Record Details

NHER Number:3546
Type of record:Building
Name:Houghton Hall


Built in the 1720s for Sir Robert Walpole, the first Prime Minister, in a Palladian style with Baroque references. The original design was published by Colen Campbell and modified by James Gibbs, William Kent and Thomas Ripley. The central block of the house has four advanced corner towers topped with domes and a rusticated lower storey. The west front has a large Ionic portico topped with Classical statuary. Two service wings are attached to either side of the central block by single storey curving colonnades. The sumptuous early 18th century interior on the first floor, or piano nobile, was designed by William Kent. The house is surrounded by formal gardens and a landscape park, see NHER 30463.


  • Houghton Hall and surrounding park. Parchmarks of the former garden lay out can be clearly seen behind the hall  © Norfolk Museums & Archaeology Service


Grid Reference:TF 7901 2862
Map Sheet:TF72NE

Full description

The house was started in 1722 and completed in 1735 to the designs of Colen Campbell with involvement from Thomas Ripley, James Gibbs and William Kent. The house was built for the first Prime Minister Sir Robert Walpole. The hall is a key building in the development of the Palladian style of architecture in England. The hall is built from fine ashlar from Whitby.
See (S1) for further details.
S. Howard (NLA), 15 June 2010.

1722 to 35 in a derivative of Palladian style, on the site of a Jacobean hall.
Front and rear flights of steps removed in late 18th century, but set at rear replaced 1973.
House in Aislaby sandstone, stables in carrstone with brick groin-vaulting and interior courtyard with fountain.
For full details see (S2) and official guide.
Some damage by damp and plaster cracking in walls.
Visited by E. Rose (NAU) 2 June 1977.

Grounds by Charles Bridgeman, see NHER 30463 for details.
E. Rose (NAU).

However for the preceding hall see NHER 12678.
The Northern pavilion wing is in fact only a shell, having been burnt out in the early 19th century. Its cupola is supported on buttresses.
E. Rose (NAU) 31 January 1980.

For extremely complex description, including ceiling said to have been reproduced from original house, and chapel converted to gymnasium, see Listing (Grade I) and also for stables (Grade I), see (S2).
Kitchen garden is grade II, see (S2).
E. Rose (NAU) 28 October 1985.

1989 to 1992. NAU/NLA air photography.
Parchmarks of former ornamental garden in lawns of present house.
D. Edwards (NAU).

(S3) states that Colen Campbell dated the building to 1722 to 1723, but his plate in Vitruvius Britannicus shows the building quite different, not as built. Was Campbell trying to claim the glory for a Palladian building when he was only altering designs by Gibbs? The ceilings were designed by Kent in 1725 to 1731 using 'grotesque' models in the Topham collection. The external stairs were removed in 1780 to fit the new fashion of no piano nobile.
E. Rose (NLA) 4 December 1995.

Full programme of restoration took place in 1995.
E. Rose (NLA) 26 July 1996.

For further details of the North pavilion see architects report in file.
The buttresses are the original room walls part cut away. It is noteworthy that the post fire blocking walls are of bricks mostly with horizontal skintlings but also some diagonals. Is this due to reuse of bricks or does it indicate the fire was around 1780?
E. Rose (NLA) 29 October 1999.

(S4) shows a peculiar building of one storey and dormers, in two divisions, in front of the unfinished hall. Is this part of the earlier hall, or simply a cover used by the builders during construction?
E. Rose (NLA) 30 January 2001

List of aerial photographs and press cuttings in file.
Architects plans of stables and wings (1992) in file.
E. Rose (NLA)

19 July 1996. NLA air photography (S5).
Photographs taken of hall and gardens, parchmarks of gravel paths and fleur de lys garden feature are visible on lawn.
S. Massey (NLA), 30 April 2001.

29 July 1996. NLA air photography (S6).
Hall and gardens visible, including cropmarks of formal gardens.
H. Clare (NLA), 2 May 2001.

December 2010. Planning Application.
Planning permission has been sought to carry out internal alterations to the kitchen, pantry and store areas.
See (S7).
Z. Dack (HES), 24 February 2011.

December 2012, Planning Application.
Refurbishment of existing spaces within the south pavilion to provide a new dining room, an exhibition space and a new kitchen. New raised ground level to the courtyard.
See (S8) for further details
Z. Dack (HES), 27 February 2013.

Monument Types

  • CHAPEL (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • GARDEN (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • GARDEN WALL (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • GREAT HOUSE (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)

