This is a tale that winds itself around a grand house in Norfolk. It all started when I bought an old Country Life from 1928.
It showed large photographs of Princess Diana’s apartment in Kensington Palace – years before she was even born. The article was written to prove the theory that centuries before, William Kent had designed some of the apartments at Kensington Palace, including the one where Diana and her boys eventually lived.
Diana’s Kensington Palace apartment as it looked in the 1920s with its William Kent designed staircase.
It was a fascinating story (to me at least) and I wrote about it HERE, showing the staircase at Diana’s apartment compared to the one at Houghton Hall that Kent had also designed. I also showed some moldings and some mantels at Diana’s old apartment that furthered the proof that Kent designed parts of Kensington Palace. At the time I also wanted to write a story about Houghton Hall but I never got around to it.
The Houghton Hall staircase designed by William Kent that closely matched the one at Diana’s apartment in Kensington Palace.
Fast forward to late last year and a party held by de Gournay to celebrate a newly issued wallpaper named, aptly enough, Houghton. The event was a “Party of the Year” and it was held at Houghton Hall of course. And yes, I had planned to write about it – hopefully soon, but I never did.
Rose, William & Kate
And then, there was this. The Duchess of Cambridge was rumored to have told her husband Prince William that one of their group, Rose Hanbury, was no longer to be a part of their group – the Turnip Toffs. Kate told William she wanted Rose “phased out” of their lives. Rumors raged over what had caused Kate to cut Rose off from their tightly knit group. And then, came the bombshell. Was it because William had had an affair with Rose?
And just who was this Rose?
Rose is the Marchioness of Cholmondeley whose estate is the one and only Houghton Hall – which stands just a few miles away from the Cambridge’s country home, Anmer Hall. Anmer is another house I had also wanted to write about for a long time.
Well, now it is impossible to ignore these signs any longer. They are everywhere.
The British Royal Family was once notorious for indulging in extra marital affairs, which is understandable since most royal marriages were arranged contracts between strangers who also happened to be cousins. It didn’t help that divorce wasn’t allowed. Marriage lasted until death, unless you happened to be Henry VIII.
One example of how it all worked was the long royal marriage between King Edward VII and his wife, the beautiful Queen Alexandra. Edward has a handful of mistresses but one, Alice Keppel, was his favorite and even Alexandra came to respect her position.
King Edward VII and his long suffering wife Alexandra.
Alice Keppel, the royal Mistress
Amazingly, this Royal mistress has a presence in today’s royal court. Alice Keppel happens to be the great grandmother of Camilla, the long-time mistress, now wife, of Charles, the Prince of Wales.
Before the wedding, Camilla tried to befriend Diana – would Diana ride horses like Camilla or would Camilla be able to spend that time with Charles away from the non-horseriding Diana?
Another famous philanderer: Before Charles, his aunt, and the Queen’s sister, Margaret, was not allowed to marry the love of her life (above) because he was a divorced man. Later, Margaret herself ended up in a broken marriage, having a scandalous affair with a much younger man, Roddy Llewellyn, who was called her “Toyboy.”
Margaret & Roddy
Something that was unthinkable just a generation ago is today accepted: divorce people are now welcome at court. All but one of Queen Elizabeth’s children are divorced – Anne, Charles, and Andrew. Only Edward has remained faithful in his first marriage – as far as we know. The fact that Charles, the Prince of Wales was divorced and remarried and will still be crowned King was unimageable a few years before. Meghan Markel? She herself was married and divorced and no one uttered a word. As for the Queen’s other grandchildren, they are all happily married. Until now that is – suddenly, there are rumblings of infidelity concerning one – William, the Duke of Cambridge, and the future King of England.
His marriage has now come under close scrutiny.
Which is a great shock.
The Cambridge’s were said to have a wonderful marriage. They met at college, St. Andrews in Scotland. It was rumored that Catherine did not just happen to end up at St. Andrews, but it was a calculated move by her and her mother that she would attend the same college as William, befriend him and catch his eye, which she did. They dated for a long time, including a very painful breakup before they wed. All in all, the Cambridge’s marriage has been rumor free except for this past year. The rumors actually started quietly that William had had an affair while Catherine was pregnant with Prince Louis, her newest baby. The rumors continued but were not printed in English magazines due to their strict libel laws. When a new rumor came out this month in the states – the dam broke with the news that Kate had broken off a close relationship with one of the Turnip Toffs. No one really denied the tiff – the only question was why?
The News: The Duchess of Cambridge and the Marchioness of Cholmondeley are officially on the outs. Kate asked William to keep Rose, the Marchioness, away from her.
The rumors about William having an affair with Rose, the Marchioness of Cholmondeley (Chumley) are very strange, but why else would Kate start a feud with one of their closest neighbors?
And the mistress of Houghton Hall, of all places? It made no sense at all.
