Have you ever wondered what it would be like to stay in a historic gem? Well now you can. Set within a landscape timelessly evoked in John Constable’s paintings, Thorington Hall in Suffolk is not only full of charm and history – it’s the newest and largest holiday cottage to be tastefully restored and opened by the National Trust, sleeping up to 18 people (with 3 additional people in the former gate lodge)!
This vast 17th century farmhouse dates back to the 1500s in parts. With a staggered roofline, ornate chimneys and walls painted in a striking colour, this timber-framed building will certainly leave a lasting impression on anyone who stays in it.
Inside, it’s full of character. The large, bright rooms are informally furnished and conceal modern facilities, yet retain the grandeur of powerful landowners who once farmed almost 1,400 acres surrounding the Hall. You can see how their changing tastes, fashions and functional use have helped to shape the house you see today.
The tall chimney for example was a sign to visitors and passers-by that this was a wealthy home. The west staircase is highly decorated and incorporates carved hearts, Tudor roses, tulips and diamonds. In fact, the high level of detail extends right up to the attic, which tells us that the attic rooms were just as important as those on the lower floors. We think that these rooms were not store rooms but a place from which to admire the garden and landscape with guests.
Choose which staircase you’d prefer to use (there’s more than one), if you’ve got children in your party they’ll most likely want first refusal over the attic bedrooms and we’ve commissioned a large oak banqueting table and benches for the ground floor dining room, which means dining will be an experience in itself.
You’ll find original features on display throughout the house, from the beautiful wood carvings on the staircase, remains of old graffiti on window panes and illustrated delft tiles, there’s even signs of witchcraft!
So what are the mysterious marks that link the house to witchcraft and who put them there? Photographs taken before the restoration in 1937 show a series of dark symbols most likely burnt into the attic ceiling. The newel post facing the window on the west staircase also has three linked circles carved into it. These together with a sixteenth century shoe concealed behind the plaster in the dining room, are all signs of someone trying to protect the inhabitants of the house and prevent evil spirits from entering the property. But don’t let that worry you!
We know little of those who lived in the house before the late 1600s, when it became the home of a gentleman called Thomas May. The date and circumstances in which Thomas May acquired the house are currently being investigated, but the earliest reference to the May family living in the parish of Stoke-by-Nayland is 1607. When Thomas died in 1645, the house passed through two more generations of his family; before changing hands, size and shape several more times before it was donated to the National Trust.
Photographs for this blog post are all thanks to Mike Henton
In recent years, repairs were needed and the building has undergone a complete renovation, with new plumbing, heating, bathrooms and an upgraded kitchen – all of which haven’t compromised the character of this magnificent building. So your stay will certainly be a comfortable and authentic one. And outside, the private grounds reveal a rambling garden, wild in parts, with a small apple orchard, stables and a former grass tennis court, currently being brought back into use.
So, if you’re looking for a striking house with masses of space, inside and out, for large family holidays or relaxed get-togethers with friends then this is truly it.