A Concise Architectural History of Raynham Hall, Norfolk

Essay by Amy Boyington and Karey Draper

The Townshends of Raynham have resided in Norfolk since the medieval period, building their fortunes, and consequently their houses, on sheep farming. They rose to the ranks of the aristocracy through the first Sir Roger Townshend (1430–1493), a lawyer who was knighted in 1486 by Henry VII. The ancestral seat has been at Raynham since the fifteenth century, at which time it consisted of a manor house arranged round a courtyard plan.1 It was constructed of brick, possibly moated and situated near the church of St Mary, East Raynham.2 Around 1619, ambitious plans were set in motion to design a new house. Land was prepared just east of the manor house and stone sourced from Coxford Abbey. However, just three years later, the initial foundations were abandoned in favour of a fresh start.3 It is this building, now known as Raynham Hall, and its architects that are the focus of this essay.

The question of its unconfirmed architect has been the subject of much debate. Building accounts are brief, only covering the initial building stage from about 1618 to 1622, but these do not readily reveal the presence of an outside architect. One initial theory was that Raynham was possibly the work of Inigo Jones or someone close to him. This supposition is supported by the building’s classical style, which during the earlier seventeenth century was known to be practised by Jones. The east elevation of Raynham Hall also bears a striking resemblance to Jones’s work at Prince’s Lodging in Newmarket of 1619.4 However, during this period, Jones rarely directly involved himself with buildings unconnected to the Royal court.5 The prevailing and more accepted theory is that Raynham is the creation of its owner, the young Sir Roger Townshend (c.15951637), great-grandson of Sir Nicholas Bacon (lord keeper of the Great Seal for Elizabeth I), in collaboration with his local master mason, William Edge.6

Roger Townshend was born about 1595 at Melton Constable, son of Sir John Townshend (c.1567–1603) and Anne Bacon (1573–1622). When he was seven years old, his father died following a duel on Hounslow Heath. Sir Roger and his mother were left with little as Sir John had incurred vast debts during his lifetime and sold much of his land holdings to his mother, Jane Stanhope, Lady Berkeley (c.1547–1618).7 Following Sir John’s death, Lady Berkeley bought the wardship of her grandson and only heir, Roger. When he reached his majority in 1616, he officially inherited the estate at Raynham. The following year he was created 1st Baronet Townshend.8

To an ambitious young man with a newly elevated social status and financial means, the manor at Raynham may have seemed fairly antiquated. At the time and during building, he lived at Stiffkey Hall, on the north Norfolk coast, with his maternal grandfather, Sir Nathaniel Bacon (c.1546–1622). Bacon provided encouragement on the building project as well as supervising the work during Sir Roger’s absences.9 He also engaged an overseer named Thomas Barker, to aid Sir Roger with the operation.10 Sir Nathaniel had built Stiffkey Hall in 1576 in close collaboration with his father Sir Nicholas, who during his lifetime designed several grand houses. Both men are now considered to be among the first gentlemen architects in England. Sir Roger himself is also known to have had a collection of Italian and French architecture books.11 Thus, Sir Roger seemed to have had a personal interest and a family legacy that valued the intellectual pursuit of building design. After Lady Berkeley’s death in 1617/18, his inheritance may well have provided the additional practical means to spur on the design for a new Hall at Raynham.

While initial efforts to begin foundations on a new hall were under way, the building accounts record that from May to October 1620, Sir Roger and William Edge travelled abroad together. Although the exact purpose of their trip is unknown, it is possible they were intending to draw inspiration from an architectural tour and that they made a study of the latest building styles along the way in Newmarket and in London. John Summerson noted the rise during this period of what he termed an ‘Artisan classicism’, witnessed in two London townhouses beginning around 1615, including Sir Fulke Greville’s home called Bath House, which employed the use of a Dutch-style gable with scrolled sides and pediments and which may in turn have started a ‘nationwide vogue’ (fig. 1).12 It is this type of gable that appears later on the east and west elevations at Raynham. The building records note that in November 1619, Sir Roger paid a shilling to a porter to view Bath House, so it is quite likely that it was from there he derived inspiration.13 During this period Sir Henry Hobart’s Blickling Hall, at nearby Aylsham, was also being constructed and it too has similar Dutch gabling: Sir Roger is known to have visited Blickling. Indeed, Linda Campbell has noted that Sir Roger studied a range of buildings during this period, including the Banqueting House at Whitehall and Somerset House in London, Audley End in Essex, Hatfield House in Hertfordshire and Wimbledon House in Surrey.14

Bathe House, Houlborne, London, the main front

Figure 1.
John Smythson, Bathe House, Houlborne, London, the main front, 1619. Drawing. RIBA Collections (SC236/III/6 (1)).

