Next up in my country house queue is Sudbury Hall. If you are a fan of the 1995 “Pride and Prejudice” miniseries (and who isn’t?), some of these interiors are going to look familiar to you! As in the last post, all of the videos are 360s, so you can either just watch them or “take control” and look at whatever you want.
From the outside, Sudbury is very Jacobean/Restoration in its facade, which actually could be period-appropriate based on what we know about Pemberley, but doesn’t, I think, match most peoples’ mental picture of that fictional house (the exteriors of Pemberley were filmed at Lyme Park).
In addition to the house itself, the former stables now house the National Trust Museum of Childhood. I’ve got much too much house to show to go into too much detail of that, as well, but I will share this Regency era doll as an example:
Aside from its film connections, Sudbury is a great place to visit as an example of the evolution country houses were going through, both when it was built, and over time. It had a lot of placards explaining various changes that had taken place over the house and what era particular rooms dated from. One example of the way country houses at this time were evolving is in the great hall, below.
We’ve moved on from the old medieval/Tudor great halls, with their hammerbeam roofs, the halls where the entire family and their servants would have eaten and slept. But it is a still large, separate space that could be used as needed for the customary entertainments of not only one’s equals in society, but also of tenant farmers and servants. By the Georgian era, these have started to fall off or are moved to separate servants and tenants’ halls, and the great hall becomes the entrance hall: still an impressive space, but not commonly a room for entertainment anymore.
There are definitely areas of the house that seem Pemberley-ish, even ones that I don’t recall seeing featured in the movie, like the library:
Or this sitting room:
Or small dining room:
These and the grander rooms you’re about to see show that many country houses have a real mix of living spaces. Unfortunately you don’t always get to see the more “family” rooms because they’re in separate wings, sometimes still lived in by the family, and so it’s only the grand state rooms that are on tour.
Speaking of grander rooms, let’s just go ahead and show one of the two you’ve probably been waiting for, the great staircase:
What you don’t necessarily catch as much of in watching it on television is the rather Baroque decoration of this room, which makes sense in a house of this age, that some spaces would have been finished in the brief era when it was popular in English country houses, or perhaps updated during that time. Like the ceiling:
Or this carving above the staircase newel:
Personally, I don’t think of Pemberley as being Baroque in terms of its interior decoration:
The rooms were lofty and handsome, and their furniture suitable to the fortune of their proprietor; but Elizabeth saw, with admiration of his taste, that it was neither gaudy nor uselessly fine; with less of splendor, and more real elegance, than the furniture of Rosings.
To me, Baroque is a whole lot of gaudy and uselessly fine, and I’ve always thought of it as more of a neoclassical interior (we’ll be seeing some great examples of that in upcoming posts). I suppose the furniture could be thus and the wall and other decoration more Baroque, but I don’t think Elizabeth would be complimenting Darcy’s mismatched taste, if that was the case.
Things get even more Baroque in the saloon:
We’ll go downstairs briefly to the kitchen. This one is more of a melding of different eras, but I think generally more Victorian and Edwardian in terms of features.
It also has an incomplete alteration I believe from the Edwardian era (you can see a certain re-flourishing of past styles, which was meant to be a very high-ceilinged billiard room.
We’ll go up two flights of stairs now to the other room I expect you’ve been waiting for, the long gallery. It’s basically impossible to walk down the gallery without fangirling over recalling Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy doing the same. Again, though, it’s more Baroque when you get a chance to study it than I recall from the movie.
I’ve one last grand room to show, the Queen’s room. It’s very fitting to the general era of the interior decoration, with its silk damask wall hangings.
I also love this little detail, a book carrier. These mini-shelves could be used to carry books from one room to another (very useful considering how many “books” came in multiple volumes at that time) and were a common piece of furniture in the Georgian/Regency eras.
On the opposite side of the upstairs area is this great example of the house changing and being redecorated over time, this highly carved Tudor/gothic revival fireplace that only the Victorians could give us!
And just before the great staircase upstairs you get a completely different period with this art deco library:
Sigh, I do love a library!
In last week’s post on Shugborough, we had a chance to look at a Georgian era farm. One of the things that was most interesting about Sudbury was that it’s one of those houses that never moved its village farther away for landscaping or agricultural reasons (I’ve been reading about this and it wasn’t always for aesthetic reasons; sometimes it just made sense as part of re-configuring farms). What this means is that you get a chance to see the supporting village as well as the estate buildings.
There’s the stable and its yard, of course:
Then as you walk further along into the village…
…you reach the yard for the estate buildings which would have contained things like the steward’s office and maintenance buildings (now converted into shops, of course):
Further into town and there is an inn, shops (including a butcher), school, and housing:
And even the village stocks!
On the other side of the great house is the church:
I usually find when I’m visiting these houses and considering them as settings for this time period that I have to gear up the old imagination to envision them as lived-in houses, and often stitch things together from various houses I’ve been to. I went to Sudbury because of the P&P connection, but I was extra glad I did because it gave me the chance to understand more about the estate and the supporting village than any house I’ve been to so far.
I must close out for now, but next up we’ve got Nostell Priory, which was actually my favorite out of all the ones I visited in this trip, so watch this space!