The estate of Middleton Hall has passed through generation after generation, nestled in the charming Suffolk countryside and can boast over seven hundred years of historical significance. A little slice of Middleton Hall’s wonderful history has now come to us at Sworders, with lots being offered in Fine Interiors, Homes and Interiors, and Old Master, British and European Art Sales.
17 November 2023
Middleton Hall takes its name from its medieval owners, who were first in possession of the manor from the years 1278-1504. In 1504, after the death of Thomas Middleton, the estate was sold to Thomas Howard, Earl of Surrey, and later the 3rd Duke of Norfolk (1473-1554), one of the most powerful noblemen in the country during the reign of Henry VIII. It is thought that his mistress, Elizabeth Holland or ‘Bess’ (a lady in waiting to Henry VIII’s second wife Anne Boleyn) lived on the estate and built the oldest part of the present hall. What exactly she had created is difficult to determine, and it is thought the house extended further to the west than what currently exists today of the north/south wing. In 1546 the 3rd Duke of Norfolk and his son, were imprisoned for high treason, and the King’s investigators were sent to the Duke’s various houses, 'not forgetting Elizabeth Holland's house, newly made, in Suffolk, which is thought to be well furnished'. The treason resulted in the son’s execution, and the Duke’s incarceration.
After the incarceration of her husband, Elizabeth soon married Henry Reppes, who was given an equal share of Middleton Hall as a part of their marriage agreement. Elizabeth quickly fell pregnant yet sadly both she and the child died during childbirth. Reppes married again before 1551 to Anne Wooton who moved into Middleton Hall, and when Henry Reppes died, was left the estate. Anne then married her third husband, Bassingbourn Gawdy, and lived both at Middleton Hall and Berdwell Hall, West Harling. After her death, Middleton Hall passed to Sir Henry Woodehouse, whose mother had been Henry Reppes’ sister.
Woodehouse and his wife, Cecily Gresham, progressed the construction of Middleton Hall. Their first project being the present east-west four bay Tudor range, containing the present buttery and dining room, which has a fantastically decorated plaster ceiling with the Gresham grasshoppers, pairs of pistols, powder flasks, helmets, and a plaster frieze with Roman emperors' heads in profile and cupids. At approximately the same time, according to Phillip Aitkens, the east garden wall was built, and still stands today. The other major construction project around this time was the brick cladding of the now lost west side of the house, and associated work to the half-timbered west wall of the north-south wing. Still remaining is the west facing south end wall which has an elaborate diaper pattern.
Over the next few hundred years, the estate has passed to many other families and has taken part in many other notable parts in history, for example, it is thought that Thomas Cromwell’s soldiers had once billeted in Middleton Hall. The Whittaker family, who resided in Middleton Hall during the 18th century, demolished the west side of the house, and were the builders of the current north facing side, constructed of red brick and heavily framed cross casement windows. Due to this change, the house became more appropriate for wealthy farmers than for the gentry. The dining room with the wonderful ceiling became the diary, and the library above became the grain store.
This fabulous hall of both architectural and historical interest was converted from a farm to a country house once again in 1971, and still stands tall, lovingly restored during the early 90s. The house was weatherproofed; a new roof and chimney stacks were installed, uneven floors were levelled, and the plaster ceiling (of which only 60% had survived), was beautifully restored by local craftsmen. The furniture and paintings fitted were carefully selected from antique fairs from all over the UK, all with a 16th century flair. The surrounding gardens were renovated to suit the historical feel of the house, designed with the traditional Tudor style in mind.
A little slice of Middleton Hall’s wonderful history has now come to us at Sworders, with lots being offered in Fine Interiors, Homes and Interiors, and Old Master, British and European Art sales.
Image by Mustard Creative, Halesworth.
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