“Raynham Hall: An English Country House Revealed” gives us a comprehensive look at one of England’s most unique aristocratic homes.
Presented to the wider public for the first time, this historic hall is meticulously researched by Dr. Michael Ridgdill, a connoisseur of architecture and history. The principal photographer is Julius Beltrame, whose images immerse you immediately in the splendor of the British aristocracy.
Family and Fortunes
Since 1619, Raynham Hall has been home to the Townshend family. While it is smaller than its neighboring Norfolk estates, Raynham’s unique architecture puts it in a class all of its own.
Rigdgill’s research reveals that its overall design was created by the first Townshend. Inspired by his journey across Europe, Sir Roger Townshend built Raynham with Dutch and Italian influences. Ridgdill supplies an early blueprint of the house, indicating each room as originally intended. Next to it is the comparison of the modern-day plan and the changes that have been made.
As time went on, subsequent generations of Townshends put their own stamp on the house. There are furnishings brought in by Sir Roger’s son Horatio, who finished the final construction in parts of the house after Roger’s death. Later, the elaborate carvings of architect William Kent were added at the request of Lord Charles “Turnip” Townshend. Kent was responsible for the magnificent plaster work ceiling of the great Marble Hall, bearing the arms of the 2nd Viscount Townshend. He also contributed the ornate gilt console tables upon which marble busts of past Townshends sit in silent observation.
The hall’s uniquely beautiful structure and its heirlooms are testaments to the good fortunes of the Townshends and their prominence in British political life. Beltrame’s photography captures that historic era seen in Raynham’s sunlit rooms.
The outer shots of the house are just as spectacular as the interiors – the dark surroundings of evening contrast with the warm, welcoming glow from the windows. While Raynham looks imposing by day, by night it is a cozy house where you can happily kick off your Wellies and savor a cup of tea after a long day.
For those interested in the supernatural, you’ll be delighted to know that Ridgdill has also included “The Brown Lady” who is said to haunt Raynham. The famous 1936 photo of a ghost on the staircase has had people puzzled for years. Is it really the ghost of Dorothy, the second wife of Viscount Charles Townshend, or is it simply a trick of the light? A few pages later, we see the same place (formally named The Oak Staircase) in modern times. It is daylight and devoid of specters. A great comparison between what we see in legend and the everyday.
Charles Townshend, the 8th Marquess, is dutifully restoring Raynham with his wife, Alison. The Townshends inherited the house after Charles’ father died in 2010. They have thrown themselves into painting and restoring with gusto, and, with their blessing, invited Dr. Ridgdill to survey and catalog the house in detail.
This combination of history and artistry will delight all architecture enthusiasts and historians. Get your hands on a copy today!
Dr. Michael Ridgdill is the founder and president of American Friends of British Art. Established in 2003, AFBA provides funds for restorative projects on art and architecture across Britain.