Peeling back the layers at Oxburgh Hall

Wallpaper. Flock-on-gilt, green, red and gilt on a yellow ground.
Published : 16 Apr 2013 Last update : 30 Jun 2016

If you’re planning to do some home decorating this spring and are having trouble choosing the wallpaper, why not pop along to Oxburgh Hall for ideas? Wendy Andrews, wallpaper project researcher explains…

Oxburgh Hall in South West Norfolk is a medieval moated manor house with a surprising collection that has remained hidden from view for centuries. Previously stored in boxes in the attics are more than 130 samples of different wallpapers, dating from the late 1700s to the 1960s. Over the past nine months, I’ve been working with the House Manager, Liz Cooper and her team; Anna Forrest, Curator, and Allyson McDermott, wallpaper conservator, to discover more about these different wallpapers.

Wallpaper of trompe l'oeil plasterwork design on red ground.
Wallpaper of trompe l'oeil plasterwork design on red ground.

There are vibrant gothic revival papers on the walls of the Saloon, Drawing Room, Library, Dining Room, North Bedroom and Boudoir. Now a new wallpaper exhibition in the Boudoir reveals the history of some of the most interesting wallpapers, including the previously unseen ones from the attic boxes, and tells the story of who made them, who chose them and where or whether they were used at Oxburgh Hall.

Pink flock and gilt wallpaper by Townsend, Parker & Co. Red faded to pink.
Pink flock and gilt wallpaper

Some of Oxburgh’s wallpapers were ordered from one of the most prestigious interior design companies of the Victorian era, Cowtan & Sons; whose customers included many aristocratic families, politicians, companies and even royalty. The earliest Cowtan order for wallpaper for Sir Henry Bedingfeld at Oxburgh Hall was in 1831 and the latest in 1905, showing that the family was keen to keep up with trends in interior decorating, right through the 19th century.

So, why not come along and see the wide range of wallpaper designs and colours once chosen for Oxburgh Hall? Who knows, maybe one of them will be the inspiration for your next decorating project!