Oxburgh's furniture collection
The antique, dark, heavy furniture at Oxburgh Hall may not be to everyone’s taste. However, it’s for this reason that so few collections of this style still survive, which makes Oxburgh’s furniture collection even more special.
When the 6th Baronet inherited Oxburgh Hall in the 19th century it was in a poor state of repair. And so he set about re-modelling the house, decorating and furnishing it in a style that was a nostalgic celebration of the family’s illustrious past.
Heavy oak furniture was used alongside ancient textiles and neo-Gothic wallpapers to enhance the historic atmosphere of the house. Medieval and Renaissance objects were put together thoughtfully, to create a very specific aesthetic effect.
Whilst viewed in isolation, you may not think that this furniture is of great significance; however when seen collectively, the collection is a vital component of the surviving ‘romantic’ interiors that were created in the 19th century and of which so few remain.
By the time the 7th Baronet inherited the house, he collected so much carved medieval woodwork and furniture that his imports were numerous. Dock workers at King’s Lynn were reported to have commented, ‘More relics for Sir Henry’.
The majority of the furniture is thought to have been collected or specially made for the family during the 1830s, including several richly carved pieces supplied by the Belgian cabinet maker Jean Francois Malfait. Of particular note is the sideboard in the Dining Room, the four-poster bed in the King’s Room and the flying tester bed in the North Bedroom.
The furniture collection at Oxburgh Hall reflects the long occupation of the Bedingfeld family, their collecting habits and tastes. However, not all is as it seems. A large number of items are actually made up of other pieces of furniture, cobbled together.
Over the years a number of items have been lost. Several pieces of furniture were destroyed by fire when the house was ransacked during the Civil War. Further losses would follow as the family’s tastes changed. And the greatest loss came in 1951, when the 9th Baronet faced various financial pressures, including increased taxation and overdue rents.
That year an auction took place, 888 Lots including furniture, carpets, oil paintings and the family’s books, resulted in a significant number of items being sold. However, not all was lost. Saved at the final hour, many items were bought back by Lady Bedingfeld, her daughter, Frances and her niece Violet Hartcup – this included the dining room furniture and a suite of carved oak four poster beds that can be seen in the bedrooms on the first floor.