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.
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