Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Holkham Hall

Holkham Hall is an eighteenth-century country house located adjacent to the village of Holkham, on the north coast of the English county of Norfolk. The hall was constructed in the Palladian style for Thomas Coke, 1st Earl of Leicester (fifth creation) by the architect William Kent, aided by the architect and aristocrat Lord Burlington.

Burlington (l) Leicester (r)

This Palladian style mansion reflects Thomas Coke's appreciation of classical art developed during his 'Grand Tour' of Europe which lasted 6 years and from which he returned in the spring of 1718. He was 21 in June of that year and married Lady Margaret Tufton in July.

Holkham Hall is one of England's finest examples of the Palladian revival style of architecture, and severity of its design is closer to Palladio's ideals than many of the other numerous Palladian style houses of the period. The Holkham estate, formerly known as Neals, had been purchased in 1609 by Sir Edward Coke, the founder of his family fortune. It is the ancestral home of the Coke family, the Earls of Leicester of Holkham.

The cost of the construction of Holkham is thought to have been in the region of £90,000. This vast cost nearly ruined the heirs of the 1st Earl, but had the result that they were financially unable to alter the house to suit the whims of taste. Thus, the house has remained almost untouched since its completion in 1764. Today, this perfect, if severe, example of Palladianism is at the heart of a thriving private estate of some 25,000 acres Though open to the public for tours, it is still the family home of the Earls of Leicester of Holkham
As I walked back the mile from the house to the car park, I was passed by a high end BMW on the private drive and I thought "Could that have been Viscount Coke (the 45 year old heir to the earldom)?"  I cannot help but be in awe of the English peerage, especially the ego that it must take to drive up to a 300 year old palace and say "I'm home".  This is a bronze of one of the earl's, though I don't know which one, located on a hill overlooking the hall.
Again, I missed the opportunity to tour the interior, but walking the grounds was still worth the trip. An overview of the interior  including its book and art collections can be found here: Holkham Hall Interior
Comparatively, Jefferson's Monticello, also a neo-Palladian inspired structure, seems miniscule and ingenuine.  Having a broad perspective, particularly of ancient history and continental Europe, is certainly what enabled these men to have dreamt such visions of magnificent splendor and ideal Classical purity.     

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