Digital image courtesy of RIBA Collections (RIBA12951). (All rights reserved)

It is clear that whatever the path for gathering design ideas and incorporating both Dutch and ‘Jonesian’ influence, Sir Roger was slow and methodical in his decisions for Raynham. Uniquely, he utilised what is thought to have been the first complete model of a country house.15 This was probably used to help visualise the finished design and perhaps consider any problems before the real version evolved on the ground. Although detailed accounts do not survive beyond 1622, until that stage Sir Roger had already spent £3500 in building materials, a considerable amount for a house that was still many years from being finished.16 The stone was sourced from the Ketton and Clipsham quarries near Rutland Water and transported via waterways to King’s Lynn, ‘where it was transferred to carts for the eighteen mile journey to the site.’17 The bricks at Raynham were made locally by two Essex men using kilns.18 Elm and maple were used for the timber.19 Workmen were for the most part local although a few came from other projects, including the blacksmith, who had been working on Blickling Hall before starting at Raynham.20

What ultimately arose was a brick house with stone accents, set round a mostly H-plan design with a basement, ground floor, first floor and attic level. The west facade was the main entrance of the house and the east facade its rear elevation. Each adjoining wing to the north and south was punctuated by the distinctive Dutch gables described earlier.

The principal entrance front on the west side was originally arranged with seven central bays and two additional bays on each gabled side wing (fig. 2). Two doorways topped with pediments were placed one to each side of the central front on ground floor level. These led into the two-storey Great Hall, in the traditional arrangement of a medieval great hall with its screens passage at either end. However, in 1703, these two entrances were replaced with windows, in favour of creating a central door configured with a scroll pediment above.21 Other than this change, the west front is largely as it was originally conceived.

1666. Drawing. RIBA Collections (VOL/82 f.5).

Figure 2.
William Edge/Sir Roger Townshend, Design for Raynham Hall, Norfolk, the west (entrance) elevation, 1666. Drawing. RIBA Collections (VOL/82 f.5).

Digital image courtesy of RIBA Collections (RIBA37008). (All rights reserved)

Raynham’s east facade, as seen today, is partially the work of Charles, 2nd Viscount Townshend (1675–1738) in 1703, and William Kent in 1732. The original seventeenth-century design was fashioned with a gable-level attic that stretched north to south with a central portico attached to the first storey and Dutch gables at either end (fig. 3). Four Ionic pilasters rose from the first floor to the attic level to support a pediment. Between the pilasters at attic level were three small windows. These were situated just above three long rectangular windows arranged on both the first and ground floors. The bays on either side had Venetian windows on the first floor, which are no longer present. According to Nikolaus Pevsner, these windows, dating from 1622, were a complete innovation in England at this time, their earliest dated appearance being at the Queen’s Chapel by Marlborough House in 1623 (by Inigo Jones).22 It is thus disappointing that they were later removed and replaced with sash windows. Dual entrances were situated on the ground floor, one on either side of the central bay, to lead into an ante-room (now the Small Dining Room) and a hall (now the Music Room), respectively, with access to the ground-floor chapel (later the Red Saloon).

1666. Drawing. RIBA Collections (VOL/82 f.7).

Figure 3.
William Edge/Sir Roger Townshend, Design for Raynham Hall, Norfolk, the east (garden) elevation, 1666. Drawing. RIBA Collections (VOL/82 f.7).

Digital image courtesy of RIBA Collections (RIBA37010). (All rights reserved)

The south elevation is largely unchanged except for the exterior stairs which were originally a set of two staircases on either side of the door (fig. 4). The north elevation is also mostly intact from the original design (fig. 5).

1666. Drawing. RIBA Collections (VOL/82 f.6).

Figure 4.
William Edge/Sir Roger Townshend, Design for Raynham Hall, Norfolk, the south elevation, 1666. Drawing. RIBA Collections (VOL/82 f.6).

Digital image courtesy of RIBA Collections (RIBA37009). (All rights reserved)

1666. Drawing. RIBA Collections (8VOL/82 f.).

Figure 5.
William Edge/Sir Roger Townshend, Design for Raynham Hall, Norfolk, the north elevation, 1666. Drawing. RIBA Collections (8VOL/82 f.).

Digital image courtesy of RIBA Collections (RIBA37011). (All rights reserved)

It is of interest to note that despite the avant-garde nature of Sir Roger’s exterior design, the internal spaces – at least originally – were very much based on a traditional plan. The basement was predominantly the service level of the house with the kitchens, pastry room, wine cellars and other storage areas. On the ground floor, the two central rooms were the Great Hall with its enormous fireplace in the middle of the east wall and the Chapel (fig. 6). These rooms were surrounded by the Great Parlour, and smaller ‘Letel parlour’, hallways, withdrawing room (now the Stone Parlour), as well as the pantry and stairs leading down to the kitchens. On the first floor were state bedrooms and the main dining room, which later became the so-called Belisarius Room (fig. 7). The attic or second-floor level was reserved for some servant accommodation above the wings and possibly guest rooms above the east and west ranges.

