Making his mark: the 1st Marquess' blueprint for Ickworth

Painting of Frederick William Hervey, 5th Earl and 1st Marquess of Bristol, painted in front of Ickworth, by John Hoppner

The second son of an Earl, Frederick William Hervey never expected to inherit. However he did in 1803 and went on to make the single most important contribution to the development of Ickworth’s landscape, with the creation of Ickworth House, the development of the North and South Pleasure Grounds, Albana Walk and the renewal of the 18th century Walled Garden.

Early Life

Frederick William Hervey was born at Ickworth in 1769, the youngest child and second surviving son of the 4th Earl of Bristol (known as the ‘Earl Bishop’) and his wife Elizabeth Davers. His parents separated when he was 12 and he was mainly brought up by his mother, never becoming particularly close to his father.

Marriage and Family

Their distance was, perhaps, most obvious when Frederick refused to marry the illegitimate daughter of the King of Prussia, whom his father had chosen for him. Instead he chose to marry Elizabeth Albana Upton with whom he had been in love since school children. Kindred spirits with a shared attitude, they set about building Ickworth and a landscape to fall in love with- the Albana Walk sitting in the centre of the estate.

Frederick was a family man and devoted father who viewed Ickworth as a home, rather than a place of the arts. He and his family moved into the East Wing in 1829 after extensive construction works to transform it into a family home.

" Those who were privileged to hold personal intercourse with him, though only as tenants or on matters of business, have always felt that his unfailing courtesy was not the exterior habit of the peer, but the instinctive attribute of the man - the dictate of a heart whose pleasure it was to please and to sympathise."
- Obituary Comment in local paper in 1859

Making his Mark

In 1803, after the French army had confiscated his whole art collection, the Earl Bishop died and was sent back to Ickworth packed and labelled as a piece of antique statuary. Frederick William, now the 5th Earl (becoming 1st Marquess in 1826) took responsibility for the building of Ickworth.  By 1818 building works stopped as funds were short – he was only left £1000 (excluding the landed estates he inherited) after the death of his father, and Frederick wanted to complete other building projects before focusing his attention on Ickworth. However after an injection of funds from his mother’s brother and the Davers family’s estate he was able to re-focus his attention on the Suffolk estate and finish the East Wing.

The 1st Marquess in his later years
1st marquess ickworth portrait
The 1st Marquess in his later years

Grand Collector

Whilst Ickworth was being finished he took his wife and their four children, all aged under 17, on a four-year tour of Europe, during which he attempted to recover the art collection confiscated from his father by the French in 1798, and in purchasing a replacement collection when this attempt largely failed. One significant re-purchase was John Flaxman’s ‘Fury of Athamus’, which now stands proud in the Entrance Hall of the Rotunda.  With a much smaller art collection than his father had imagined, Frederick had the West Wing built not as an assembly room, but to provide no more than the essential balance of the architectural design.  The Rotunda itself had been completed externally by the time of the Earl-Bishop’s death in 1803  When Frederick resumed work on the house he decorated and furnished the ground floor, put in a rudimentary set of stairs and finished the rooms upstairs. The Dining Room and Library are clear examples of his work and his legacy. 

The Outdoors Legacy

The 1st Marquess had a real love of horticulture and made the single most important contribution to the historical development of Ickworth’s landscape. The gardens we see today exist as a result of his contribution. As a Fellow of the Royal Society he would have heard many lectures and talks on agriculture and horticulture and built up a good level of knowledge.  His gardening knowledge was partly derived from the social environment of the landed aristocracy, from information picked up both on his own tour of Europe as a youth, and with his family between 1817 and 1821, and most importantly he used his Natural Science training to collect and read books on gardening.  His natural interest in gardening was reinforced by his wife who was equally keen on gardening and together enjoyed the process of planning the gardens at Ickworth.

Even while construction was halted on Ickworth’s physical buildings Frederick continued developing the gardens and set about implementing the earliest Italianate Garden in England, inspired by the gardens at Caserta, near Naples.

Visit us from March and delve into the life of the 1st Marquess: his life in politics, why he was made a Marquess, his family ties, determination and vision to create the Ickworth we see today.