The Temple of Artemis, Diana, at Ephesus in Turkey was said to be the most beautiful structure on earth and was built around 550BC in honour of the goddess of hunting and wild nature. Blickling Hall, famed for its architectural beauty, stands amid a landscape typical of the great hunting estates of England’s 18th and 19th century landed gentlemen.
Blickling Hall itself was built in 1616-24 for Sir Henry Hobart (pronounced Hubberd), 1st Baronet and James I’s Lord Chief Justice.
It’s been said that the first sight of the house front from the Aylsham Road is so stunning that it takes the breath away. See it at night, and the effect is still more magical.
For Charles Harper, a man of leisure touring the county in 1904, it didn’t so much take his breath away as leaving him needing cardiopulmonary resuscitation:
‘No one is prepared on coming down hill past the church to find the main front of this finest of Jacobean mansions, this dream of architectural beauty… No theatrical manager, no scene painter, could devise anything more dramatic, and you – Columbus of the road, who steer into unwonted byways in search of the beautiful – cannot repress the involuntary tribute of an admiratory O! at sight of it. There it stands, like some proud, conscious beauty, isolated… It might be some enchanted palace, not waked to life and love’.
The Hobarts created a masterpiece for themselves but in the 19th century the estate went by marriage to the Kerr family, Marquises of Lothian, who already owned enough stately piles and castles to keep roofs over a score of blue blood family heads.
It was the 11th Lord Lothian who was largely responsible in the late 1930s for the National Trust’s Country House Scheme, by which an owner can endow and transfer a house and its contents to the Trust, but may remain in occupation subject to providing public access.
As a result, Blickling became the very first great house to go the Trust under the scheme, following the Marquis’s death in 1940 when he was British Ambassador in Washington.
To enjoy all Blickling’s pleasures and delights in house, garden and park, you may need more than one visit. And if legs and feet complain, take a littler break at the temple in the manicured gardens. It’s a charming 18th century conceit, built in the Classic Greek style in honour to… yes, you guessed it… Diana, goddess of hunting and wild nature.
The Blickling Mausoleum is featured in our Unusual Places to visit in Norfolk blog.