Sudbury Hall is a National Trust property a few miles east of Uttoxeter in Derbyshire in the small village of Sudbury and is also home to the National Trust Museum of Childhood, containing exhibits about children’s lives and toys dating from the 18th century to the present day.
A Little History
The Sudbury estate has been the property of the Vernon family since 1513 when John Vernon acquired the estate through his marriage to wealthy heiress Helen Montgomery. The estate then passed through several members of the Vernon family before being inherited by 25 year old George Vernon in 1660, who decided to rebuild the existing manor house and began construction of the house that stands today. George Vernon chose to design his house in a manner that was considered old-fashioned, with the E shape, diapered brickwork (the lattice effect) and design of the window glass. Internally, the design was also somewhat old-fashioned with ‘traditional’ layout of the principle rooms to the west and the domestic/service rooms and smaller family rooms to the east, and the inclusion of a Long Gallery, which was unusual in a newly built house of the time. George Vernon spent the rest of his life at Sudbury, the finishing touches not completed until 30 years after construction began, until his death in 1702 when the estate was then inherited by his last remaining son Henry Vernon.
Henry Vernon married Anne Pigot who was heiress to property in Shropshire and her uncle Peter Venables’ estates at Kinderton in Cheshire, which led to their son George adopting Venables-Vernon as his surname. George Venables-Vernon inherited the Kinderton estates in 1715 and then the Sudbury estate in 1719 after the death of his father Henry. Henry Venables-Vernon spent 62 years at Sudbury making few alterations to the house, and during his life being awarded a peerage in 1762 making him the 1st Lord Vernon. After the 1st Lord died in 1780, the estate was inherited by his son George 2nd Lord Vernon.
The estate passed through generations of the Vernon family and in 1839, the 5th Lord Vernon decided to let the Sudbury estate as he was spending much of his time overseas in Italy. Between the years 1839 and 1842, Sudbury was let to Queen Adelaide, wife of the late King William IV, uncle of Queen Victoria and last of the Hanoverian Kings of Great Britain. After the Queen Adelaide left Sudbury, whilst the 5th Lord was living in Italy, his son Augustus moved into the house in the mid 1850s with his wife Lady Harriet Anson, daughter of the Earl of Lichfield from Shugborough, later becoming the 6th Lord after the 5th Lord’s death in 1966.
During the 6th Lord’s time at Sudbury, a few changes were made to the house, including redecorating of the Long Gallery, a new roof and construction of a new service wing, though this was not completed until after the 6th Lord’s death. His son succeeded him, and married American heiress Frances Lawrance, bringing much needed money into his pocket in the form of her dowry. The 7th Lord let out the house in the later years of the 19th century and died in Bournemouth in 1898 aged 44.
The 8th Lord; another George, inherited the estate in 1898 at the age of 10 and during the First World War, fought and died in 1916. The estate then fell to his brother Francis who became the 9th Lord and moved the family back to Sudbury in 1922 where he lived until his death in 1963. After his death, the estate was handed to the treasury by the 10th Lord Vernon, as payment of death duties which was then handed to the National Trust. After passing the estate to the Treasury, the 9th Lord built a new house on the estate which is occupied by the family to the present day.
Like many of the National Trust houses Sudbury Hall operates a free flow policy allowing you to view the rooms at your own pace. When entering the house the first room you view is the Entrance Passage, which rather than a grand entrance hall found in many country houses, is a long corridor linking the north and south fronts. Taking the first door on your right you enter the Great Hall.
The Great Hall
The Great Hall was once part of a larger room which was partitioned in the late 18th – early 19th century creating the Entrance Passage and the separate Great Hall used as the ‘Large Dining Room’ for formal dinners and entertaining. It is a large room decorated in the current style and colour by the National Trust, with paintings of King George III, Queen Charlotte and several members of the Vernon family.
Moving through the archway exit the Great Hall and enter the Great Staircase.
The Great Staircase
The Great Staircase at Sudbury is an impressive room to say the least, the grand and incredibly intricate decor includes yellow painted walls, ornate wooden balustrade and plasterwork with vivid ceiling paintings. Unfortunately you’re not able to walk up and down the staircase instead having to use the Oak Stairs on the other side of house and so from here you enter into the Saloon.
The Saloon is another grand intricate room, decorated in white and gold. The room was once known as the parlour and likely used as a dining room by the early Vernon’s, much later the room was used increasingly for entertaining rather than everyday living. The portraits on the wall in this room include various members of the Vernon family.
Moving on from the Saloon you enter into the Drawing Room.
