Oxburgh’s historic wallpaper collection

Pink flock and gilt wallpaper by Townsend, Parker & Co

Oxburgh’s notable collection of historic wallpapers dates from between 1750 and 1950 and includes designs by leading designers such as Pugin, Crace and Willement. A real mixture of colours and patterns, the collection features papers that would have been used in the highest status rooms, as well as servants’ bedrooms.

As part of the work by the 6th and 7th Baronet at Oxburgh Hall, which began in the 1830s, rooms within the house were transformed to create an imaginative, romantic response to their Tudor past. This included the addition of richly coloured, Gothic inspired wallpapers.

Peeling back the layers

The wallpaper collection is significant, as it provides evidence of the family’s decorative tastes and the functions, furnishing and hierarchies of different rooms within the Hall. 

Thanks to Wallpaper Researcher, Wendy Andrews, we know that six different 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 order for wallpaper was placed in 1831 and the latest in 1905, showing the family was keen to keep up with trends in interior decorating, right through the 19th century.

Although we’ve not been able to confirm every room in which the wallpaper was hung, we know from the orders, the rooms for which they were intended. Today, you can still see the vibrant gothic revival papers on the walls of the Saloon, Drawing Room, Library, Dining Room, North Bedroom and Boudoir. 

The wallpaper from the Library may have been designed by Buckler
Wallpaper at Oxburgh Hall, Norfolk
The wallpaper from the Library may have been designed by Buckler
A surprising collection

The significant wallpaper archive that has now been amassed at Oxburgh came about following the surprise discovery of more than 130 samples of different wallpapers that had been stored away in the attic, hidden from view. 

These boxes contained many samples of papers used, or considered for use in the house, dating from the 18th to 20th centuries. The significance of the archive in terms of wallpaper history and design is of considerable interest to researchers.

This wallpaper has a trompe l'oeil plasterwork design
Wallpaper of trompe l'oeil plasterwork design at Oxburgh Hall, Norfolk
This wallpaper has a trompe l'oeil plasterwork design
Leading designers of their time

A W N Pugin

The architect and designer, Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin, was one of the greatest champions of the Gothic Revival style. His most notable work, was designing the interior of the Palace of Westminster, where his wallpaper reflects his belief that the pattern on wallpaper should be flat, reflecting the surface of the wall. 

J C Crace & Son

Five generations of the Crace family furnished numerous stately homes, theatres, palaces and castles, including Brighton Pavilion and Windsor Castle for George IV. They also developed Pugin’s original designs and used their technical expertise to have his wallpaper blocks cut.

Thomas Willement

Heraldic artist, Willement was a popular and influential designer during the 1820s and 1830s. His wallpaper designs can be found amongst Oxburgh’s collection, however he is probably better known for his work as a stained glass artist, with commissions from George IV and Queen Victoria. 

So, why not come along and see the wide range of wallpaper designs, who knows, maybe one of them will be the inspiration for your next decorating project.