Somerleyton Hall, a splendid Victorian residence of palatial proportions was the creation of Sir Morgan Peto, a clever ex-bricklayer turned railway contractor. He bought what was originally a 17th century house in 1844 when he was only 33, and he then set about bringing it up to date.
It was intended the house provide the inspiration for what was to come, but by the time it was finished, Peto and the sculptor John Thomas, who had been employed to turn the house into a Jacobean Mansion had produced between them an impressive property showing a combination of Victorian, Italian and French styles.
The use of soft, pale Caen stone gives Somerleyton its typical French look, the stone was chosen by Thomas for the ease with which it carved. There is much ornamentation carved on the building, with the most elaborate addressed to the stone connecting screen between the wings in the French Renaissance style - this is in sharp contrast to the Italian looking tower on the opposite side.
To the naked eye the inside of the hall seems somewhat sombre in contrast to the softness of the exterior. Here there is much use of oak panelling, particularly in the 17th century parlour. The richly decorated staircase, hall and dining room all have some original features, but it is the Victorian rooms that are the most impressive. The Victorian entrance Hall has dark oak woodwork relieved by marble panels, Minton floor tiles, and standing beneath the painted dome a stuffed polar bear mingles with elegant statutory!
Sadly, Sir Morgan was not to live out his dream, in 1863 owing to the failure of his business he was forced to sell and the house was bought by the Crossley family, who later became Lords of Somerleyton.
Today, this fine historic home remains in the hands of the Crossley family, the estate is owned and run by Lord Somerleyton, grandson of the original purchaser Sir Francis Crossley, a wealthy carpet manufacturer. All its lavish architectural features remain intact, but the house has been redecorated, and as one would expect, at times new pieces of furniture have been acquired.
Somerleyton Hall is surrounded by lovely pastoral grounds, perfect for a leisurely stroll alongside beautifully manicured lawns dotted with ancient trees. There is a rich variety of shrubs and plants, with lots of bright flower borders. The most delightful feature is the yew hedge maze of 1846, this has been keeping visitors to the hall entertained for over 150 years, particularly children who seem to relish getting caught up in its ever decreasing circles!
The gardens have splendid garden statutory and Victorian greenhouses alive with charming flower displays. There is a beautiful walled sunken garden, and a 300 foot long pergola.
For visitors wishing to eat "al fresco" there is a pretty shaded picnic area close to the car park, otherwise for refreshment try the delightful Loggia Tea-Room which serves light lunches and afternoon teas.
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