Ickworth

BY CHARLES EVANS

Ickworth House is a country house near Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, England. It is a neoclassical building set in parkland. The house was the residence of the Marquess of Bristol before being sold to the National Trust in 1998.

The East Wing at Ickworth House, Suffolk.

As one of England’s more unusual houses, Ickworth has been unflatteringly described as resembling “a huge bulk, newly arrived from another planet” and as “an overgrown folly” yet, is now being architecturally reassessed and recognised as the only building in England comparable with the monumental works of Boullée and Ledoux.

The design concept was based on the designs of Italian architect Mario Asprucci, most noted for his work at the Villa Borghese, which the Bishop-Earl had seen. Asprucci’s plans were adapted and the building work overseen by English architects Francis Sandys and his brother Joseph Sandys.

Room view of the Smoking Room at Ickworth, Suffolk with white marble chimneypiece

The façades are of brick covered in stucco; beneath a roof of slate and lead. The central rotunda is 105 ft. high with a domed and balustraded roof. the building is entered through the central entrance ionic pedimented portico.

The rotunda is decorated with pilasters, which on the lower floor are Ionic and Corinthian above. The ground and first floor and the third floor and the balustraded parapet are divided friezes bas-relief.

The rotunda is flanked by segmental single story narrow wings (appearing as a blind arcade) linking, in the Palladian fashion, to two terminating pavilions; these segmental wings are broken at their centre by projecting bays which house the Smoking Room and the Pompeian Room, both later 19th century additions.

View of the North Front of Ickworth, Suffolk, framed by autumn leaves.

Unlike the design of a true Palladian building, the terminating pavilions, rather than minor balancing appendages, are in fact large wings, complementary in weight to the rotunda which becomes their corps de logis. The East Wing, a small mansion in itself, was designed to be the everyday living quarters of the family (which it remained until 1998), thus permitting the more formal rooms of the rotunda to be reserved for entertaining and display. The west wing, intended as an orangery, sculpture gallery and service rooms remained an unfinished shell until the beginning of the 21st century. For much of the time it was used as agricultural storage.

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