Ickworth House: A Very Big House in the Country

Ickworth Hall central vestibule

Last Updated on March 9, 2023

A regular feature in our round-ups of the best places to visit in Suffolk when staying at our Barns and Barges to rent, we thought that Ickworth House deserved a little more spotlight by way of its very own blog post. Built sometime between 1795 and 1829, the estate the house belongs to dates back 1467 when it was once the dwelling place of the Marquesses of Bristol. A masterpiece properly attributed to Frederick Hervey, the 4th Earl of Bristol and Bishop of Derry, Ickworth House was brought to life by esteemed Italian architect Antonio Asprucci after he was asked to design a classical villa in the Suffolk countryside.

As with many historic houses in Suffolk, the story of Ickworth House is anything but straightforward. Indeed, it was originally conceived as an art gallery to house all of the Earl’s impressive collection. The only hitch in this brilliant plan? All of the art he owned was seized by Napoleon. With nothing to hang on the walls, and with the Earl passing away in 1803, the house was to his successor to finish off. 

After enjoying the property for just over a century, the house was passed to the National Trust to cover death duties. Part of the contract meant that the Marquess of Bristol was entitled to a 99-year long lease on the 60 rooms of the East Wing. This clause in the contract was seamlessly  honoured up until 1998 when the 7th Marquess of Bristol made the decision to sell up the remaining years of the lease to the National Trust. However, the National Trust made the decision to refuse the sale on the grounds that the Letter of Wishes which declared that the head of the family should be provided accommodation at Ickworth whenever they so desire.

Nowadays visitors to Ickworth House are welcome to enjoy a recent multi-million pound conservation project when stepping inside for a tour. Alternatively, the surrounding grounds make for a fantastic setting for an afternoon of dog walking around some seriously impressive surroundings.

If you’re planning on visiting Ickworth House as part of your holiday, be sure to take a look at the availability of our Barns and Barges to rent in Suffolk. What’s more, be sure to take a look at our other blogs on Kentwell Hall, Melford Hall, and other must-see historic houses in Suffolk.