Explore Wimpole Hall

A mother and son visiting Wimpole Hall in Cambridgeshire

Wimpole Hall is open and we're looking forward to welcoming you back. We're gradually reopening spaces within the Hall, so please take some time to read through this article for further information on what's currently open.

 

Please note, the Hall will be open for tours only from 31 October. Tours run daily at 11.30 and 1.30, find more information below. 

The safety of our visitors, volunteers and staff remains our top priority. Face coverings are not compulsory but we recommend that you wear one in any area on your visit which is enclosed and crowded. We'll continue to provide hand sanitiser and stick to our high standards of cleanliness. If you're showing any of the symptoms of coronavirus, or if you've been in contact with anyone that has the virus in the last 10 days, please don't visit.

The four Roman busts in the entrance hall at Wimpole
The four Roman busts in the entrance hall at Wimpole
The four Roman busts in the entrance hall at Wimpole

The Hall

Wimpole Hall has a rich history of many different owners, all putting their mark on the architecture and interior design of the building.

It is a complex house with an impressive architectural pedigree. The original building (1640-70) was almost certainly designed by its owner, Sir Thomas Chicheley. It was extended in 1713-21 by James Gibbs and decorated by Sir James Thornhill. In the mid-18th century, Philip Yorke, 1st Earl of Hardwicke, commissioned Henry Flitcroft to re-face the central block and to make various internal alterations.

Philip Yorke, The 3rd Earl of Hardwicke called in Sir John Soane to design the Yellow Drawing room, with its sophisticated arches and vaults, and an austere but beautiful bath house. Wimpole’s interior is a rich mixture of mainly 18th-century decoration, including a spectacular Baroque chapel with trompe l’eoil murals by Thornhill. There is also a library designed by Gibbs for Edward Harley, Earl of Oxford.

Furnishing the house

Captain George and Mrs Elsie Bambridge bought Wimpole in 1938, with the Hall almost entirely empty of contents. Over the next 40 years the Bambridges slowly furnished and decorated the house, seeking out pieces that were either once at Wimpole or had strong connections to the estate or previous owners.

Highlights such as the exquisite gilded sofas made especially to fit the curved walls of Sir John Soane’s Yellow Drawing Room, show how a grand country house would have looked in its heyday.

Alongside the more formal rooms sit the cosier more personal spaces that make the house a home and reflect the Bambridges’ personalities and tastes. Look out for the collection of 18th and 19th century conversation pieces that decorate the drawing rooms, delicate French porcelain figures, and collections of carriage prints.

Rooms to explore on your visit

The Entrance Hall at Wimpole

The Entrance Hall

The Entrance Hall sits in the oldest part of the house, originally developed in 1640. The decorative floor tiles were added by the 5th Earl of Hardwicke in the 1880s. Look out for the Hardwicke family motto nec cupias nec metuas ‘neither covet nor fear’ and the Latin greeting Salve, meaning ‘welcome’.

The ceiling in the Yellow Drawing Room at Wimpole

The Yellow Drawing Room

When the young Philip Yorke, 3rd Earl of Hardwicke, inherited Wimpole, he wanted to create a grand room for concerts and dancing within the body of this old-fashioned house. He called on architect John Soane to find a solution. The Yellow Drawing Room was inserted into the centre of the house at the expense of seven ground floor and first floor rooms. Soane designed an enormous but delicate parachute-like canopy providing a soaring space at the heart of the house and it is undoubtedly the showpiece of Wimpole.

The Chapel at Wimpole

The Chapel

Created in the 1720s for Lord Harley, this unique space was intended for worship but was never consecrated. Instead the chapel was used for morning prayers. Finished in 1724, it took artist James Thornhill three years to complete the painting of the Chapel. Saints Gregory, Ambrose, Augustine and Jerome, the four theological teachers of the Western church, stand within arches on the north wall. Above the altar, putti (cherubs) raise a red curtain to reveal the Adoration of the Magi.

