I've walked through the grounds. I've visited the gardens. I've watched birds in the wood behind the house. I've cycled through the estate. I've taken children around the farm. I've photographed the outside of the house. But I'd never been inside Wimpole Hall till recently. Shocking but true!
The present house was begun in about 1640 for Thomas Chicheley who was the local Member of Parliament. He was a Royalist and associate of Charles II. He lived extravagantly and soon managed to spend more on the building than he actually had, forcing him to sell the estate which had belonged to his family for over 200 years.
The house has its own chapel (as well as a small church in the grounds) which was decorated by the artist James Thornhill in the 1720's.
Each successive generation of owners redecorated and reshaped the house to reflect their tastes. I loved the little cabinet full of figurines. Other rooms had a warmer, more intimate feel.
When Philip Yorke, 1st Earl of Hardwicke, bought the Hall he employed Henry Flitcroft to remodel the house in the fashionable neo-Palladian style.
I rather liked the elegant long room seen above which also contained the unusual musical instrument in the smaller picture. It's a "square piano" which has the wires arranged transversely to save space. It has no pedals but has stops which were operated by the left hand. It had a rather quiet, muted sound apparently. Jane Austen had one in her cottage at Chawton.
John Soane designed the Yellow Drawing Room, a room with a high, domed ceiling which occupied two floors of the house, for the 3rd Earl of Hardwicke and his wife Elizabeth. The 3rd Earl was an enlightened agriculturalist who made great improvements to the farm.
The rather grand Dining Room had the shutters closed and was lit by candles to give the atmosphere of an evening banquet. It made photography a bit tricky though.
Upstairs one could wander through the Chancellor's bedroom (one of the Earls was indeed the Lord Chancellor) and look out onto the formal gardens.
The last inhabitant of Wimpole was Mrs. Bambridge, the widow of Captain Bambridge who died suddenly in 1943. They had bought the house, devoid of furniture in 1938. After his death she devoted her life to restoring Wimpole to its former glory. She had rooms redecorated in the styles which were shown in paintings of the house and tracked down items which had been sold and brought them back to Wimpole. The room above was her bedroom. Mrs. Bambridge also happened to be the daughter of Rudyard Kipling.
At some stage the house acquired this huge bath. It holds 3,000 gallons of water!
You can also have a look through some of the servants' quarters...
....the Housekeeper's room...
....and the Butler's pantry.
Outside once again the formal gardens are tended by employees of the present owners, The National Trust.
For a winter walk visiting the "castle ruin" in Wimpole Park click here.