A background to Ickworth Lives

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Before the project Ickworth Lives came into being, the basement was being used for storage, our restaurant, gift shop, book shop and the occasional scary Halloween evening.  However, 'Ickworth Lives' sought to restore the basement to its condition in the Edwardian period of 1910 when Lady Theodora Hervey had used some of her vast inherited fortune to improve the facilities for the servants working for the family at the time.

However, before we could even think about restoring the basement, we needed to convert the empty west wing to find a new home for the restaurant and shops.

Converting the West Wing

The west wing was originally an empty shell of a building and, astonishingly, had been built simply to provide a symmetry to the east wing living accommodation. The west wing was eventually opened in 2005 and now houses our restaurant, gift shop, comfort facilities and a state of the art conference and banqueting centre. Converting the west wing, also meant looking after our bats, and a hibernaculum was built under the arches under the west wing to ensure the bats continued to have a home.

Setting the scene

The scene was now set for our basement to be renovated - another daunting but very exciting undertaking and Ickworth Lives started to take shape. Ickworth Lives is based upon the personal testimonies of staff and members of the Hervey family, who were familiar with the house and parklands during the 1930s. By researching over 40 hours of audio recordings we have, along with a host of volunteers and local people, created a unique and authentic understanding of Ickworth Lives between the wars.

A generous helping hand to realise the dream

We're extremely grateful to all the organisations, community groups, fundraisers and individual donors who generously supported this project since its inception including the Heritage Lottery Fund, The Wolfson Foundation, Biffa Award, Suffolk County Council Corporate Regeneration Fund, The Worshipful Company of Grocers, The Scarfe Foundation and all our supporters who have given additional donations over and above membership fees and all those donors who wish to remain anonymous.

We'd also like to thank all those people who have contributed archive material for Ickworth lives including letters; papers; objects; period memorabilia and photographs. And finally, we would particularly like to thank the former staff of Ickworth for sharing their stories with us so we can keep their memories alive.

It's open

The basement opened on 3 March 2012 and we invite you to discover the real lives of those who lived and worked, upstairs and downstairs, in this extraordinary party house. Open the drawers, delve into cupboards, play the piano, read the 30s newspapers to catch up on the stories of the day and play a few games right where the servants used to play.

You'll see the finishing kitchen, servants' hall, cellars, servant bedrooms, house-keeper's room, speaking tubes, bells and other rooms needed to run the affairs of the grand reception rooms above.

Living History days

Students from West Suffolk College and our volunteers bring the basement to life on a number of living history days planned throughout the year. Wearing period servants' costumes made for them by the Ickworth sewing circle the basement is transformed on living history days as you follow the ghostly footsteps of the maids, cooks and hallboys. Check out our events to find the next living history day.