Here is Rose welcoming Wills and Kate into her house, Houghton Hall in 2016. Today, Kate wouldn’t be smiling with Rose. This photo with William!!!! Ouch!
In truth, no one much believed the rumors about an affair. That is, not until Giles Coren, a well known critic writes on British social life tweeted “Yes, it is an affair. I haven’t read the piece but I know about the affair. Everyone knows about the affair, darling.”
The tweet was quickly deleted. But, it only gave credence to the rumors of the affair. William hired his attorney to deny the reports and keep the rumors out of the British press.
Except was it too much denial?
Rose and her husband David at Houghton Hall. Both women, Kate and Rose, are members of that exclusive club, the Turnip Toffs. If you are like me, you are probably wondering WHAT exactly IS a Turnip Toff? Toff is a derogative English term for the idle rich. The Norfolk land is good for raising vegetables – and turnip sounds so silly with Toff. Norfolk is a quiet area of northern England where many of the friends that William grew up with now live. The group of these friends living in Norfolk near William and Catherine are the infamous Turnip Toffs.
Here’s a few of the select set – the Turnip Toffs.
The Turnip Toffs were started when on his 30th birthday, Queen Elizabeth gifted William with Anmer Hall, an ancient pile on Sandringham estate where the Queen winters.
Membership in the Turnip Toffs is not easily obtained. If you have to ask how you join, you’re not eligible. Most of the TTs have been friends since before they were even born. Many belong to the West Norfolk Foxhounds and while some live in London during the week, others call Norfolk their permanent home. This area of England - Norfolk - is flat, very flat, near the sea, and good for hunting.
The Queen spends her winters at Sandringham, just five minutes away from Anmer Hall – that large estate she gave to William for his 30th bedroom. Where William and Kate would live had been the subject of much discussion amongst royal watchers. For years, it was unknown where the newlyweds would eventually land – St. James Palace? Clarence House? In the end the Queen gave them TWO homes. First, the Queen gave them Princess Margaret’s large abandoned apartment in Kensington Palace. And next came Anmer Hall for country weekends.
The Drawing Room in Kensington Palace as decorated by Princess Margaret.
The Cambridges spent millions restoring Margaret’s apartment. It was assumed the public would never see inside the apartment, but surprisingly, when the Obamas came to call, a handful of photos of the drawing room were shown. It was beautifully decorated, impeccable, and in great style. I assume we will never see any other parts of this Kensington Palace apartment again.
The renovated Kensington Palace drawing room.
While the public got to see this interior at Kensington Palace, there has been nothing to see of Anmer Hall – except the façade, before, during and after the renovation.
Anmer Hall has a long history, closely associated with the royal family. Built in the early 18th century, it is believed that the house was actually built around a much older, smaller house. In 1900s, a tall corner tower was added along with a long service wing. Queen Victoria bought Anmer Hall in 1862 as a wedding present for the Prince of Wales, later Edward VII. The estate’s lands were expanded through the years to make the estate more acceptable for a royal owner. When Edward VII was crowned and moved to Sandringham, Anmer Hall was leased to various people.
The Duke & Duchess of Kent, close cousins of the Queen, rented the house from 1972 to 1990 as their country getaway. Most important was the next tenant – Hugh van Cutsem. A close friend of Prince Charles, it is reported that Charles and Camilla used his house, Anmer Hall, as a secret getaway to conduct their affair away from the Diana’s eyes.
Best friends – Charles and Hugh Cutsem. Custem lived at Anmer Hall where his four sons were playmates with William and Harry.
Today, Hugh’s son William lives in Norfolk and is a member of the Turnip Toffs.
Prince William undoubtedly knew the history of Anmer House and what part it played in his parent’s divorce. Regardless, during those same 10 years when the Cutsems lived at Anmer Hall, William was a frequent guest at the house he would later own with his wife.
Sandringham is 3 miles from Anmer and just 10 miles from Houghton Hall. Anmer is in close quarters with Rose & David, the owners of Houghton Hall.
The last tenant of Anmer Hall after the Cutsems was James Everett who owns the kitchen company - Norfolk Oak. They had installed a very expensive kitchen at Anmer Hall which was immediately ripped out by Kate and her decorator – the much loved Ben Pentreath.
The Cambridges moved into Anmer Hall after completely renovating it for three years. They lived there full time until Prince George was ready for school and their large apartment was redone at Kensington Palace.
But why did the Cambridges choose Anmer House in Norfolk over the more beautiful and sunny environs of Gloucester where his father lives at Highgrove? Kate’s parents with whom they are very close live a three hours drive away from Norfolk. Obviously the ties William felt with Norfolk were very tight in order to convince Kate to move away from her parents.
Maybe another reason was Diana.
Besides William’s strong ties to Sandringham Estate on his father’s side, there are strong ties to Sandringham with Diana too. Both Diana and her mother Frances were born at Park House, right next to Sandringham’s big house where the Queen spends her winters.
