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The exterior of the Earl-Bishop’s Rotunda was virtually finished when he died in 1803, but the interior was still an empty shell, and the curving corridors and wings only a few feet above ground. It was left to the Earl-Bishop’s son, the future 1st Marquess of Bristol, to make what use he could of his father’s extraordinary plan. Having no need for massive galleries, in 1821 he instructed his architect, John Field, to redesign the East Wing as family living-quarters.

Field fitted out the ground floor of the Rotunda as state rooms in an austere Regency style. The West Wing was added purely for symmetry and so was left empty. The Trust is pleased to announce the go-ahead of a package for a project to develop the West Wing to provide new facilities for visitor reception, information, education, shop, restaurant, functions, conferences and events.

As the family lived mostly in the East Wing, the rooms that visitors see in the Rotunda spent much of the year under dust sheets, coming into their own mainly for parties and other special occasions. But as a result, their superb furnishings and decoration have survived in excellent condition and little changed since the heyday of the house in the Edwardian era.

The house, with much of its collections of family portraits, Huguenot silver, Regency furniture and china, and part of the ancient deer-park, passed to the National Trust in 1956.

The East Wing has been transformed into a four star hotel by the hotel company Luxury Family Hotels who lease the East Wing. Until 1997 the East Wing was home to the late 7th Marquis of Bristol who had leased the property from the National Trust.

The hotel has 35 luxury rooms – 11 in the Dower House a separate property situated on the north-west of the estate (opened in autumn 2002) – the hotel complex has three restaurants, a 50ft indoor pool, horse riding facilities and a tennis court.

Ickworth’s 18th-century parkland and gardens include some of the most stunning countryside to be found in East Anglia.

The Park
The extensive 1,800 acres of wooded parkland, created in part by ‘Capability’ Brown, is a living landscape rich in plant, animal, and bird life. Some parts cultivated and grazed yet much can be explored and enjoyed. Some waymarked field margins may also be walked. Access has been made possible through funding by the Forestry Commission’s Countryside Access scheme.

The Gardens
The gardens surrounding the house were created in the first half of the 19th century by the First Marquess of Bristol. Those in the formal Italian style to the south of the house feature the Gold and Silver Gardens, a Victorian Stumpery and the Temple Rose Garden. A raised terrace walk separates the south garden from the park.

Beyond the church are the remnants of an 18th-century garden created by the First Earl. His summerhouse (circa.1703) and ornamental canal still survive. The kitchen garden, protected by high brick walls, is now a vineyard producing Ickworth wines (available in the National Trust shop).

Posted by Karen Roe on 2011-05-21 08:58:00

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