have made me too big for mine house”. However, the age, quality and variety of its historical furnishings and paintings is almost beyond description and more than compensates for any considerations about size.

We were told that the house is about to be closed for a major refurbishment which will take several years to complete – when no doubt a further visit by members will prove irresistible.

At the end of the tour a number of members took the opportunity of visiting the remains of the Tudor house located in the grounds and which could be seen from the Library window.

Editor’s note: a total of four visits to Gorhambury in May and June 2017 were arranged by the Society. All were fully booked. The house will be closed from July 2017 for the refurbishments mentioned.

This page was added by Rosemary Ross on 24/10/2017.

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