It seems that the Manor of Ickworth was a gift from Theodred, Bishop of London (died c.951), to the Abott of St Edmunds and in 1184 came into the hands of the de Ickworth family. A licence to create a park at Ickworth was granted between 1259-64 to Thomas de Ickworth. In 1431 it became Crown property but in 1470 it was granted to William Hervey and remained in the family until transferred to the National Trust in 1956.
Ickworth House, near Bury St Edmunds, was commissioned by Frederick Hervey, 4th Earl of Bristol, also known as the Earl Bishop because he was the Bishop of Derry, from an Italian architect, Mario Asprucci and built between 1795-1829. It needed immense wealth to build the house, with the Rotunda intended as an art gallery, but as Bishop of Derry his annual income was c.£42,000, an immense sum at the time, and he additionally inherited land from his brothers.
Our visit was particularly interesting as volunteers were dressed and carrying out duties as staff in 1935. The Rotunda, intended as an art gallery, is amazingly opulent; the East Wing is now a hotel, and we enjoyed National Trust tea and cakes in the West Wing.
Classical influences are everywhere.
We were limited in exploring the grounds because of a recent knee operation and I would like to return and try one of the circular walks on the estate.
The first Hervey homestead was built 15C/16C between the Church and the River Linnet but nothing remains. An obliging buggy took us to the Walled Garden, a wildflower meadow with a vegetable garden and greenhouses at one end. It was built c.1706, adjacent to the original homestead and where the 1st Earl, John Hervey, also built the Summerhouse c.1730. I could see an expanse of water beyond the garden and this must be Canal Lake, designed by Capability Brown.
Between The Walled Garden and the main house is the Church of St Mary.
We entered the gardens around the house at the West Wing, along a shady terrace. I believe the garden is described as ‘Italianate’ because of the general layout, with avenues, trees, and box, rather than consisting of flower beds.
Walking back to the car there were lovely views of the parklands. Do visit if you are in Suffolk.