Sudbury Hall, Derbyshire

Front view

Rear view

Sudbury Hall, built by George Vernon in the reign of Charles II, is predominately Jacobean, yet the carved stone, wood, and plasterwork are in the elaborately decorated classical style. Vernon favoured the stone mullion and transom windows, but it is unusual to see circular and oval sections forming part of this arrangement. What Vernon created here was very much his own vision of a marriage between old fashioned Jacobean external features and an interior richly decorated in the classical style of Wren.

An arched doorway from the Great Hall leading to the staircase.  The heavily moulded pier stones, voussoirs (wedge shaped stones) make a statement entrance. The paving is local Derbyshire stone.

One of the finest 17th century staircases still remaining in situ in an English country house. It is known from notes made by George Vernon that he had reservations about a proposal to put pineapples on the top of the newels being the fashion at that time, and also the symbol of hospitality. Instead Vernon chose these delightful baskets of pomegranate fruit. In almost every religion the pomegranate has been used as a symbol of humanity’s most fundamental beliefs and desires, life and death, birth and eternal life, fertility and marriage, abundance and prosperity.

George Vernon himself in the Saloon – he owned vast acreages in the Derbyshire Peak District,  and was locally known as ‘King of the Peak’.

The ceiling depicts the Four Seasons by Louis Laguerre

In the Saloon the family portraits are surrounded by exquisite carving carried out by Edward Pearce.

The Drawing Room has a wonderful Grinling Gibbons draped swag, which hangs around a large painting. Gibbons carved this swag in limewood for a total cost of £40 in 1680. 

The Library

Originally this room was George Vernon’s study and referred to as his chamber.

The acanthus leaf cornice, which I love, is by a local plasterer Samuel Mansfield and was completed in 1670. It has been painted to replicate faux wood.

View to the rear garden and lake

A fine 17th century picture frame made into a wall mirror reflecting a Chinese 18th century black lacquered screen showing river scenes.

White Carara marble bust of Emperor Napoleon I attributed to Antonis Canova.

‘One lump or two’ earl grey and fancies in Lady Vernon’s Sitting Room. This room is decorated in the colours and style of the 1930s and was in daily use until 1978 by Violet the wife of the 9th Lord Vernon.

Finally Sudbury Hall’s pièce de résistance – The Long Gallery – which takes up the whole length of the side of the house overlooking the south facing garden – it is 138ft in length. It has possibly the most impressive ceiling of any house in England. The plasterwork detail ranges from heads of Emperors, to shells, palm fronds and seedpods, all created around a central rosette. The work is considered by many to be the most magnificent feature of the house, closely followed by the lavishly decorated staircase.

One Lely lady from several in The Long Gallery – this is Nell Gwynn, the long time mistress of King Charles II. Called ‘pretty, witty Nell’ by Samuel Pepys.

Peter Lely was a painter of Dutch origin, whose career was nearly all spent in England, where he became the dominant portrait painter to the court. Apologies for the reflective light on the painting.


A member of the Vernon family was Admiral Sir Edward Vernon. He commanded the Royal Navy in the West Indies during the War of Jenkins’ Ear. One of his junior officers was Lawrence Washington, the older and beloved half-brother of the future United States President George Washington. He was the first to live in the Mount Vernon estate, which he named after his commanding officer.

Lawrence Washington, half-brother to George Washington

painting courtesy wikipedia



  1. Brings back memories – I used to live very near to here. Thanks for the post.

    1. I am pleased about that – does that make you a Derbyshire local?

      1. I used to live in Edale and then Doveridge up until the 80s, so no longer a local, but great memories – Ian

      2. Lovely locations to have lived

  2. I love the stories surrounding these old places. Given that you’re covering the Washingtons, have you visited Sulgrave Manor in Northamptonshire? Not as grand as this, but a must do for any Anglophile.

    1. I haven’t visited Sulgrave Manor but Northampton is an area where there are one or two interesting properties that I would like to see.
      I have visited Washington Old Hall which has links to the first President. If I dig out my photos I could perhaps do a post on that.

  3. Hard to choose my favourite of this post. The Grinling Gibbons has to be towards the top of the list and that long gallery, so elegant and light.

    That Nell Gwyn. She gets everywhere, doesn’t she?

    1. The Long Gallery is really ‘long’ – you could certainly get plenty of exercise in there on cold wet days.
      Nell is pretty voluptuous don’t you think?

  4. Cheers for these, it’s funny how you miss this sort of stuff when it’s not available, Britain is a great country, I only wish it was great enough for me to want to bring my daughter up in. Next time you see some squirrels, or a robin or a canal, post some photos please.

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