Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Euston Hall, Suffolk

Euston Hall is a gem which is well worth a visit if only for the fantastic picture collection which includes work from Lely, Stubbs and Van Dyke. It is the residence of the Duke of Grafton and is open on Thursdays between June and September and for two Sundays in August and September.

Be warned that the volunteers who man it are almost exclusively aged blue rinse brigade women who frown upon youthful exuberance and mobile telephones – I was almost ejected because my daughter called me whilst I was in the house. The disapproval I incurred deterred me from taking anything other than external shots which even lasted when I visited the Church – albeit I visited before my interest in Churches and their interiors had been fully inflamed.

St Genevieve, in the grounds, has, as far as I remember, some fine memorials and monuments – Ok this is a revisit to be done with no children, no mobile phone and larger balls.

Arthur says:

EUSTON. It is the Heart of Robert Bloomfield's country, with everything that Suffolk's poet loved most. We come to it from Barnham along a mile of road between grand oaks and over a little bridge by the vicarage. Here are splendid firs and chestnuts, a peep of the vicarage garden with its flowers and lawns by the Blackbourne stream, and another peep of a stately hall beyond weeping willows, as enchanting as anything Robert Bloomfield saw when he walked this way over a century ago. To this very spot he loved to come:

Where noble Grafton spreads his rich domains
Round Euston's watered vale and sloping plains;
Where woods and groves in solemn grandeur rise,
Where the kite brooding unmolested flies;
The woodcock and the painted pheasant race,
And skulking foxes destined for the chase.

Only a minute from the bridge are gracious old houses and cottages near the green with its cross of peace; and here among the great trees we found a cedar 300 feet round the branches, a sort of green cave in which the children play.

Euston was long the home of the Dukes of Grafton, and was once proud of a hall built by the Earl of Arlington, who was one of the famous Cabal Ministry. The house, rebuilt after a fire in 1902, stands proudly in 1200 acres of parkland, and among its treasures are portraits by Lely, Janssen, and Mytens. But of the original house, built in Charles the Second's day, so little is left that we cannot tell whether Walpole was right in calling it large and bad or Evelyn in describing it as a very noble pile. But the woods round about are famous, and one of over 300 acres is said to be the biggest in Suffolk. Many of the trees were planted by Evelyn himself, and much of this loveliness is due to his passion for beautiful things.

The church by the hall is in Italian style and was built by Lord Arlington, who lies in a crypt below and has an elaborate memorial. There is a fragment of a 17th century screen, some rare copper-gilt, altar plate that Evelyn must have seen, and a brass of a Tudor man and his wife.

But the greatest treasures are a pulpit and a reredos said to have been carved by Grinling Gibbons, the pulpit wonderful with cherubs and foliage, the reredos still more wonderful with flowers and leaves and festoons all exquisitely carved.

There are memorials to several of the Dukes of Grafton who lie here. One of them, the third duke, was prominent in the politics of his day and led the government for a year or two when William Pitt became Earl of Chatham. Another, more interesting and less known was the first Duke, Henry Fitzroy, the most popular and perhaps the best of the sons of Charles the Second.

He was married as a boy of nine to Lord Arlington's little daughter of five, whom Evelyn called "a sweete child if ever there was any." He grew up to be a gallant and handsome officer, showing his bravery in fighting Monmouth's rebellion, and later in helping distressed ships of the enemy at the unlucky Battle of Beachy Head. Only a few weeks afterwards he was fighting under Marlborough in Ireland, and at the storming of Cork fell mortally wounded. Here he has been sleeping since 1690, his brilliant career cut short before he was 30.

Which has to lead on to the first family post rather than a church post – surely.

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