Holkham Hall

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With a stunning location on the Norfolk coast and at the heart of a thriving 25,000 acre estate, Holkham Hall is described as an exceptional place, rich in history, architecture and wildlife. The seat of the Earls of Leicester, this elegant 18th century mansion is still very much a lived-in family home which the family take pride in sharing with visitors.

Holkham Hall

Holkham Hall, home of the Coke family and the Earls of Leicester, was built between 1734 and 1764 by Thomas Coke, the first Earl of Leicester.

This Palladian style mansion reflects Thomas Coke’s appreciation of classical art developed during his six-year-long Grand Tour of Europe. By the time he returned to Norfolk in 1718, Thomas had bought many valuable and unique manuscripts and printed books, along with many great works of art and statuary.

During his time in Rome, Thomas had met briefly with Lord Burlington and his protégé, William Kent; and their enthusiasm and imagination led to the conception of Holkham Hall as you see it today.

The Coke family has lived at Holkham since 1609, when the founder of the family fortune, Sir Edward Coke, purchased the manor of Neals. Thomas lived here with his parents, until their death in 1707, in the Elizabethan manor house known as Hill Hall. However, after returning from his Grand Tour, Thomas employed the architect Matthew Brettingham to oversee the work of interpreting and implementing the designs for the new house drawn up by Kent and himself.

In 1734, the first foundations were dug, and 30 years later the house was completed. Unfortunately, Thomas died in 1759 and never saw his great dream fulfilled. The task of finishing and furnishing the house fell to his widow Lady Margaret Tufton, a formidable woman, who ruled Holkham with firmness and great attention to detail for the next 17 years.

As Lady Margaret and Thomas’s only child, Edward, died in 1753, the house on which the couple had spent so much time, effort and money, eventually passed to the next male in line, Wenman Roberts. Wenman - who changed his name to Coke - lived for only 12 months after he inherited Holkham, and so his son, Thomas William Coke, soon became the master of the estate. A politician and avid agriculturist, he became known as ‘Coke of Norfolk’. A great self-publicist, with an enormous energy and charm, Coke was a Member of Parliament for 53 years.

The house today is little altered from the first Earl’s original ideal. During the 1850s, the second Earl installed central heating at great expense and added the vestibule on the north side of the house, the stables, offices, orangery and buildings to the east and the terraced gardens to the south. He installed plate glass windows, a less desirable development, and tinkered with the picture-hangs and furnishing. His successor, the third Earl, installed electric light, using a private generator and updated the bathrooms, WCs and heating, as well as tinkering further with the furnishing of the rooms.

It was a great achievement of the seventh Earl to reverse the more unsympathetic changes of his ancestors, notably by reinstating the correct 18th century glazing to the windows and returning the state rooms as far as possible to their original appearance.

Today the house is the family home to the eighth Earl and his young family. Thomas Edward Coke, succeeded to the title in May 2015. He had been actively involved in managing the estate since 1993, when he left the army. Like his ancestors, he served in the Scots Guards, after graduating from the University of Manchester where he gained a degree in the History of Art. He has overseen the diversification of the estate away from its dependence on agriculture toward leisure, tourism and property development. In 1996, 70% of the income at Holkham was derived from agriculture. Now that figure has reduced to a little more than 20%, as businesses such a Holkham Property Company, Pinewoods Holiday Park and The Victoria Inn have developed.

Site Information
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Holkham Hall, Holkham Estate, Wells-next-the-Sea, NR23 1AB, Norfolk
Visitor Information
Refreshments (nearby)
Disabled access
Dog friendly
Interior features
Nearby Attractions
Attraction 1:
Holkham Park
0.87 Miles Away
As with so much of the English countryside the look of the Norfolk coast is an intimate blend, part wilderness and part working landscape. From Burnham Overy to Wells the low-lying grazing marshes north of the coast road used to be tidal saltmarshes, separating offshore shingle and dune ridges from the main coastline.
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Attraction 2:
Church of All Saints, Burnham Thorpe
2.08 Miles Away
Late Victorian restored from original C14 building in which Horatio Nelson's parents (his father was the rector) are buried. Nelson was baptised in its medieval font. Many naval references, including: altar, lectern and rood made from HMS Victory; battle ensigns from HMS Nelson and Indomitable the latter flown at the Battle of Jutland; bust of Nelson in the chancel.
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Attraction 3:
Carmelite Friary of St Mary, Burnham Norton (Ruins)
2.83 Miles Away
This Friary was founded in 1241 by Sir William de Caithorpe of Burnham Thorpe and Sir Roger de Hemenshale, Lord of Polstead Manor in Burnham. It is thought to be the first Carmelite Friary established in Norfolk. Its gatehouse can still be seen, with its fine 14th century decoration, to the east of the church, between the modern school building and Overy Church. The Friary occupied the land between the gatehouse and the River Burn.
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Attraction 4:
Church of St Margaret, Burnham Norton
3.02 Miles Away
The Saxon round tower was built at the beginning of the first millennium, the church was extended in the 13th century, with later improvements in the 15th. It has a commanding view of the sea half a mile away. St Margaret's stands within its own burial ground; on the other side of the north bank of this is the burial area for the rest of Burnham Market.
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Attraction 5:
The Church of St Mary the Virgin, North Creake
3.7 Miles Away
St Mary's church is a large medieval building. The church dates to the 14th century, a time when Norfolk 's economy was booming thanks to the wool trade, and the wealthy merchants poured money into their local parish churches.
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