The history of Sudbury Hall

an early morning sunburst at Sudbury Hall

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. 

Around 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. Together they had nine children with at least six daughters and one son surviving her. 

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

Building his dream home

George kept accounts of all he spent on the house, which have proved to be an invaluable research source for the team at The Children’s Country House at Sudbury. In these documents, there is no record of a 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. 

The vision of George Vernon
Sudbury Hall's Long Gallery ceiling
The vision of George Vernon

The women of Sudbury

Just one year after Margaret’s death in 1675, George married Dorothea Shirley, who was the daughter of Lady Catherine and Sir Robert Shirley Her titled parents provided a higher social standing to the family. They married in 1676 and had celebrations at nearby Staunton Harold Church. They had two daughters before she died in childbirth in 1680. 


After Dorothea died in 1680, he married Catherine Vernon who was just 18 at the time, and 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. 

Lords, legacies and children 

Henry followed in his father’s footsteps and also married well. His first wife, Anne Pigot, was heiress to property in Shropshire and Cheshire. It was their son who became the 1st Lord in 1762. 

Through his first wife, the 2nd Lord Vernon, George , inherited substantial land in Wales, but it was his second wife, Georgiana Fauquier, who was considered a formidable woman; her painting hangs in the drawing room. 

Finally, the trend continued, to bolster the family fortunes when the 7th Lord married an American heiress, Frances Lawrence, whose wealth enabled the building of a new stable block and coach house. 


Sudbury Stable Yard
Sudbury stable yard
Sudbury Stable Yard


Creating a legacy 

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

It is their passion for 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. 


Elaborate wall carvings by Edward Pierce
sudbury saloon the wedding room
Elaborate wall carvings by Edward Pierce

Inspired by this creativity and innovation, the property has been reimagined into The Children’s Country House at Sudbury. From 7th May you can visit The Children’s Country House Museum and Gardens, where you can get hands on with innovations in the Digital Play Zone, make your own connections between different parts of Sudbury with giant 3D jigsaw pieces and see wonderfully creative Grasshoppers designed by our Children’s Country House Ambassadors. 


A creative installation for 2022
A giant ship hangs from the Museum entrance ceiling
A creative installation for 2022


Later in the year, the Hall will be presented and interpreted in new ways, to enable children to explore and discover freely, while still carefully safeguarding each room and protecting fragile and precious objects. We look forward to welcoming visitors inside the Hall later in 2022.