The Historic Halls & Heritage of Cambridge & Suffolk –11th September – 13th September

26 members of ASDDS enjoyed this tour in September.  The weather was ideal for walking about and visiting interesting places.  After a very comfortable coach journey, the group arrived in Cambridge and were free to follow their own interests.  Some went to Kettles Yard and some to the Fitzwilliam Museum.  Both places were fascinating and it was well worth spending time in them.  Unfortunately time did not allow one to visit both as they are at opposite ends of Cambridge so a difficult decision had to be made.   Of course time was also spent wandering through the narrow streets of Cambridge and some people managed to find time to do some shopping!

The Angel Hotel in Bury St Edmunds proved to be very comfortable and it was a good base for the rest of the trip.

After a good night’s rest and a delicious breakfast we visited Crow’s Hall, a Grade II listed 16th Century moated manor house.  We were cordially welcomed and shown around the house, its associated buildings and gardens, including a knot garden and a pool garden, designed by Xa Tollemache, by the owner who gave a very interesting account of the history of this Tudor building and its grounds.

This truly was a’ home’ and enjoyed by all who live there. 

This is a working farm and some of the farm buildings have a dual function – the huge C16th barn is used as a grain store in the winter and a wedding and events venue in the summer.  It is possibly the longest in the county and may have been an early court hall.

The last wedding of the season had just taken place and the barn had been stripped back ready for its winter usage.

 

In the afternoon we were welcomed to West Stow Hall which dates to c. 1520.

 

 

In 1570 a colonnade was built to connect the Gatehouse with the Hall. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Gatehouse has terracotta figures and a rare C16th wall painting of the four ages of man. 

 

 

The Hall is heavily timbered downstairs with large inglenooks and great reception hall.  It is an extensive building and research has shown that the various rooms have had many different functions over the years.  Some of the current interior spaces were once external, being courtyards where visitors were greeted.

 

 

 

 

 

Once back in Bury St Edmunds, people enjoyed a relaxing evening partaking of the culinary delights at a range of local establishments.  On the last morning there was an opportunity to visit St Edmunsbury Cathedral and its environs.

 

 

 

 

After wandering through Bury St Edmunds and partaking of refreshments, we were driven to Columbine Hall.  Despite our late arrival, due to an unexpected diversion, our hosts (the owner and the Head Gardener) were waiting for us and gave the group a full tour of the house and gardens.  The house dates from 1390 and is a Grade II* timber-framed building surrounded by a defensive moat.  The owners have transformed the interior with imagination to create a very special home filled with their eclectic and eccentric collections of artefacts.  A fascinating house.

 

 

 

There is an acre of formal garden, designed by Chelsea Gold Medal winner, George Carter, and this area enjoys vistas of the rolling countryside beyond.  In contrast, a walled garden with vegetables and cutting flowers has also been created.  Both the owner and the head gardener are full of imaginative ideas for the future of the gardens and their enthusiasm is palpable.  Here again we were treated to more tea and cakes in the barn which is used as an events space.  A  wonderful visit to end the tour.

It was interesting to note that all of the owners have converted their outbuildings for holiday and long term lets and as events spaces and thus the buildings and the land generate income to help maintain these historic buildings.  We are grateful to them for sharing their homes with us and for giving us such interesting guided tours (not to mention all the delicious cakes!).