The Drawing Room
The Drawing Room was where the women would “withdraw” to after dinner leaving the men to their business, this is reflected in the somewhat feminine aspect to the room, including the decorative plates adorning the wall either side of the fireplace.
In 1853, the Drawing Room and the adjoining Library were combined into one large room, though this was later reversed by the National Trust in 1969 to bring balance to George Vernon’s plans for the house, and because the ceilings in the two rooms were very different.
Moving on from the Drawing Room and you will enter the Library.
The Library is quite a subtle room, compared to some of the other rooms at Sudbury Hall, it was decorated in it’s current state when the National Trust reinstated the wall between the Library and the Drawing Room.
Leaving the Library you enter into the rear section of the Entrance Passage and then Lord Vernon’s Study.
Lord Vernon’s Study
This room was originally the Chapel, home to a chamber organ which was removed in the early-mid 19th Century. When the 9th Lord Vernon moved into Sudbury this room was used as his study where he conducted his business, and is presented as it would have looked in the 1930s. You can see from the photo above, the room is decorated with multiple maps of the estate one of which dates back to 1794.
Moving on from this room, you enter into Lady Vernon’s Sitting Room.
Lady Vernon’s Sitting Room
Much like the adjacent Study being named after the 9th Lord Vernon, Lady Vernon’s Sitting Room is named after his wife Violet. I though this was a very cosy room painted in sage green and furnished with comfortable looking sofas and chairs.
Paintings in this room include one drawn by Violet herself, showing how the room looked in the 1930s, and also include a portrait of Louisa, wife of the 2nd Lord Vernon by Thomas Gainsborough.
From here you enter into the Stone Passage, leading to the side exit, the Oak Stairs and the Small Dining Room.
The Small Dining Room
This room was created in late 18th-early 19th century when a space equaling the size of the Great Hall was separated into the current Small Dining Room, the Stone Passage and the Oak Stairs. It was used as the everyday dining room by the family, leaving the Great Hall as a more formal dining room when entertaining guests. The most notable difference between this and the other rooms was that the ceiling appeared to be much lower.
From here, you exit back into the Stone Passage and walk up the Oak Stairs, entering into the Long Gallery.
The Long Gallery
The Long Gallery spans the full length of the south side of the property overlooking the gardens and lake. At the time at which the house was built, it was uncommon for houses to have a long gallery, but George Vernon was proud of his heritage dating back to the time of the Norman conquest and wanted to showcase his family history.
During the time of the 5th Lord Vernon up until 1967, the walls were lined with bookcases housing the 5th Lord’s extensive library.
At the far end of the room sits a desk facing into the room, I couldn’t help but think how nice it would be to sit and work there.
Moving on from the Long Gallery you enter the Talbot Room.
The Talbot Room
The Talbot Room is lined on all sides with floor to ceiling bookcases, with a small spiral staircase in one corner leading to a gallery to access the higher shelves, for someone who loves books and libraries this is a great room to see.
Originally this space was housed a family staircase to access the second floor of the property, it was converted into the present state in the late 19th Century.
After the Talbot Room, the next principle room you visit is the Queen’s Room.
The Queen’s Room
Originally named the Great Chamber, the Queen’s Room is named after Queen Adelaide, consort of King William IV who rented Sudbury from the Vernon’s for three years after the death of the King. The room is decorated with deep red silk wall coverings which were copied from earlier wall coverings that existed in the room in the 18th century, and furnished with furniture also dating back to the 18th century.
The last two rooms you see in the house are the Velvet Bedroom and Velvet Dressing Room.
The Velvet Bedroom
The Velvet Room and adjoining Dressing Room date back from a remodel in the 1850s and are set up as two good sized bedrooms.
In addition to the above rooms Sudbury also has a basement which is open to the public which includes a Billiard Room and Kitchen, this was however closed on my visit due to an insufficient number of National Trust volunteers.
After viewing all of the rooms you exit the house via a side door next the Oak Stairs.
The National Trust Museum of Childhood
Beside the main house in what was the service wing, you can visit the National Trust Museum of Childhood. You can visit this in addition to or instead of the main hall, with prices varying depending on whether you want to visit just the museum, the hall or the whole property which at £16.90 (or £18 with gift aid) per adult makes it one of the more expensive National Trust properties, and goes to show that it only takes a few visits to make the cost of the membership worthwhile.
The museum itself is quite a large space showcasing a wide range of toys from the last 300 years, along with allowing children to experience what school was like during the Victorian era.
- https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/sudbury-hall-and-the-national-trust-museum-of-childhood – Sudbury Hall on the National Trust website
- http://www.nationaltrustimages.org.uk/search?term=sudbury+hall&filters= – Sudbury Hall on the National Trust Images website