History of the Blickling estate

The view across the lake to the house in autumn

Mentioned in the Domesday Book, Blickling Estate was the birthplace of Anne Boleyn, and during the Second World War RAF air crew were billeted here, while its owner, Lord Lothian, influenced Churchill’s actions...

Imagine a world without books...

This year we're all about books, as we are celebrating the story of the Blickling's eighteenth century Long Gallery library. Most of the books in this impressive collection were bequeathed by Sir Richard Ellys in the 1740s, when Sir John Hobart owned the estate.

Influential Owners

The manor of Blickling is recorded in the Domesday Book. Its owners have included Sir John Fastolf and Geoffrey Boleyn, grandfather of Anne Boleyn, the ill-fated wife of Henry VIII.

Sir Geoffrey Boleyn (1406 -1463)

The Tudor house that once stood at Blickling is believed to be the birthplace of Anne Boleyn, granddaughter of Sir Geoffrey Boleyn. Sir Geoffrey bought the estate from Sir John Fastolf in 1452. 

Sir Henry Hobart (1560 - 1626)

The present red-brick mansion was built by Sir Henry Hobart (pronounced "Hubbard") after he purchased the estate in 1616.

The house was built on the same site as Sir Geoffrey Boleyn's, by architect Robert Lyminge, who was already known for building Hatfield House. The moat still remains from Tudor times, as Sir Henry used this as a perimeter in order to control his budget. 

Sir Henry Hobart (1560 - 1626)
Sir Henry Hobart (1560 - 1626)
Sir Henry Hobart (1560 - 1626)

Sir John Hobart, 1st Earl of Buckinghamshire (1693 - 1756)

In the 1740s, Sir John converted Blickling's Long Gallery into an impressive library after being bequeathed a vast book collection from renowned scholar, Sir Richard Ellys. 

Find out more about Sir John Hobart, 1st Earl of Buckinghamshire

Sir John Hobart, 1st Earl of Buckinghamshire
Sir John Hobart, 1st Earl of Buckinghamshire
Sir John Hobart, 1st Earl of Buckinghamshire

Lady Caroline Hobart, Lady Suffield (1767 - 1850)

Little is known about the long tenure of Lady Caroline Suffield and her husband, who became Lord Suffield in 1810, as despite inheriting Blickling in 1793, it wasn't until the late 1820s that she made her mark on the house, garden and park.

During the Suffield's tenure, Blickling twice escaped destruction by fire in the early nineteenth century. The first was in 1808, where people came from Aylsham to fight the blaze and the town was afterwards thanked with significant gratuities. The second broke out a year before her death, in April 1849 and it was described how the staff exposed themselves to fire and smoke, to the point of near suffocation, until the fire was extinguished. 

With regards to her impact on the design of the estate, Lady Caroline Suffield approached landscape designer Humprey Repton for informal advice, as they had previously worked together at Gunton Hall. As a result, his son John Adey Repton, worked on Blickling's flower beds and garden structures. Humprey Repton himself had painted ‘Lady’s Cottage in the Great Wood’ on the estate in 1780 and this is one of his earliest known watercolours. 

Notably, Lady Suffield also commissioned fashionable London architect, Joseph Bonomi, to design Blickling's iconic Mausoleum as a memorial to her father after his death. 

Find our more about Blickling's Mausoleum

 

William Schomberg Robert Kerr, 8th Marquess of Lothian (1832 - 1870)

William Kerr inherited the estate when he was just nine years old and it was during his time that many changes were made to the hall.

In the 1850s the west wing was completely rebuilt, retaining only its Jacobean front wall, to accommodate a new kitchen, laundry, brew-house and game larders. The estate's waterworks were also remodelled and gas was introduced.

After his marriage to his first cousin, Lady Constance Talbot, in 1854, they spent many years travelling and this consequently influenced the decor in the house. As well as gothic features, they introduced European, Asian and North African patterns. 

William Kerr died at the age of just 38 after battling with a disease he contracted in India. His life-sized, carved effigy can be found on his tomb in Blickling Church.

William Schomberg Robert Kerr, 8th Marquess of Lothian (1832-1870)
William Schomberg Robert Kerr, 8th Marquess of Lothian (1832-1870)
William Schomberg Robert Kerr, 8th Marquess of Lothian (1832-1870)

Philip Kerr, 11th Marquess of Lothian (1882 - 1940)

The Blickling Estate, and its owners, were very influential in their time. In particular, it was Lord Lothian who persuaded Churchill to write the historic letter to Roosevelt, which for the first time gave the Americans an unequivocal statement of Britain's depleted military strength.

At a daringly timed conference in Washington (1940), Lothian delivered a similar message to the American public which was to be his last during his final visit to America. 

Find out more about Philip Kerr, 11th Marquess of Lothian

Philip Kerr, 11th Marquess of Lothian (1882 - 1940)
Painting of Philip Kerr, 11th Marquess of Lothian (1882 - 1940)
Philip Kerr, 11th Marquess of Lothian (1882 - 1940)
Two visitors walking in to the Upper Ante room

Take a tour 

Delve into the history of the house and enjoy a unique opportunity to find out more about what happens behind the scenes. Discover more about our portraits, find out about the people who lived here or explore the attics. We also offer garden tours daily...