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Cooking and serving items displayed in the servants' kitchen at the Ickworth House in Horringer, England, Tuesday, April 18, 2017. On certain weekends you can witness the secret world of the servants as they prepare the house for Lord and Lady Bristol.
Cooking and serving items displayed in the servants' kitchen at the Ickworth House in Horringer, England, Tuesday, April 18, 2017. On certain weekends you can witness the secret world of the servants as they prepare the house for Lord and Lady Bristol. (William Howard/Stars and Stripes)
Cooking and serving items displayed in the servants' kitchen at the Ickworth House in Horringer, England, Tuesday, April 18, 2017. On certain weekends you can witness the secret world of the servants as they prepare the house for Lord and Lady Bristol.
Cooking and serving items displayed in the servants' kitchen at the Ickworth House in Horringer, England, Tuesday, April 18, 2017. On certain weekends you can witness the secret world of the servants as they prepare the house for Lord and Lady Bristol. (William Howard/Stars and Stripes)
A room in the servants' quarters at the Ickworth House in Horringer, England.
A room in the servants' quarters at the Ickworth House in Horringer, England. (William Howard/Stars and Stripes)
A timeless washbasin in the servants' quarters at the Ickworth House in Horringer, England, Tuesday.
A timeless washbasin in the servants' quarters at the Ickworth House in Horringer, England, Tuesday. (William Howard/Stars and Stripes)
Entrance of the rotunda at the Ickworth House in Horringer, England.
Entrance of the rotunda at the Ickworth House in Horringer, England. (William Howard/Stars and Stripes)
The Hervey library inside the Ickworth House in Horringer, England. Paintings by renowned artists Velazquez, Titian, Kauffman, Reynolds and Gainsborough hang throughout the house.
The Hervey library inside the Ickworth House in Horringer, England. Paintings by renowned artists Velazquez, Titian, Kauffman, Reynolds and Gainsborough hang throughout the house. (William Howard/Stars and Stripes)
The Lord and Lady Bristol's bedroom inside the Ickworth House in Horringer, England. The stairs leading to the bed doubled as a commode.
The Lord and Lady Bristol's bedroom inside the Ickworth House in Horringer, England. The stairs leading to the bed doubled as a commode. (William Howard/Stars and Stripes)
Pieces from the collection of fine Georgian silver at the Ickworth House. In 1956, the fourth marquess presented estate to the Treasury in lieu of death duties and the Ickworth House and gardens passed to the National Trust, which opened it to the public
Pieces from the collection of fine Georgian silver at the Ickworth House. In 1956, the fourth marquess presented estate to the Treasury in lieu of death duties and the Ickworth House and gardens passed to the National Trust, which opened it to the public (William Howard/Stars and Stripes)
The rotunda atop the Ickworth House in Horringer, England. Frederick Augustus Hervey, fourth earl of Bristol, commissioned the Italianate palace in 1795 to house his priceless art collection amassed from more than 30 years of touring Europe.
The rotunda atop the Ickworth House in Horringer, England. Frederick Augustus Hervey, fourth earl of Bristol, commissioned the Italianate palace in 1795 to house his priceless art collection amassed from more than 30 years of touring Europe. (William Howard/Stars and Stripes)
A sweeping pastoral landscape surrounds the Ickworth House. The 1800-acre estate astounds visitors with its massive rotunda, evergreen gardens and parkland designed by Capability Brown.
A sweeping pastoral landscape surrounds the Ickworth House. The 1800-acre estate astounds visitors with its massive rotunda, evergreen gardens and parkland designed by Capability Brown. (William Howard/Stars and Stripes)
A fairy garden at the Ickworth House.
A fairy garden at the Ickworth House. (William Howard/Stars and Stripes)
A view from the garden of the rotunda atop the Ickworth House.
A view from the garden of the rotunda atop the Ickworth House. (William Howard/Stars and Stripes)

The 1,800-acre Ickworth Estate, with its massive rotunda, evergreen fairy gardens and sprawling sheep pastures, is a favorite place to visit for many local families.

On my first trip there during February, I witnessed the secret world of the servants as they prepared the house for Lord and Lady Bristol. At first I found it odd to see a man in period dress running down the subterranean corridors of the estate with keys jingling from his belt — until I realized it was all part of a living-history show.

Exploring the servant’s quarters felt like stepping back in time. While interacting with historically correct props, I found a love letter hidden in a book, played piano in the servants’ hall and asked four older women making scones in the kitchen if I could help. They told me the floors might need sweeping.

Every room is perfectly preserved and decorated down to the notes left from the head housekeeper to staff.

The more I wandered around Ickworth House, the less it felt like a museum and the more it felt like the Hervey family had left moments before I arrived.

Frederick Augustus Hervey, fourth earl of Bristol, commissioned the Italianate palace in 1795 to house his priceless art collection amassed from more than 30 years of touring Europe.

The original designs by Italian architect Mario Asprucci the Younger were later adapted to the English climate by Francis Sandys.

The endeavor seemed doomed from the start as Napoleonic troops confiscated Lord Bristol’s collection in 1798 in Italy. Only the classical rotunda was finished by his death in 1803.

His son, Frederick William Hervey, the fifth earl who later became the first marquess, took over the building project and eventually moved in with his family in 1829. He scaled back the original designs, and the Ickworth House and gardens were completed in 1832.

Hervey generations carried on the passion for collecting art. Paintings by renowned artists Velazquez, Titian, Kauffman, Reynolds and Gainsborough hang throughout the house alongside portraits of the family. An entire room is dedicated to their collection of fine Georgian silver.

In 1956, the fourth marquess presented the estate to the British treasury in lieu of death duties, and the entire estate passed to the National Trust, a conservation organization in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, which opened it to the public.

howard.william@stripes.com

Ickworth House DIRECTIONS

The Rotunda, Horringer, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, IP29 5QE. From A14, take junction 42 toward Westley, on west side of A143. For all other routes, head toward Horringer. The main entrance to the Ickworth Estate is via Horringer Village on the A143; follow the brown signs.

TIMES

The house is open daily except Wednesdays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tours are offered from 11 a.m. to noon and 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. Visitors have free-flow access from noon to 4 p.m. and last entry is 3:15 p.m. The garden and parkland are open daily 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Special walks, exhibitions and living-history days are held periodically. During living-history days, actors in period costumes portray servants preparing the house for Lord and Lady Bristol. Dates are posted at nationaltrust.org.uk/ickworth.

COSTS

Entry to the property costs 14 pounds ($17.86) for adults, 7 pounds for children and 35 pounds for a family. Entry to the parkland and gardens only is 7 pounds for adults, 3.50 pounds for children and 17.50 pounds for a family.

FOOD

Ickworth House offers a host of meals, hotpots and treats from a seasonal menu at the West Wing cafe.

INFORMATION

Phone: (+44) (0) 1284 735270, email: ickworth@nationaltrust.org.uk, website: nationaltrust.org.uk/ickworth

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