Plan a trip to Hockwold Hall this spring
Words by Adrienne Schuter
There is nothing better than seeing inside someone else’s house, unless of course it is someone’s country house. So on a relatively sunny day I set off for a private tour, and tea, of Hockwold Hall as part of the scheme Invitation to View which allows public access to some of the county’s magnificent country houses.
Just an hour’s drive from Norwich and a few miles west of Thetford, Hockwold Hall is set in 40 acres of parkland. Built in 1492 it is a fine example of an Elizabethan E plan manor house and was once the home of a maharajah’s son who also happened to be one of Queen Victoria’s godsons. Prince Victor Duleep Singh bought the house in 1895 but an addiction to gambling meant that by 1918 he was declared bankrupt and ended his days penniless in Monte Carlo. Since then it has changed hands a number of times but luckily recent owners have been more circumspect with their money, keeping the house in pretty good condition.
A year ago it was purchased by newly-weds Richard Thomas and his wife Selica who are developing it as a venue for country weddings. It is very much a family affair with Richard’s father Peter and mother Maureen giving a helping hand with the tours in the house and round the garden. Even Lola the family cat got in on the act indicating how
luxurious it was by lying stretched across the bed in one of the two honeymoon suites.
Hockwold Hall is more manor house than stately home and what it lacks in opulence makes up for with its comfortable country house appeal. The tour lasts about two hours finishing with tea and cake and allows you free access to most of the house; Richard and his wife live on the fifth floor. It is a shame there are no great works of art, or exquisite furnishings but it is intriguing to visit a house from another time, so much so last Christmas Courtney Cox, Monica in US sitcom Friends, and her family spent the holiday there.
The bedrooms are simply but tastefully decorated and downstairs the reception rooms were quiet and comfortable, a welcome alternative to the fast pace of 21st century living. But it is the walled garden which is truly stunning. Here you certainly get the feeling of a past, more gentle age strolling through the bordered walkways to come across pockets of charm, like the tiny gothic summer house. Even though our summers are never guaranteed sunny, a summer wedding here would certainly offer the promise of a memorable day, even if it rains.
Further details at www.invitationtoview.co.uk