Design for Raynham Hall, Norfolk, ground floor plan

Figure 6.
William Edge/Sir Roger Townshend, Design for Raynham Hall, Norfolk, ground floor plan, 1666. Drawing. RIBA Collections (VOL/82 f.2).

Digital image courtesy of RIBA Collections (RIBA37005). (All rights reserved)

1666. Drawing. RIBA Collections (VOL/82 f.3).

Figure 7.
William Edge/Sir Roger Townshend, Design for Raynham Hall, Norfolk, first floor plan, 1666. Drawing. RIBA Collections (VOL/82 f.3).

Digital image courtesy of RIBA Collections (RIBA37006). (All rights reserved)

There were three main staircases within the house in the seventeenth century. At the north side was what is now the Stone Staircase. The ante-room south of the chapel led to a staircase that has since been re-ordered. A third, smaller staircase, probably reserved for servants’ use, was located in the south wing in what is now the Library. It was removed in the early eighteenth century when the Oak Staircase was constructed.

Thus, the main entertaining spaces in the seventeenth-century Raynham Hall were the Great Hall (now Marble Hall) and Great Parlour (now Morning Room) on the ground floor and the Dining Room (now Belisarius Room) on the first floor. It is here that the beginnings of a collection could start to find a new setting.

Unfortunately, Sir Roger did not live to see his new building completed, as he died suddenly in 1637. There is evidence, however, that the house may then have been nearly finished. Wage books in the Raynham Hall archive document orders being placed for internal fittings such as wainscoting.23 However, it seems that otherwise the hall remained empty for another decade. The final decorations and fittings became the responsibility of his son Horatio, 1st Viscount of Raynham (c.1630–1687), who inherited after his older brother’s death while travelling, in about 1647.

Horatio was the first Townshend to be able to use Raynham to showcase his political and social advancement. In 1661, following Charles II’s restoration, Horatio embarked on finishing his father’s work, renovating and decorating, presumably with the help of his new wife Mary Lewkenor. According to Michael Ridgdill, the works were extensive, sufficient to require the Townshends to live with Mary’s parents for several months.24 There are several interior features that date from this period including the black and white marble fireplace in the Stone Parlour and possibly those in the Red Saloon and the Duke of Monmouth’s Bedroom. These interiors must have constituted the final phase of finishing Sir Roger’s great house, for in 1671 it was ready to receive a royal visit, when Charles II came to stay, bringing with him the Duke of York, the Duke of Monmouth, the Earl of Exeter and the Earl of Essex.25 Horatio died in 1687 and the Hall entered a quiet period of disuse.25 This hiatus came to an abrupt end at the beginning of the eighteenth century with the arrival of Charles Townshend, 2nd Viscount Townshend and a new chapter in the architectural history of Raynham Hall.

Charles Townshend inherited the Raynham estate in 1687 at the age of thirteen but did not occupy the Hall until 1697, when he returned from his European Grand Tour. The following year he ordered an inventory of ‘ye goods yt belong to ye Kitchen.’27 In addition, a brief account of the furniture and furnishings at Raynham was provided:

The little Roome where ye marble table stands, some of ye wainscot is decay’d, and ye paynting is very bad, and dirty, tis in Mr Wards oppinion t’will be necessary to have it mended, and new painted, if yor Honor approoves of it, here is a painter near yt is a good workman, and will do it well. The Groome of ye Chambers Sai’s a dozen and ½ of cane chairs will furnish ye Parlour. He has look’t over all ye goods, and where there wants any mending he will take care to doe it, and put what roomes he can in ordr wth ye goods yt are here. We need not send up ye red damask curtains for here is as much of ye same silk as will mend them, and he will doe it here; The wrought bed shall be pack’d up to day and send by ye Carryer tomorrow.28

In July of the same year Townshend married Elizabeth Pelham (1681–1711), daughter of Thomas Pelham (1653–1712), the future Baron Pelham of Laughton, and thus the impetus behind creating a suitable marital home is explained. On 6 August 1698 £4 5s was paid for ‘six Looking glasses’, of which one was ‘in a black Japan frame’, one in a ‘Wallnut frame’ and four in ‘Walnut and olive frames.’29 In the following year Townshend ordered a fashionable new closet for his wife, fitted up with a marble chimneypiece by Samuel Faulkes and a folding japan table commissioned from Elizabeth Gumley.30

Between 1703 and 1707 Townshend updated the facades of Raynham Hall and improved the existing plan form. A book of measured drawings prepared for Charles II’s visit in 1671 provides a useful tool in understanding the extent of Townshend’s alterations, especially when compared to Edmund Prideaux’s (1693–1745) four topographical drawings of Raynham, dated by John Harris to about 1725 (figs 8–11).31 For this phase of work Townshend commissioned Matthew May, a London carpenter and joiner, who had previously worked on Halland Place, the house of his father-in-law. Miles Pomeroy, a London mason, and William Edge, a carpenter and presumed descendant of the William Edge who designed Raynham in 1622, were also involved with these works.32 A surviving bill entitled ‘Mr Poemrroys Accot of Work done at Raynham Hall as pr Agreement &c.’ details the list of works completed in October and November 1703.33 He was paid for ‘Pulling down 2 flights of Stepps and 2 Door Cases, and making two Windows where the Doors were.’34 These alterations refer to the removal of the two existing symmetrical doors on the west front, depicted in the 1671 record drawing, and the creation of a new central entrance in the place of an existing arched window (see fig. 2).35 Originally these doors led to the screen passages on either side of the seventeenth-century Great Hall.36

Raynham west front and lake

Figure 8.
Edmund Prideaux, Raynham west front and lake, circa 1725. Drawing. Prideaux Place.

Digital image courtesy of Dave Penman. (All rights reserved)

Raynham east front

Figure 9.
Edmund Prideaux, Raynham east front, circa 1725. Drawing. Prideaux Place.

Digital image courtesy of Dave Penman. (All rights reserved)

Raynham south front

Figure 10.
Edmund Prideaux, Raynham south front, circa 1725. Drawing. Prideaux Place.

Digital image courtesy of Dave Penman. (All rights reserved)

Raynham wilderness and lake from the west front

Figure 11.
Edmund Prideaux, Raynham wilderness and lake from the west front, circa 1725. Drawing. Prideaux Place.

Digital image courtesy of Dave Penman. (All rights reserved)

Perhaps the greatest alteration took place on the east front, which included the replacement of the central ground-floor window with a pedimented door, complete with a flight of steps leading up to it, which Pomeroy had completed by 15 October 1703.37 The original ground-floor doorcases, once located symmetrically on either side of the projecting classical portico, were blocked up, as were the small circular windows above them and the two arched windows located on either side. These were replaced with tall sash windows, installed by May, which were aligned with the windows of the projecting wings and central portico.38 The pioneering Venetian windows installed by Sir Roger Townshend, located on the first floor on either side of the portico, were entirely replaced by his descendant with four sash windows, aligned with the windows of the end bays. It was at this time that the ground-floor rustication was probably added to the facade and may have formed part of the ‘323 foot of Ashler at 6s pr foot’ billed by Pomeroy in 1703.37

Simultaneously Townshend directed the modernisation in the arrangement of the state rooms. The Great Hall, which was located behind the west elevation and consisted of one and a half storeys, was remodelled. The screen passages were closed off and a new central entrance was created leading to what had once been the Chapel beyond, thereby replacing the seventeenth-century chimneypiece. The balconies which once provided a view from the Belisarius Room on the first floor down to the Great Hall were also blocked up. To the right of the old Great Hall, a new oak baluster staircase was inserted into the south screen passage and the original main staircase, south of the Chapel, was probably reduced in size and status at this point. This reduction in size allowed the room behind it, labelled as ‘Ante Room’ in the 1671 plan, to be enlarged and fitted with a fireplace. Nikolaus Pevsner claims that May and Edge were responsible for this internal rearrangement.40

A period of calm followed this flurry of activity and presumably arose from Townshend’s active political career, which took him away from Raynham. Between 1709 and 1711 he was ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary to the States-General of the United Provinces and then in 1714, on the succession of George I, he was appointed secretary of state for the Northern Department. Both he and his Norfolk neighbour, Robert Walpole (16761745), the future Earl of Orford, found great favour with the Hanoverians, and formed alliances accordingly, but when their opinions later differed, particularly over foreign policy in the latter 1720s, an irrevocable rupture occurred. This rivalry also played out in architectural form, with both statesmen competing to create the most beautiful country house in Norfolk.

Between 1724 and 1732 Townshend embarked on a whole-scale interior remodelling of Raynham, for which he commissioned the celebrated architect William Kent (c.1685–1748). Just as Walpole was building his great country seat at Houghton, Townshend was determined not to be outshone, allegedly looking on ‘every stone that augmented the splendour of Houghton as a diminution of the grandeur of Raynham.’41 Although Kent supervised the works at Raynham, it was Thomas Ripley (1682–1758) who acted as executant architect, responsible for the contractors and disbursements. With no payments to Kent evident it is difficult to establish the dates and extent to which he was involved. Nonetheless, two undated notes from the Raynham archives demonstrate that Kent was heavily involved in the designing of the interiors.42 The first note lists a series of questions and queries for ‘Mr. Kent’, such as ‘Q. What sort of Chaises are proper for the Great Room’ and ‘Q. The Window Curtains to the Great Rooms and some contrivance to shutt out the glare of light there in the sd room.’43 The second note, headed ‘The Chimney pieces concluded on as follows’, lists the settled locations for a number of the chimneypieces, including ‘A in Portland ye Hall’ and ‘D: in Statuary alone as first proposed, for the East Drawing room above E.’43

Ripley’s detailed account books provide an illuminating insight into the manner in which the remodelling took place. A total of £10,398 was paid out by Ripley between 1724 and 1732, signalling that this project was no mean feat.45 Although the arrangement of the rooms remained intact during this period of alteration, substantial changes were made to their appearance. One of the most dramatic changes occurred in the Entrance Hall, which was newly paved with black and white marble, possibly the work of the masons Christopher Cass and Andrew Jelf (fig. 12).46 The magnificent plaster ceiling, either the work of Isaac Mansfield or Giovanni Bagutti, proudly boasts Townshend’s ancestral arms, complete with his Garter, which he had been awarded in 1724.47 Unfluted Ionic pilasters and entablature further ornament the room, as do the pair of walnut settees designed by Kent and probably executed by James Moore the Younger in about 1730.48 Kent also designed four gilt tables with red marble tops in the shape of half-octagons. This design echoed the octagonal shapes of the great-beamed ceiling and were carved by James Richards in 1730, costing £22 10s in total.49 Richards, who later became the ‘Master Sculptor and Carver in Wood’ to the Board of Works, also itemised his work for carving a total of sixteen tabernacles (stylised frames), seven overmantel picture frames and nineteen picture frames.50

The Entrance Hall, Raynham Hall

Figure 12.
The Entrance Hall, Raynham Hall, Photograph.

Digital image courtesy of Tom St Aubyn. (All rights reserved)

Directly beyond this room, the Red Saloon (as it is now called) was elevated with the reframing of twelve of the nineteen seventeenth-century full-length portraits of the de Vere captains, who served under Lord Vere of Tilbury. These paintings, which have since been sold, hung under the surviving plasterwork laurel branches and helmets and served to reinforce Townshend’s established lineage in contrast to Walpole’s recent rise to power. Kent designed a pair of tables, painted white with gilt elements, to adorn the room. They support white and grey marble tops and are distinctive for the female masks that decorate them. They were carved by Richards, for which his bill dated 28 April 1730 describes them as ‘2 Table frames Carvd with Bachus heads, truses festoons, moldings &c at 5.2.6 ea. 10.05.00 total.’51 Also listed in Richards’s bill were ‘2 Tabernacle Carvd with ovolo, and Astragale sweleing fries, Cornice, festoons above and below Scroles Carvd to ye bottom, and shells to ye pediment’, which have since been lost.52 The room was further furnished with ‘Two looking glasses fixt, Four Sconces, Two settees with Covers Twenty Chairs with covers, One two leafed mahogany firescreen’, as documented thirty years later in an inventory carried out on the death of Charles, 3rd Viscount Townshend in 1764.53

The State Dining Room, located in the north-east corner of the house, also underwent a transformation under Kent (fig. 13). He inserted a tripartite screen at the west end of the room, a feature that was famously ridiculed by Edward Harley, 2nd Earl of Oxford, in 1730: ‘Kent has parted the dining room to make a sort of buffet, by the arch of Severus; surely the most preposterous thing to introduce a building in a room, which was designed to stand in the street.’54 The simple decorative scheme of white and gold panelling is enhanced by the pedimented marble chimneypiece, which may be one of those unkindly described by Lord Oxford as ‘very clumsy over-charged . . . to the great waste of marble.’55 Kent also designed two white and gold side tables, both of which were carved by Richards, one supporting a grey and pink-flecked marble top, the other a white and grey marble top.56 The room was further decorated with ‘a very handsome Fret-work ceiling’, according to Jeremiah Milles who visited in 1735, as well as prized paintings, including ‘ye picture of ye late King by Sr Godfrey Kneller, & those of ye present King & Queen on each side by Gervais hang on one side of ye room.’57

The State Dining Room, Raynham Hall

Figure 13.
The State Dining Room, Raynham Hall, Photograph.

Digital image courtesy of Tom St Aubyn. (All rights reserved)

The staircase, which had been reduced in size by Townshend at the beginning of the century, was at this point completely remodelled. Bearing remarkable similarity to Houghton’s Great Staircase, albeit on a smaller scale, Raynham’s cantilevered Stone Staircase is decorated with an olive-green grisaille palette, complete with paintings of classical motifs including busts, sculptures, garlands and urns (fig. 14).58 The staircase is top-lit and has a ceiling cove painted with garlands against a gilded mosaic background with medallion portraits of the seasons, namely Flora, Ceres, Bacchus and Saturn.59 An ornate wrought-iron balustrade, designed by Kent, finishes the ensemble.

The William Kent Staircase

Figure 14.
The William Kent Staircase, Photograph

Digital image courtesy of Tony Buckingham. (All rights reserved)

This staircase provides access to the upper saloon, called the Belisarius Room (named after Salvador Rosa’s painting Belisarius, 1650s, now at Renishaw Hall, Derbyshire), which had been the dining room in the seventeenth century (fig. 15). During his visit Milles described the room of one and a half storeys thus: ‘In ye second story, in a very large & handsome room, wch they call ye Dancing room, is a prodigious fine piece representing Bellisarius. It was done by one Salva, & presented to My Lord by ye King of Prussia. There are other family pieces in the room, ye chimney piece wch is of white marble is very handsome. ye ceiling is done in Fret-work & painted al Fresco by Kent.’60 The famous Belisarius painting once hung over the fireplace in a frame that was probably designed by Kent and carved by Richards. It is possible that some of the ‘family pieces’ that graced the walls were also in new Kent frames. The room was further augmented with the impressive white marble chimneypiece and the grand Venetian window facing eastwards. However, one of the most impressive features of the room is the seventeenth-century plasterwork ceiling which was sensitively enhanced by Kent.61 Between the plastered beams he inserted painted canvas panels, four of which represent the Townshends’ heraldic supporters – greyhounds and stags. The central oval panel is more complicated in its meaning, depicting a winged female figure writing on a scroll, while seated on a pedestal carved with Townshend’s Garter arms. Beside her stands a winged putto presenting a scroll which is signed ‘Georgius Rex’. A portrait bust crowned with a laurel wreath is located behind the putto, possibly representing George I, with a rostral column in the background. This rostral column is representative of naval power and thus Steven Brindle proposes that it may refer to Townshend’s reappointment as secretary of state for the Northern Department from 1721 to 1730.62 The inclusion of the Garter arms confirms that the ceiling postdates 1724.

The Belisarius Room, Raynham Hall

Figure 15.
The Belisarius Room, Raynham Hall, Photograph.

Digital image courtesy of Tom St Aubyn. (All rights reserved)

Perhaps the last significant improvement made to the house during this period of activity was the creation of the new State Bedchamber, located on the ground floor in the north-west corner of the house. Here a new floor was inserted into what had been the existing two-storey kitchen, thereby completing the circuit of state rooms. In 1764 this room contained much Chinese porcelain, as well as ‘The State bed, with three mattresses, Three Blanketts, Featherbed, Bolster, Two pillows, Quilt & Counter panes. One Settee, Ten Chairs & Two Stools with Covers, a japan Table, Two Stands Looking glass fixt, Japan Cabinet with gilt frame.’63

The new service block, in which the new kitchen was built, was constructed at this time and connected to the basement via a subterranean passageway.64 This work is likely to have been Ripley’s design, for which he paid out £1168.65 Other improvements took place to the surrounding park, for which Kent had some involvement as documented by his letter to Lord Townshend dated 27 October 1735:

I cannot finish this letter without putting you in mind that I am still pleased with ye openings you have made, but la vera scrivile [?] is to observe yt where there are great lights there must be scura in proportion, and where you have made openings, & left two or three trees they must be group’d with fine Elm’s &c: that you may see your designs finesh’d con gusto.66

As early as 1724 Townshend had begun to re-landscape his park by sweeping away the formal seventeenth-century gardens and replacing them with a more naturalistic open park.67 He excavated a large ornamental lake and moved the kitchen garden and fruit trees away from the hall.68 The finished result was much praised, with Lord Oxford proclaiming it ‘the finest in England that ever I saw’ and Milles describing it as ‘ye most pleasant spots of ground in all Norfolk.’69

After the completion of Townshend’s remodelling scheme in the 1730s no substantial architectural changes took place during the remainder of the century. In the 1740s Thomas Wright of Durham proposed to naturalise the lake by reshaping it into a river with two bridges, one in the classical style, the other in the Chinese, but this was never adopted.70 Then in 1754 the third Viscount extended the stable block with the assistance of William Goodwin, a bricklayer.71 In 1767 George, 4th Viscount, flirted with the idea of remodelling Raynham, for which Robert Adam’s grand neo-classical proposal sought to substantially enlarge the house with the addition of two porticoed pavilions connected by two segmentally curved corridors.72 These proposals would have entirely eradicated the seventeenth-century facades and would have completely replaced Kent’s remarkable interiors. It is just as well, then, that the fourth Viscount never approved the plans and thus Raynham Hall escaped unscathed.


  • Amy Boyington_crop

    Dr Amy Boyington is an architectural historian and is currently working as a Research Consultant for the National Trust at Stowe Landscape Gardens. She gained her doctorate at Cambridge University in 2018 which investigated female architectural patronage in eighteenth-century Britain. Amy is also an ex-officio trustee of the Georgian Group and Chair of the Young Georgians.

  • karey-draper-crop

    Dr Karey Draper is an Architectural Historian and Heritage Consultant at Caroe Architecture Ltd, where she works in the conservation and management of some of Britain’s most special buildings such as St Paul’s Cathedral (London), Blickling Hall (Norfolk), and Hardwick Hall (Derbyshire). Karey completed her masters and doctoral degrees at the University of Cambridge. She is the Book Reviews Editor for Construction History, the journal of the Construction History Society, and is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society.


  1. John Harris, ‘Raynham Hall, Norfolk’, The Archaeological Journal, vol. 118, 1961, p. 180.

  2. David H. Kennett, ‘Taxes and Bricks: Wealthy Men and their Buildings in Early Tudor Norfolk’, British Brick Society: Information, no. 32, 1984, p. 6. A Topographical Dictionary of England, ed. Samuel Lewis, London, 1848, described the house as being an ‘ancient moated hall’.

  3. Building accounts held in Raynham Hall Archives, Raynham Hall, dated April 1622, describe ‘takinge up the olde foundations, and digging the newe.’

  4. John Harris, The Architect and the British Country House 1620–1920, Washington DC: AIA Press, 1985, p. 15.

  5. Ibid.

  6. See Harris, 1961; also Malcolm Airs, ‘The Designing of Five East Anglian Country Houses, 1505–1637’, Architectural History, vol. 21, 1978, p. 65, and Linda Campbell, ‘Documentary Evidence for the building of Raynham Hall’, Architectural History, vol. 32, 1989, pp. 52–67.

  7. Gaby Mahlberg, ‘Townshend [née Bacon], Anne, Lady Townshend’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, October 2005, online January 2008, https://doi.org/10.1093/ref:odnb/66940 (accessed 8 December 2019).

  8. George Edward Cokayne, ed., The Complete Baronetage, 5 vols, Gloucester: Alan Sutton Publishing, 1983, vol. 2, p. 182.

  9. Based on the account of Henry Spelman in The History and Fate of Sacrilege, 1632. See also Harris, 1961, p. 180, and Malcolm Airs, The Tudor and Jacobean Country House, Godalming: Bramley Books, 1995, p. 44.

  10. Campbell, 1989, p. 55.

  11. Harris, 1961, p. 185; see also, Airs, 1995, p. 37.

  12. John Summerson, Architecture in Britain 1530 to 1830, London: Penguin, 1953, p. 59. The other was Lady Coke’s house, also in Holborn.

  13. Bickertons Account Book, 1 November 1619, ‘A booke of particular disbursements’ (1618–19), Raynham Hall Archives. See also Campbell, 1989, p. 57.

  14. Campbell, 1989, p. 57.

  15. H. L. Bradfer-Lawrence, ‘The Building of Raynham Hall’, Norfolk Archaeology, vol. 23, 1927, p. 135.

  16. Ibid., pp. 93–146.

  17. Airs, 1995, p. 111; see also Bradfer-Lawrence, 1927, pp. 93–146.

  18. Airs, 1995, p. 116.

  19. Ibid., p. 119.

  20. Bradfer-Lawrence, 1927, p. 116.

  21. Miles Pomeroy’s bill, 1703, Townshend Papers, British Library, Add. MS 41656, f. 178. See also fig. 2 here: RIBA, London, Architectural Drawing Collection, drawing 37008 of the west elevation, c.1671 by ‘I.E.’.

  22. Nikolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England: North-West and South Norfolk, Middlesex: Penguin Books, 1962, p. 150.

  23. Campbell, 1989, p. 62.

  24. Michael Ridgdill, Raynham Hall: An English Country House Revealed, Woodbridge: ACC Art Books, 2018, p. 52.

  25. Ibid.

  26. Ibid.

  27. John Jephcott to Lord Townshend, 23 May 1698, Townshend Papers, BL Add. MS 41656, f. 168.

  28. Ibid.

  29. Note, ‘Sould to Mr Edward Man for the Use of The Right Honbl The Lord Townshend’, August 1698, Townshend Papers, BL Add. MS 41656, f. 174.

  30. Richard Hewlings, ‘A Turnip’s Touch: Raynham Hall, Norfolk, Part II’, Country Life, 6 April 2016, pp. 48–9.

  31. There are 11 measured drawings of Raynham Hall bound in vellum, inscribed with ‘I.E.’ who may have been a relation of William Edge, c.1671, RIBA, London, Architectural Drawing Collection, vol. 82, ff. 1–11. Prideaux’s drawings are reproduced in John Harris, ‘The Prideaux Collection of Topographical Drawings’, Architectural History, vol. 7, 1964, pp. 95–7, figs 87–90; here Harris amended his dating of Prideaux’s drawings from c.1716 in Harris, 1961, p. 182, to c.1725.

  32. Hewlings, 2016, 49.

  33. Miles Pomeroy’s bill, 1703, BL Add. MS 41656, ff. 178–9.

  34. Ibid., f. 178.

  35. Record drawing of Raynham Hall’s west elevation, c.1671, RIBA, Architectural Drawing Collection, vol. 82, f. 5; see n. 21 above.

  36. Nikolaus Pevsner and Bill Wilson, The Buildings of England: Norfolk 2: North-west and South, 2nd ed., New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2002, p. 602.

  37. Miles Pomeroy’s bill, 1703, BL Add. MS 41656, f. 178.

  38. Matthew May’s Bill for joiner’s work since 1703, 7 May 1705, Raynham Hall Archives, as discussed in Hentie Louw and Robert Crayford, ‘A Constructional History of the Sash-Window, c. 1670–c. 1725 (Part 2)’, Architectural History, vol. 42, 1999, p. 193.

  39. Miles Pomeroy’s bill, 1703, BL Add. MS 41656, f. 178.

  40. Pevsner and Wilson, 2002, p. 604.

  41. John Hervey, Memoirs of the reign of George the Second, from his accession to the death of Queen Caroline, ed. John W. Croker, 2 vols, London: John Murray, 1848, vol. 1, pp. 84–5.

  42. Undated notes, Raynham Hall Archives, transcribed in Susan Weber, ‘Kent and the Georgian Baroque Style in Furniture: Domestic Commissions’, in Susan Weber, ed., William Kent: Designing Georgian Britain, New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2013, p. 523, n. 167.

  43. Ibid.

  44. Ibid.

  45. James M. Rosenheim, The Townshends of Raynham: Nobility in Transition in Restoration and Early Hanoverian England, Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1989, p. 186.

  46. Hewlings, 2016, p. 50.

  47. Ibid; Julius Bryant, ‘From “Gusto” to “Kentissime”: Kent’s Designs for Country Houses, Villas, and Lodges’, in Weber, 2013, p. 203.

  48. Weber, 2013, p. 488, fig. 18.26.

  49. ‘A Bill of Carving done for ye Rt Honble Lord Visct Townsend at His Lordships Seat at Rainham in Norfolk – per James Richards’, 28 April 1730, Raynham Hall Archives, discussed in Weber, 2013, pp. 497–500.

  50. James Richards’s work cited in Julius Bryant, ‘A Note on “Kent” Frames’, in Weber, 2013, p. 245.

  51. ‘A Bill of Carving’, 28 April 1730, Raynham Hall Archives.

  52. Ibid.

  53. Raynham Inventory of 22 March 1764, Norfolk Record Office, BL/T 14/12-13, f. 2.

  54. Edward Harley, 2nd Earl of Oxford, ‘An Account of a Journey made through part of the Counties of Suffolk, Norfolk, and Cambridgeshire in the Month of September, 1732’, in Historic Royal Manuscripts Commission, Manuscripts of His Grace, the Duke of Portland, preserved at Welbeck Abbey, vol. 6, London: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1901, p. 160.

  55. Ibid.

  56. Weber, 2013, p. 499.

  57. Jeremiah Milles, ‘An account of the journey yt Mr Hardress & I took in July 1735’, BL Add. MS 15776, f. 60.

  58. Steven Brindle, ‘Kent the Painter’, in Weber, 2013, p. 130.

  59. Ibid.

  60. Milles, ‘An account of the journey’, ff. 60–1.

  61. Ridgdill, 2018, p. 202.

  62. Brindle in Weber, 2013, p. 148, n. 86.

  63. Raynham Inventory of 22 March 1764, f. 2.

  64. Hewlings, 2016, p. 53.

  65. Pevsner and Wilson, 2002, p. 607; Rosenheim, 1989, p. 188, table 5.2.

  66. William Kent to Lord Townshend, 27 October 1735, Raynham Hall Archives, Box RAS C2/6.

  67. Rosenheim, 1989, p. 184.

  68. Harley, 1891, p. 159.

  69. Ibid; Milles, ‘An account of the journey’, f. 59.

  70. Hewlings, 2016, p. 53

  71. Ibid., p. 54.

  72. Robert Adam’s four drawings: an elevation of the east front, elevation of the west front, plan of the ground floor and plan of the principal floor, Sir John Soane’s Museum, London, SM Adam Volume 41/1–4.



by Amy Boyington and Karey Draper
20 November 2020
House Essay
CC BY-NC International 4.0
Cite as
Amy Boyington, Karey Draper, "A Concise Architectural History of Raynham Hall, Norfolk", Art and the Country House, https://doi.org/10.17658/ACH/RNE568