On Tuesday we had a trip out to the west of the county (of Norfolk) to collect a young apple tree. It was the first day we had taken out the motorhome this year, all sorts of things seem to have got in the way.
The west of the county is particularly good for growing, in the past the plant nursery would have been fenland or close to fenland.
We planned to pick up the apple tree and then visit Oxburgh Hall. This is now looked after by the National Trust and situated between us and the nursery, it is on the ‘edge of the Brecks’ (Breckland). One could describe the hall as in the middle of nowhere, I have seen it described as in ‘rural Norfolk at its best’ which is true, but so rarely appreciated when one lives in such a place!
We are lucky in that we only live just over 30 miles from 3 National Trust properties that are called ‘Halls’ - Oxburgh and Blickling in Norfolk and Ickworth in Suffolk. However, Oxburgh is my favourite! Although there was a building on the site, owned by the de Weyland family in 1274, the hall as we know it today was built about 1482 and has been owned by the Bedingfield family since then, it has a moat.
I have the same love for it as I do of Little Moreton Hall, which was our nearest National Trust property when we lived in Cheshire. This is also moated but timbered and a superb black and white building.
Little Moreton Hall.
Moat not really visible in this due to plants
I assumed Little Moreton Hall was older, but this is not the case! (It was built 1504-08). Building with brick was rare in 1482 and the fact Oxburgh Hall was built with bricks shows the importance of the owner in the Royal Court, mainly only the King used bricks for building. (See post of 2 June 2011for a reference to Little Moreton Hall)
Oxburgh Hall is a super building and a very peaceful place to visit. Tuesday was extra special- the sun came out and there was a bit of Textile heaven there! We are spoilt in Norfolk for so much history of this period that is accessible.
Some views of the Oxburgh Hall
The Parterre Garden is being renovated, hence the barriers and an archeological dig is being carried out first.
Great reflection of the bridge over the moat.
Replacement roof and windows and the original date!
The last time we visited the Hall was 2020, and very little of it could be seen as there was a massive £6 million renovation programme underway. Besides repairing the roof, chimneys and windows turned up some interesting finds.
The new roof can be seen in some of the photos above.
This Book of Psalms, dated 1569, was found following a search when a snippet of a page was found in a rat’s nest!
Today 4/5 rooms were open on the ground floor and just two upstairs, but worth negotiating the stairs to get there. I only took photos of things that felt very special today!
Door decoration supporting the knob on an internal door in the library
My first thought was ‘dusting’ quickly followed by ‘fair isle’ as in all over patterning!
I really liked this portrait of Elizabeth I, it is not attributed to a named artist, one can only wonder at what the clothes (and make up) were like in real life.
Scissors, initially thought to have belonged to Mary Queen of Scott’s but now thought to be later than this! It would be interesting to know how these decisions were made!
One bedroom was set up with a bed and cover with gold embroidery,but to me
the other bedroom was textile heaven. It contained 3 tapestries worked by Mary Queen of Scots and Bess of Hardwick between 1569 and 1584. Mary was placed under the watchful eye (‘captive’) of Bess of Hardwick’s husband by Elizabeth I who perceived her as a threat! They are called the Marian Hangings and came to Oxburgh Hall in 1761 through marriage. They are currently on loan from the V and A Museum.
They more than filled this small room and photography cannot do them justice. I estimate they are at least 6 feet square.
This one was annotated as by Mary Queen of Scots.
All three are in a background of green velvet. Mary filled her textiles with meaning, it was her way of ‘telling her story’.
The central portion
It shows a knife pruning a vine surrounded by the motto ‘virtue flourishes with a wound’ a possible interpretation bing that Elizabeth I (the barren vine) should be cut down and Mary (the fruitful one’ allowed to grow. Birds, beasts and fish are noted as being copied from Tudor natural history books.
Some of the detail from the panel, more detail about this at the end!
I recently attended a (zoom) talk by Clare Hunter who studies the needlework of Mary Queen of Scots. This talk was one of a series of online talks arranged by the Costume and Textile Association, based in Norwich, of which I am a member.
Her book is ‘ Mary Queen of Scots and the Language of Power. Here she discusses the stitching of Mary and how she ‘used textiles to advance her political agenda, affirm her royal lineage and tell her own story’.
The journey home through the forest was lovely showing the bright foliage….but perhaps the brightness is due to my ‘new’ eyes being now ‘post cataract’!
View from the van in Thetford Forest
We really must get out more and appreciate the beauty around us!
Oxburgh Hall is a great place to visit if you are in the area, if you can’t this link will take you to more items from the hall, if you press the collection button you get a ‘interesting’ collection including a couple of modern light switches! The initial page was more interesting when I checked it today.
The V and A website, searched under ‘Marian Hangings V and A’ says these are on permanent loan to Oxburgh Hall. There you can see good close up images of much of the embroidery. They note the embroidery done over a 15-16 year period between 1569 and 1585 and that the hangings are about 3m wide and 2 m high, so not quite square. It is thought the mounting of the individual parts on the green velvet background took place in the 17C. Another reference has said 18C!