The builder of Sudbury Hall

looking up towards sudbury hall, theres some geese to.

George Vernon was just 25 when he inherited Sudbury; he was described as a ‘prudent young man, sober and active…’ and was well connected in the local area. He set about creating a house that would celebrate his political ambition, wealth and social position.

Inheriting an estate

George inherited the estate in 1660 and immediately began to rebuild his ancestor’s smaller mansion. He moved the village of Sudbury to its present location and set about building the current hall.

About the same time George married lucratively to Margaret Onley, an heiress from Northamptonshire, and began his life’s work spanning the next 42 years of creating Sudbury Hall.

Sudbury's magnificent great staircase
sudbury's great staircase
Sudbury's magnificent great staircase

Building his dream home

George kept accounts of all he spent on the house, which have proved an invaluable source of research for us. There was no payment to an architect so we believe he designed the house himself.

With his energy and new-found wealth, he created a Jacobean house but kept the traditional structure preferred by the Tudors with the state rooms towards the east and the service rooms to the west.

Margaret was George's first wife
A portrait of Margaret Onley, Mrs Vernon
Margaret was George's first wife

George's wives

Just one year after Margaret’s death in 1675, George married Dorothea Shirley, who was the daughter of Lady Catherine and Sir Robert Shirley and they had two daughters.

After Dorothea died in 1680, he married Catherine Vernon who was just 18 at the time, George was 44. It was another advantageous marriage and gave George access to the business acumen of her London based merchant family. It was their son, Henry, who inherited Sudbury upon George’s death in 1702.

Beautiful ceiling paintings above the great staircase
look up and see the beautiful ceiling paintings
Beautiful ceiling paintings above the great staircase

Creating a legacy

The history of the Vernon family is a mix of ambition, passion, creativity, innovation and design.

It is their passion for the 17th-century craftsmanship that has enabled Sudbury’s interiors to remain untouched and to be considered one of the most richly decorated and complete houses of its period.

Inspired by this creativity and innovation, the property is in the process of becoming The Children’s Country House at Sudbury. The hall will be presented and interpreted in new ways, to enable children to explore and discover freely. The hall experience will be made up of different zones, each inspired by different time periods, historic craftsmanship and stories, creating playful experiences which encourage children to experience Sudbury’s history and heritage in new ways.

We are working with children to test, trial and develop ideas whilst the property remains closed, and we look forward to reopening to visitors in 2022.