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Abode's Building of the Week

A Brief History

Holkham Hall has always been lived in, as well as loved. Currently calling the property home is the 8th Earl of Leicester and his family.

It was built by the very first Earl of Leicester, Thomas Coke. A wealthy man, he met some friends whilst doing The Grand Tour during his youth between 1712 and 1718. One of these was the aristocratic architect Lord Burlington who aided the construction along with main architect William Kent. 

Holkham Hall took 30 years to build, from 1734, all the way up to 1764. The architectural style is distinctly Palladian, basing the design on the unbuilt villa of Palladio, as looks in I Quattro Libri dell’Architettura, obviously with some changes. 

Holkham Hall is a member of the Treasure House Group, which consists of a select 10 buildings, including palaces, houses and castle, each shining light on historical English life. Not only this but Holkham Hall is also a member of the Historical Houses Association. This organisation seeks to protect our country’s heritage offering Holkham Hall advice and service assistance in order to help maintain the building. 


There is no doubt that the building itself is truly breathtaking. The grounds also add to the estate’s beauty, with its own lake and even a monument to the founder Thomas Coke; a 120ft column! 

When observing the hall, many might pick up on the lack of windows. This was intentional, as it is said Coke demanded ‘commodiousness’. Therefore, to light each room, one window was considered satisfactory. Not only this, but it also helped keep the rooms warm, preventing any additional draft. 

The South façade is composed of a central block, with flanking wings on each side. Each wing has an identical external appearance, consisting of three bays, each parted by a narrow break in the elevation. From the tip of one wing to the other, the building reaches 344ft, (104.9m), in length! The piano nobile level includes a central six-columned portico. 

The Marble Hall

Inside the building itself, many regard the grandest architecturally of all the rooms as the Marble Hall. This is the main entrance to this magnificent building. William Kent the Architect based the design of this room on Roman basilica. 

The actual room is composed of pink Derbyshire alabaster, not marble as the name suggests. It reaches over 50ft in height. The room however does feature some actual marble in the form of the enormous white marble staircase that leads into the gallery. 

The hall also features columns made from alabaster, which support the gold-plated ceiling. Roman influence is clear, with the design replicated from Inigo Jones, which was motivated from that of the Pantheon in Rome. 

The Roman influence continues in The Marble Hall in the shape of the plaster statues in niches within the hall wall. They replicated both Roman and Greek Gods and were originally sourced for the first Earl of Leicester from Italy from the son of the executive architect, Matthew Brettingham.

Other statues in the property, along with featured hanging paintings of Holkham Hall are loaned from museums all over the world and are featured throughout the property.

The Saloon

One of the rooms, leading on from The Marble Hall that features its own very impressive interior is The Saloon. The room has a distinct warmth with a bold crimson theme. The walls themselves are lined with decadent red caffoy, (a mixture of wool, linen and silk).

Built for the purpose of grand entertainment, the ceiling reflects the room’s extravagance. The ceiling is coffered and gilded. A Coffered ceiling is architecturally a ceiling with a series of sunken panels, purely constructed for decoration and aesthetic value. 

One of the most prominent features of The Saloon in Holkham Hall is the artwork. The room features many impressive paintings, including ones of notable significance. One painting called ‘The Return of Egypt’, by Peter Paul Ruben, features the holy family returning from Egypt with the unusual inclusion of Christ as a small boy as opposed to popular portrayals of him as a baby or an adult. 

This painting was likely acquired by the Earl on The Grand Tour. He also bought back a collection of replicate Roman and Greek sculptures, adding to those featured in The Marble Hall as previously mentioned. These are situated in a vast Statue Gallery, which covers the entire length of the building from North to South!

Holkham Hall Today

All of these beautiful sculptures can be seen, along with many other focal points of Holkham Hall, as it is open to visitors seasonally. The Main Season is currently open until October 31st this year. 

This season sees the celebration of special role food and farming plays on the Holkham estate with the brand new ‘Field to Fork’ exhibition. New to 2016, this interactive and permanent feature for the season includes activities such as displays about historical farming techniques, and how the produce grown on the Holkham Estate ends up in the supermarket!

The hall also hosts a wide range of events throughout the summer season. These include regular park runs, as well as Summer Tours of the Private Gardens. The next one opportunity for this is Sunday 17th July. 

Any further details about Holkham Hall, and its latest events can be found on their website:  

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