The call bell system at Wimpole

The Basement Corridor

According to Henry Colman, an American visitor in 1849, Wimpole’s housekeeping was “…carried to an extraordinary degree of perfection”, thanks to the efforts of the team below stairs. Communications in such a large house were vital but presented a challenge. Owners and guests summoned assistance using the servants’ bell system which relied on a wire pulley system until electricity was eventually installed.

The Butler's Pantry at Wimpole

The Butler's Pantry

Here the footmen worked under orders from the butler. Duties included polishing knives (emery powder, brushes and pads in the specially made machine would polish the knives to a shine as the handle was turned), cleaning the silver by hand (under the watchful eye of the butler) and making late night snacks for his Lordship; the ‘chafing’ dishes on the copper warmer were used after the kitchen staff had gone to bed.

The Housekeepers Room at Wimpole

The Housekeeper's Room

From this room, the Housekeeper would have managed the affairs of the household for her mistress; her authority was second only to the steward’s. She was responsible for the female servants as well as the household furniture, linens and all the groceries.

Wimpole library

The Library and Book Room

Housing over 10,000 books across two rooms, the book collection at Wimpole is one of the most significant belonging to the National Trust. Orignally built by Edward Harley to showcase his large collection of books, today the library houses the books collected by the Hardwicke and Bambridge families.

The Long Gallery at Wimpole Hall

The Long Gallery

Once a suite of three rooms that held Lord Harley’s coins, curiosities and manuscripts, the space was later opened up to make a picture gallery. Portraits of past owners or people associated with Wimpole now hang here.

The Grand Dining Room at Wimpole Hall

The Dining Room

Once known as the ‘modern eating room’, this room was designed by Henry Flitcroft and built in the 1770s. It was enlarged by the 4th Earl of Hardwicke in the 1840s – possibly in anticipation of Queen Victoria’s visit – and existed as a dining room until Mrs Bambridge turned it into a kitchen in the 1950s. Mrs Bambridge used the breakfast room next door as one of her eating rooms. In 2003, this room was restored to its previous use as the grand dining room you see today.

Also open on the ground floor are the Inner Hall, Saloon, Red Room, South Drawing Room, Ante Room, Breakfast Room, Staircase Hall and Steward's Room. 

Rooms to explore from home

Mrs Bambridge's Study at Wimpole

Mrs Bambridge's Study

Part of the original house built by Thomas Chicheley in the 1600s, this room has been a dressing room, sitting room, boudoir and bedroom. The last private owners of Wimpole Estate, Elsie Bambridge and her husband George lived at Wimpole from 1938 – 1976. In this room, Mrs Bambridge would write her letters whilst watching the comings and goings of the house through the window.

Bath filled with water

The Soane Bath House

Inspired by Roman bath houses in Pompeii, architect John Soane designed a number of sunken baths, the only surviving example remaining at Wimpole. The size of this double-entranced sunken bath suggests it was intended for group bathing, although we know very little about this private activity at Wimpole. Located deep inside the formal mansion, this eccentric little space shows us a pleasure loving side of the Yorke family.

The Lord Chancellor's Bedroom at Wimpole Hall

The Chancellor's Bedroom

This room was named by the National Trust after Philip Yorke, 1st Earl of Hardwicke and Lord Chancellor, but was in fact Captain Bambridge’s bedroom. The carriage drawings were collected by Captain Bambridge and form part of the print collection which was so important to him. The Bambridges aspired to recreate the former Georgian magnificence of Wimpole. In the 1950s Mrs Bambridge redecorated this room with the help of the London based firm, Kelso.

Also currently closed are the Chancellor's Dressing Room, Vestibule, Study and Print Room.

Collection highlights

Wimpole Lamp Yellow Drawing Room

The collection at Wimpole

It's not just the pictures and furniture you see in the house, we have numerous goods and chattels in our collection.

Wimpole Gasolier

Conservation reaches new heights at Wimpole

To understand more about the condition and construction of the gasolier in Wimpole’s Yellow Drawing Room, our conservation team went to new heights.