Holkham Hall is an 18th-century country house constructed in the Palladian style for the 1st Earl of Leicester’s (fifth creation). Completed in 1764, it is widely hailed as one of England’s finest examples of the Palladian revival style. The cost of construction has been estimated to around £90,000.
One of the reasons why the house is so well preserved is that the descendants of the 1st Earl didn’t have the financial resources to alter their home in accordance with prevailing trends.
The Holkham Hall estate comprises roughly 25,000 acres of land.
Where is it?
Holkham Hall is located adjacent to the village Holkham in Norfolk, England.
Is it open to the public?
Holkham Hall is still the residence of the Earls of Leicester of Holkham, but parts of it are open to the public on Sundays, Mondays and Thursdays.
About the house
The first foundations for the house was laid in 1734 and the project continued until 1764.
The main architect for the house was William Kent, with the aid of Lord Burlington. As mentioned above, Holkham Hall is a prime example of the Palladian revival style and it’s design is, for the time period, unusually close to Palladio’s ideals.
The principal entry to Holkham Hall is through the Marble Hall, a room featuring pink Derbyshire alabaster. From the Marble Hall, we reach the piano nobile and state rooms. One of the most interesting rooms is the Saloon, where the walls are covered in red velvet.
An interesting aspect of Holkham Hall is that both the state rooms and the private rooms are decorated in the same style, instead of having very opulent state rooms and more understated private rooms.
The founder of the family fortune was the English jurist and politician Sir Edward Coke (1552-1634). He acquired Neals manor in 1609, but never resided there. He also made other purchases of land in Norfolk to pass down to his six sons. His fourth son, named John Coke, inherited parts of what would eventually become the Holkham Hall estate. In 1612 he married the heiress Meriel Wheatly and they made Hill Hall their main residence. By 1659, John Coke owned all three Holkham manors.
As mention above, Holkham Hall sits on 25,000 acres of land.
Work on the designs for a park started in 1729, several years before the house was built. One of the first completed projects was the construction of an 80 feet tall obelisk in 1730, which was placed at the park’s highest point, some half a mile south of what would become the centre of the house. From this obelisk, an avenue of trees runs southward for over a mile.
To fulfill the vision of a “wild” parkland, thousands of trees were planted on the open land. Above the main entrance to the house, within the Marble Hall, we can read the following inscription.
THIS SEAT, on an open barren Estate
Was planned, planted, built, decorated.
And inhabited the middle of the XVIIIth Century
By THO’s COKE EARL of LEICESTER
Coke of Norfolk was a great-nephew of the 1st Earl of Leicester, and he is responsible for extensive alterations of the parkland. When he died in 1842, he had extended the park to over 3,000 acres and planted over a million trees on the estate.