Associated Finds - none

Protected Status

  • Listed Building

Sources and further reading

---Aerial Photograph: TF7928 B-F, J-M,AC-AR,ABD-ADJ; TF7828/K-L.
---Newspaper Article: 1986. Eastern Daily Press. 31 May.
---Monograph: Wade-Martins, P.. 1999. Norfolk from the Air. Volume 2.
---Aerial Photograph: Edwards, D.A. (NLA). 1995. TF7928/AGB - AGJ.
---Drawing: Various. Various. Architectural plans.
---Aerial Photograph: Edwards, D.A. (NLA). 1994. TF 7928ADU - AEH; TF 7828T - W.
---Aerial Photograph: Edwards, D.A. (NLA). 1994. TF 7928AGK - AGP.
---Aerial Photograph: Edwards, D.A. (NLA). 1997. TF 7928AGX - AHF, AGS.
---Aerial Photograph: Edwards, D.A. (NLA). 1997. TF 7927H; TF 7828Q - S, X - Y; TF 7928ADK - ADT, AGT - AGW.
---Unpublished Document: Carter, A.. 1987. Building Survey.
---Article in Serial: Klausmier, A. 2001. Houghton, Raynham and Wolterton Halls. On Thomas Ripley's Major Works in Norfolk. Architectural Success amidst Political Tensions. Norfolk Archaeology. Vol XLIII Pt IV pp 607-629.
---Monograph: Davison, A. 1988. Six Deserted Villages in Norfolk. East Anglian Archaeology. No 44. p 83.
---Record Card: Ordnance Survey Staff. 1933-1979?. Ordnance Survey Record Cards. TF 72 NE 3 [2].
---Record Card: NAU Staff. 1974-1988. Norfolk Archaeological Index Primary Record Card.
---Monograph: Moore, A. et al.. 1996. Houghton Hall: The Prime Minister, The Empress and The Heritage..
---Unpublished Document: 2002. Planning Statement: The Proposed 'Skyspace' at Houghton Hall, Norfolk and Restoration of the West Garden.
---Unpublished Document: Purcell Miller Tritton. 1999. Brief Historical and Architectural Assessment of Houghton Hall, North Pavilion.
---Article in Serial: 1987. Country Life. 14 May.
---Newspaper Article: Lynn News. 1989. Palladian splendour. 27 June.
---Article in Serial: 1989. Country Life. 17 August.
---Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1990. [Photograph of the inside of Houghton Hall]. 15 December.
---Newspaper Article: Lynn News. 1992. Treasure up fro sale. 10 November.
---Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1992. £10m will help save Houghton. 7 April.
---Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1994. Project in pipeline puts hall off-limits. 11 February.
---Newspaper Article: Lynn News. 1994. Major work at historic hall. 23 August.
---Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1996. Block on export of heritage treasure. 17 February.
---Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1996. Showpiece of history opens door to the public. 6 April.
---Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1996. Towering touch. 27 April.
---Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1996. Heritage art works returning to Norfolk. 2 September.
---Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1999. Facelift for stately home. 8 June.
---Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 2006. A place in history - 25: Houghton Hall. 23 September.
---Monograph: Pevsner, N and Wilson, B. 1999. Norfolk 2: North-West and South. The Buildings of England. 2nd Edition. pp 428-434; Pl 87, Pl 88.
---Monograph: Pevsner, N. 1962. North-West and South Norfolk. The Buildings of England. 1st Edition. pp 207-2110; Pl 58a.
---Article in Serial: Harris, J.. 1989. Who Designed Houghton?. Country Life. March 2 92-94.
---Article in Serial: 1921. Houghton Hall - I. Norfolk.. Country Life. 1 January, p1.
---Article in Serial: 1921. Houghton Hall - II. Norfolk.. Country Life. 8 January, p1.
---Article in Serial: 1921. Houghton Hall - III. Norfolk.. Country Life. 15 January, p1.
---Article in Serial: 1921. Houghton Hall - IV. Norfolk.. Country Life.. 22 January, p1.
---Article in Serial: Francis Russell. A Palace for the Prime Minister.. Country Life.
---Article in Serial: Giles Worsley. 1993. Houghton Hall, Norfolk. Country Life.
---Article in Serial: 2002. Survey the fullness of time.. Country Life. 26 September, pp3.
---Article in Serial: John Harris. 1989. Who designed Houghton?. Country Life. 2 March, pp3.
---Article in Serial: 1987. The growth of an idea.. Country Life. 14 May, pp4.
---Article in Serial: John Cornforth. 1987. Houghton Hall, Norfolk - II.. Country Life. 7 May, pp5.
---Article in Serial: Jane Barlow. 1907. Houghton Hall - II. Norfolk.. Country Life. 3 August, pp12.
---Article in Serial: 1907. Houghton Hall - I. Norfolk.. Country Life. 27 Juuly, pp9.
---Article in Serial: John Cornforth. 1987. Houghton Hall, Norfolk - I.. Country Life. 30 April, pp6.
---Article in Serial: Giles Worsley. 1990. Riding on status.. Country Life. 27 September, pp3.
---Article in Serial: 1996. A seat of the Marques of Cholmondeley. Country Life. 28 March.
---Article in Monograph: Yaxley, D.. 1995. More about Houghton Hall.. East Anglian Studies. Longcroft, A (ed). p 303.
---Secondary File: Secondary File.
---Fiche: Exists.
---Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 2013. Overjoyed Charles at great collection. 10 May.
<S1>Unpublished Document: Heywood, S. Historic building report for Houghton Hall, Houghton, Norfolk.. Building Report.
<S2>Designation: Historic England. National Heritage List for England. List Entry 1152645.
<S3>Monograph: Worsley, G.. 1995. Classical Architecture in Britain: The Heroic Age.. p 188.
<S4>Publication: Wilson, R. and Mackley, A. 2000. Creating Paradise: The Building of the English Country House 1660-1880. Pl 13.
<S5>Aerial Photograph: Edwards, D.A. (NLA). 1996. TF7928/AFV - AGA.
<S6>Aerial Photograph: Edwards, D.A. (NLA). 1996. TF7928/AEJ - AEZ; TF7928/AFA - AFU.
<S7>Unpublished Document: 2011. Planning Application.
<S8>Unpublished Document: 2011. Planning Application.

Related records

30463Parent of: Houghton Park (Designed Landscape)
44247Parent of: Kitchen garden, Houghton Park (Building)
44202Parent of: The Square (Building)

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