Whether it’s a tour of the house, a bike ride or a brisk walk, there’s over 1,800 acres of National Trust parkland for you to explore. Once a fine country home, now a luxury family hotel specialising in child friendly holidays, the Ickworth is a masterpiece of Italian-inspired architecture.
Creating The Ickworth
Home to the Hervey family from 1702 until 1996, Ickworth House was influenced by the Italian travels of Frederick Augustus Hervey. The most striking thing you’ll notice as you arrive is the Rotunda. At over 100 feet high, this impressive building was the brainchild of Fredrick Augustus, 4th Earl of Bristol and the Bishop of Derry (also known as the Earl-Bishop), created to house his estranged family and provide galleries for his art collection.
The Earl-Bishop only ever saw the Rotunda built: he was never able to view the completed building due to his untimely death in 1803 on the road to Albano. It was only in 1821 that work resumed on the building and Italianate Garden. The family moved into the East Wing in 1829, with the Rotunda state rooms used as a gallery and entertainment space. The West Wing was left empty, being an architectural shell added only for symmetry.
The Herveys were dedicated hosts, inviting many of the great and good to stay. Today, reminders of Ickworth’s notable guests can be found in its room names. Louis and Amelie allude to the King and Queen of France, who stayed here in the 18th century, while Lady Montagu refers to a well-known 18th century poet.
As time passed, subtle changes to the house took place. Extensive improvements on the East Wing, servants’ quarters and the Rotunda were carried out in 1910, when the 4th Marquess completed the upper floors of the Rotunda and installed electricity and modern facilities such as proper bathrooms and heating.
In 1956, Ickworth House, its contents and gardens passed to the Treasury in lieu of death duties, and from there were granted to the National Trust. The Hervey family continued to live in the East Wing under a leasing agreement. The last family member in residence was the 7th Marquess, who sold the lease in 1996 after his chequered lifestyle led him into debt. During his occupation, Ickworth hosted pop stars and celebrities for lavish house parties.
Luxury Family Hotels
Today, the East Wing of the house is our luxury family hotel, while the West Wing is a visitor centre, with facilities for conferences and events. Though the building has been updated to provide modern comfort, the house retains its historic charm. In recent years, aided by a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Ickworth Lives project led to the restoration of the basements, providing visitors with a fascinating glimpse into life ‘below stairs’ in the 1930s.
While you’re here, treat the house as your home. All guests have exclusive after-hours access to the Italianate Gardens until 9pm (or dusk during shorter months). Why not take a glass of champagne on a warm evening and soak up the tranquil atmosphere in total seclusion?
There’s plenty to keep children entertained during the day, too. If you’re up for discovering the rest of the grounds, there are over 1,800 acres to choose from. Maps available from reception provide routes ranging from a sedate stroll along the half-mile Lady Geraldine walk to an energetic seven-mile bike ride along Grand Tour. Armed with a GPS device, you can also try Geocaching: a modern-day treasure hunt around the parkland. However you spend it, one thing’s for sure: time at the Ickworth is family time at its best.