Oxburgh Hall was built by Sir Edmund Bedingfield in 1482 as a symbol of the family’s status and political power. Red-brick was used, which at the time was usually reserved for the most important buildings and rarely used by anyone other than the King. A squared moat with a bridge was created and a magnificent gatehouse was built which was said to be “the most prominent of the English brick gatehouses of the 15th century”.
During Elizabeth I’s reign, the Catholic Bedingfields faced religious persecution. They had a ‘priest hole’ built that could be accessed through a trap door in the Garderobe (wardrobe). It was a tiny space where the priest would take refuge if the house was being searched and avoid imprisonment, torture and death. Whenever the authorities came to search for priests, they found nothing. The Bedingfields weren’t the only nobility to do this as ‘priest holes’ were common, but the one at Oxburgh is considered the biggest in the country.
Oxburgh Hall has been the home of the Bedingfield family for over 500 years and over the centuries it has seen religious persecution, Civil War & ruin. Its story is one of survival and endurance.
With mounting debt, overdue rents, high taxes and the estate being in great need of improvements, the family had no choice but to sell Oxburgh in 1951. It was sold off in lots, but when it came to selling the house and gardens there was only one person interested, who reportedly “wanted it for the oak in the roof, the doors, and the bricks he was going to make into hardcore”.
The hall was offered back to the family for £5,000. Lady Sybil Bedingfield along with her daughter and niece managed to raise the money and bought back the hall. Oxburgh was then given into the care of the National Trust in order to protect its history.
On display in the dining hall is the ‘Marian Hangings’, needlework created by Mary Queen of Scots during her imprisonment in England. The Hangings passed into the family in the 18th century. The needlework is a work of art and includes detailed images of a phoenix and a dragon and a unicorn which all had a personal meaning to Mary.
There are plenty of areas to explore on the estate including an orchid, a kitchen garden, a Parterre (French-styled garden), woodland and meadows. Owls, bats, otters, butterflies and even sheep live in the area so keep your eyes peeled.
Take some time to relax and take in the nature and beauty of the area.
For more information on Oxburgh Hall and how to book visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/oxburgh-hall/features/the-hall-at-oxburgh.
Currently, there is work on the roof, which is scheduled to finish in the Winter meaning upstairs is closed to the public along with the Priest Hole which is under restoration. Don’t let that put you off visiting this year. It just gives you an excuse to visit again next year when the hall is back to its former glory.
The National Trust is a charity and membership organisation for heritage conservation in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. It was founded in 1895 The Trust was founded in 1895 to “promote the permanent preservation for the benefit of the Nation of lands and tenements (including buildings) of beauty or historic interest”. It manages 180 properties across the country with 11 being here in Norfolk. For more information and how you can support them visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk.