Heritage Category:
Listed Building
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Date of most recent amendment:
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Statutory Address:

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

King's Lynn and West Norfolk (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
TF 79165 28789



10/17 Houghton Hall with 5.6.53. courtyard walls attached to north and south (previously listed as Houghton Hall).

G.V. I

Country House. 1722-1735 for Sir Robert Walpole, the first Prime Minister of Great Britain (1717-1742), in rivalry with his brother-in-law's Raynham. Reputed to have been built largely from public funds, a "house of State and Convenience" (Colen Campbell) for the "Houghton meeting" house-parties and for Walpole's picture collection here 1742-1779. Design, published by Colen Campbell in Vitruvius Britannicus III (1725), under discussion 1721, executed by Walpole's protege in the King's Works, Thomas Ripley, modified by James Gibbs, decorated by William Kent. Palladian with some Baroque references. Fine Whitby stone ashlar, pantiled roofs. 3 storey 9 by 5 bay centre with 4 advanced angle towers, single storey colonnaded wings, quadrant to west, dog-leg to east. 2 storey 7 by 7 bay service wings with courtyards beyond. East front has rusticated basement with plinth and first floor platband. 3 ground floor centre bays with 2 arched headed sashes and fanlight door, 1793 refacing of removed external staircase. 4 outer and 2 tower sashes with keystone heads. Piano nobile sashes with Gibbsian surrounds, and balustrade dados. Venetian windows with keystone heads to angles. Alternate segmental and triangular pediment heads to centre, central window has Ionic order with interrupting rustication blocks, segmental pediment with coat of arms and reclining supporters, Neptune and Britannia, by Rysbrack. 9 second floor architrave surround sashes. Rich Ionic entablature with pulvinated frieze, cornice, balustrade, parapet with coping urns. 4 angle tower stone domes by Gibbs replace Campbell's intended a la Wilton pedimented towers, actually built on one tower c.1725-7. Ribbed stone roofs with octagonal lanterns pierced by arches, domes above. Solid parapet base with single arched window. Weather vanes dated 1725 at south-west, 1727 at south-east. 5 bay returned north and south facades, inscription over south door "Has aedes Robert Walpole MDCCXXVII incoahavit MDCCXXXIV perfecit". West front has central 3 bay attached giant Ionic portico, designed as detached, with rich pediment armorial sculpture. 3 attic Rysbrack figures, central Emperor or law-giver in toga, flanking Justice with sword and Minerva with spear as types of Walpole's career. Central pedimented sash, tower Venetian windows, simpler architraves. Ground floor external staircase 1973 by Marshall Sisson, replacing that removed 1793. Each ridge has 2 massive stacks with moulded cornices. To north and south colonnade wings, paired Tuscan Doric to east, single columns to west, both open colonnades of insistent internal trabiation with pilasters and ceiling panels divided by entablatures. Flat roofed balustrade parapets with one roundel to each column. Service wings attached at north and south have to east pedimented 3 bay centre advanced, 2 flanking bays each side. Architrave surround sashes, rusticated angles. Cornice eaves. Octagonal clock towers with bulbous profile stone roofs. To west single storey 7 bay elevation with 5 central open arches, outer arched headed sashes framed to north and south with paired Ionic half columns interrupted by rustication blocks. Ionic entablature and cornice, roundels to each column. Returns to garden have 2 outer and 3 inner paired blocked Ionic half columns, with 3 arched sashes with glazing bars. Internal courtyards. Attached at north and south screen walls with 2 east side pedimented doors, north and south returns with angle pedimented aedicules with rusticated angles, central rusticated piers marking courtyard entrances. Interior: the ground floor "base or rustic storey (for) hunters and hospitality, dirt and business" (Lord Harvey) has central stone flagged aisled hall with piers supporting vaults. Piano nobile above for "taste, expense, state and parade" (Hervey), little used in C18, has State rooms to north, private rooms to south. Superb Mahogany woodwork throughout, richest in south west. 3 storey Kent style staircase with massive balusters, garlanded string and dado. Kent grisailles through 3 storeys to roof light. Tuscan Doric columnar base in open well supporting Le Sueur's Gladiator. Balancing 3 storey top lit stone staircase with fine wrought iron balustrade to north. In south east tower Mahogany Library. Common Parlour on east front with re-used Grinling Gibbons carving. Central single cube 2 storey Stone Hall lined with superbly detailed Whitby ashlar, stone and stucco carving. Architraved doors and aedicules. Antique busts on brackets, bas-reliefs and swags. Rysbrack chimney piece with caryatids, bas-relief above with bust of Walpole. Amorini by Arturi on door pediments. First floor balcony on massive brackets, Ionic cornice with Greek Key fret, coving with stucco swags and amorini, 4 family portrait reliefs, ceiling compartment with Garter. Mahogany pedimented door with Ionic half columns at west is mirror image of door architrave in Saloon on axis to west, balanced by similar central window architrave. Ionic marble chimney piece with bust. Ionic entablature with relief frieze of hunting devices, Kent painted coving and Phaeton's Chariot centrepiece. On east front State Dining Room or Marble Parlour with 3 groin vaulted recesses, Carrara with Plymouth marble. Rysbrack chimney piece with Sacrifice of Bacchus. Ionic entablature with frieze enriched with grapes, Kent compartment ceiling. In north east tower Cabinet Room with Kent fireplace and ceiling, 1797 Chinese wallpaper. On north front Embroidered Bedroom with Kent ceiling, Diana; Tapestry Room with Kent ceiling. At north-west Green Velvet Bedroom, Kent ceiling. On west front White Drawing Room with Aurora mask chimney piece, profile caryatids. Kent ceiling. Private apartments on south (not seen) include Yellow Silk Drawing Room, ceiling reproducing late C17 compartment type from previous house. North wing beyond quadrant housed Walpole's pictures sold in 1779 to the Hermitage, and chapel converted into gymnasium by Lord Cholmondeley in 1930's. South service wing, Duke of Lorraine, later Holy Roman Emperor Charles VII slept here c.1735. Inherited by Horace Walpole as 4th and last Earl of Orford in 1791, by Cholmondeleys 1797. Original layout of grounds by Bridgeman. See Isaac Ware Plans, Elevations and Sections of Houghton (1735), Horace Walpole Aedes Walopianae (1743); Mrs Herbert Jones Houghton-in-the-Braks (Norwich 1878); Country Life XLIX (1921) pp. 14-22, 40-8, 64-73, 98-107.

Listing NGR: TF7916528789


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

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Books and journals
Jones, H, Houghton in the Brake, (1878)
Walpole, H, Aedes Walopianae, (1743)
Ware, I, Plans Elevations and Sections of Houghton in Norfolk, (1735)
'Country Life' in Country Life, , Vol. 49, (1921), 14 107
Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest in England, Part 29 Norfolk,


This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

End of official listing

Images of England

Images of England was a photographic record of every listed building in England, created as a snap shot of listed buildings at the turn of the millennium. These photographs of the exterior of listed buildings were taken by volunteers between 1999 and 2008. The project was supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Date: 14 Feb 2003
Reference: IOE01/08986/20
Rights: Copyright IoE Mr Brian R. Faulkner. Source Historic England Archive
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