Top ten items to see in the Rotunda
The Earl-Bishop was interested in round buildings and at Ickworth he wanted to display his art collection in a way which would be instructive to his visitors .
He instructed Italian Mario Asprucci to design a building based on his house Ballyscullion in County Londonderry but with more lavish style. The designs were simplified slightly by his architect Francis Sandys and his brother Joseph but nevertheless resulted in the impressive building you see today. The interior of the Rotunda was designed to impress, filled with many treasures it was used for grand entertaining with the more comfortable living quarters located in the east wing.
The finishing kitchen
The finishing kitchen is in the basement under the main Rotunda. It was converted from a brewhouse as part of the 4th Marquess’s modernisation project in the early part of the 20th-century. This kitchen was only used when the family were entertaining guests on a grand scale and using the dining room in the Rotunda instead of their family dining room in the east wing of Ickworth. The main food preparation was carried out in the larger and better appointed east wing kitchens and was brought to the finishing kitchen for final touches before being sent to the grand Rotunda dining room. The kitchen contained a warming cupboard, a roasting oven and a pastry oven. There was no area set aside for washing up as this likewise was done back in the east wing.
The Fury of Athamas
This sculpture provides the focal point of the Rotunda hall. It was commissioned by the Earl-Bishop from the artist John Flaxman for £600 in 1790. In those days this was a considerable amount of money. The sculpture represents Athamas, who according to Greek legend killed his son Learchus having been driven to madness by the Goddess Hera. His second wife Ino and their son Melichertes threw themselves into the sea so that they too would not meet the same fate.
Lady Geraldine's fan collection
The Rotunda first floor landing contains a selection of fans from Geraldine, 3rd marchioness of Bristol (1843 - 1927). Fans were not only a fashionable accessory for ladies, but their beautifully intricate designs and value made them extremely collectible items. The fans in our collection represent some incredibly skilled craftsmen and are well worth a visit.
Dining room chandelier
The main central chandelier in the dining room was originally used in the Hervey's London residence at 6 St James’s Square and unfortunately it was damaged in a zeppelin raid during the First World War. It's thought that the chandelier was transported and hung in the dining room sometime before 1935. When you visit the house, it's always worth looking up to see the wonderful chandeliers that adorn many of the rooms' ceilings.
There are some 20 examples of the Italian ceramic Doccia collection placed around the house. It dates from the middle of the 18th-century and some of the sweetmeat centrepieces and dishes interlock together like a jigsaw. Over half of the collection was bought by the 3rd Marquess who thought he was purchasing 13 pieces Capodimonte porcelain, but what he actually received was 13 pieces of Doccia. The underlying theme of the Ickworth collection is the sea: winged sea harpies carry scallop shaped dishes and sea monsters hold up candlesticks.
Vigee Le Brun self portrait
This oil painting on canvas was signed and dated in 1791. It's a delightful self-portrait by Parisian born Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun, (1755 – 1842). It was acquired by HM treasury from the Bristol collection in lieu of death duties in 1956 and transferred to us in 1983. The painting now hangs in the smoking room along with a a variety of interesting paintings including our Titian.
Pompeian room and wall paintings
The Pompeian room was completed in 1879 when the 3rd Marquess employed designers Penrose and Crace to decorate it in the style of frescoes excavated in 1777 at the Villa Negroni. The villa located on the Esquiline Hill in Rome, was the house of the Emperor Antoninus Pius dating to AD134. The Earl-Bishop was in Rome at the time of the discovery and had removed some of the original frescoes intending to bring them back to Ickworth. This rare neo-classical decorative room has recently been the object of preservation having been damaged by water penetration from the west corridor roof.
The silver collection
We’ve one of the largest collections of Ambassadorial silver within the National Trust. For the moment just a small amount of the collection is on display on the first floor, in a former guests bedroom. The silver was either purchased or received as gifts by several generations of the Hervey family and much of it was in use when the family was entertaining, right up to 1956 when the property was transferred to the National Trust. We are currently working on extending the display of silver to include items which currently residing in storage to really show this magnificent collection in all its glory.
The books in the Library represent only a small proportion of our book collection. Theodora the 4th Marchioness arranged for all of the books to be rebound, a very expensive process that actually masks the true condition and age to the untrained eye. It was notably the women of the family who were keen to buy and read the books, but the oldest in the collection belonged to Sir William Hervey (1585-1660) and his elder son John who died in 1679. We're fortunate that one of our volunteers is a book historian and carries out occasional talks on our collection allowing a closer look at some particularly special volumes. Check our events to find the next talk.
Drawing room marquetry table
The furnishings in the drawing room come from a mix of periods and sources. In the centre of the room is a circular table on a tripod base decorated with floral marquetry on a walnut ground. It's thought that this was supplied to the 1st Marquess and is based on designs published by R H Bridgens in 1828.