Thursday, 18 August 2011

Wimpole Hall

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.

To visit Home Farm, Wimpole click here.

To  see more of the gardens and grounds click here.

Take care.


  1. Even with the candlelight you managed to get a very nice shot. And I'm in awe of your National Trust - so many fine, historic sites being cared for. Jim

  2. Outstanding post! I am not at all familiar with this building.

  3. Wonderful pictures, and what history! I found myself looking carefully at the pictures of the furniture and knick-knacks! That's the "junker/thrift" store person inside me! Beautiful post, John.

  4. A wonderful home with the most beautifully decorated rooms - my favourite being the sitting/drawing room - also the housekeepers room is very interesting almost like we would refer to as shabby chic!
    Pleased you took the time to visit the inside John! very impressive.

  5. Wow. It's lovely. I don't think I'd ever feel at home in such a place, but I sure like looking at them. Thank you for the tour, John. I think my favorite room is the long one with the piano.

    Interesting that the last resident was Kipling's daughter.

  6. Hello, found your blog via Louise's Ramblings of a Roachling blog. the word Hanglands caught my eye as when we lived in the fens we used to walk at Castor Hanglands. I was thrilled to see your photos of the inside of Wimpole Hall because when we visited in June this year, the Hall was closed so we just saw the gardens home farm.

  7. Oh my goodness! Nope, we don't have anything like that on this side of the pond. Thanks for taking me on the tour. The place is amazing!

  8. What a gem of a place. I'd not heard of it but it's now on my must-visit list. It looks surprisingly cosy and inviting for such a grand house. I love the pale sitting room, could happily live in that! Excellent photos too.

  9. Jim: What people often don't realise is that the NT isn't a government-financed body, but a charity which was set up by a group of far-seeing individuals.
    Jack: Well, I you're a little more familiar with it now :)
    Liz: Sorry but I don't think any of this stuff will turn up in a yard-sale any time soon!
    Dianne: Yes, I'd be happy with the butler's room.
    Sue: Can you imagine living there all alone (well, with servants) as Mrs Bambridge did?
    Rosie: Welcome to BSAHs! Glad to give you just a peep inside.
    Carolyn: It's some cabin, huh?!!!
    jennyfreckles: I think you'd enjoy the grounds and gardens too; you always seem to take such lovely garden pictures.


Thanks for taking the time to comment. I'll try to answer any questions via a comment or e-mail within the next day or two (no hard questions, please!).