Park House – where William’s mother and grandmother were both born. Diana lived here until she turned 12 when she moved to Althorp.
Little Lady Diana at Park House on Sandringham Estate
King George V had first leased Park House to his friend Edmund Roche, Lord Fermoy, great-grandfather of Prince William. When Frances married Johnny Spencer they too leased Park House until he inherited Althorp in 1975. Remember, please, that Lady Fermoy was the horrid mother who testified in court against her own daughter, Diana’s mother. Frances Spencer lost custody of Diana and her other three children thanks to her mother’s testimony. Some say this event damaged Diana so much and had a lasting, negative effect on her life. Today Park House is a hotel for people with disabilities.
With such close ties to Norfolk it is no wonder that William wanted to live there instead of Gloucester where his father lives at Highgrove. Despite living his weekdays at Kensington Palace William has said he considers Anmer Hall his home.
Here’s a few photos Anmer Hall where Wills and Kate live when they aren’t at Kensington Palace in London.
BEFORE THE RENOVATION. This is the front side, though everyone enters through the back.
A gravel drive across the front.
A guest playing across the grass at Anmer Hall – a very rare photo of the house found on a blog.
BEFORE: The fanlight over the front door is so pretty!!
BEFORE: The back side with the corner tower added in 1900.
This back door is the way most enter. Cute bay windows.
And notice in the main wing – the gothic styled windows match the gothic tower.
Aerial View – after restoration. 1. Main house – with corner tower. 2. Main wing. 3. Outbuilding wing now connected to main house through the garden room – added by Wills & Kate – circled in red. To the left is a large garden for fresh vegetables. Trees were added to provide privacy and the road leading to the nearby tiny church was rerouted so that traffic is now kept off the Anmer property.
From 1972 to 1990, the Duke & Duchess of Kent rented Anmer from their cousin, the Queen.
The Kent and their three children during their stay at Anmer.
She was such a beauty! Her daughter was also considered one of the prettiest of all the Windsor girls.
The Kents moved into Anmer Hall in 1972. In 1977, they had a stillborn 4th child. Katherine, the Duchess of Kent went into a deep depression that she never really recovered from. In 1994 she converted to Catholicism and withdrew from most public events. She dropped her royal title and today calls herself Katherine Kent.
Inside the house with the Kents. A skirted window seat. The house looks very pretty here.
Vogue photographed the Duchess in the living room with peach wallpaper.
More Recent: This view is said to be Anmer Hall, but it’s not been confirmed. It may be in the kitchen wing since the windows are different here.
This photo of the pink room comes from the real estate photos of Anmer Hall before Wills & Kate moved in.
Let me guess – they repainted this room!!
A friend who visited Anmer House in 2006, showed this photo on his blog. Very rare photo of the dining room – which looks out to the front side of the house!
From the real estate photos. You can see a ancient fireplace with an incredibly old wood mantle. I hope they kept this! It looks like this could be the same dining room as seen above? The carpet, wainscot, and paint color all matches.
The last people to live in Anmer Hall owned Norfolk Oak which makes custom kitchens. This is the kitchen they installed in Anmer Hall and the one that the Cambridges ripped out, to much derision from social media. It appears to be that Norfolk Oak opened up the wall between the dining room and the kitchen to make one large space. To the right is a sunny spot where the garden room was added by Wills & Kate.
Another view. At the end of this island is the once purple dining room seen before. The wall that was opened is probably where this beam was.
Here is another view – towards the dining area behind the island. You can see the two windows and the ceiling beam that are exactly the same as in the purple dining room shown in 2006. No clue where that old fireplace is, though.
The side of the main house and the wing to the left. Notice that HUGE Cedar of Lebanon behind the house. Gorgeous!!!
This is the new roof that Wills & Kate installed. It is now bright orange but will turn darker as time goes on.
During Renovation – with the new roof, and notice to the far right the new garden room installed between the old outbuilding and the kitchen in the main wing.
From Daily Mail. It shows all the major changes made to the Anmer Hall.
Paid for from private Royal family funds: the new roof, the new kitchen, the conservatory by Charles Morris (who added onto Highgrove too!) and a major tree planting scheme for complete privacy for the family.
Close up view of the Garden Room with the two pilasters on the front side. Does this lead into the kitchen? It must!!!
And from the back side with cute columns and a brick wall to keep children and dogs corralled.
The only photos inside Anmer Hall are the baby photos! They show a room in whites and soft blues and greens.
This large beautiful French chair in checks is to die for! I wish we could see more.
This photo shows a painted wicker chair, a flowery rug in pink and greens, and a striped sofa with a mix of floral and ikat pillows.
This décor really does look like Ben Pentreath’s work – so I suppose he is her decorator at Anmer Hall, as has been said.
Come on now!!!! Give us a clear photo of the family room!
And that is ALL of the Anmer Hall photos. Maybe, just maybe, one day we will see a photograph or two inside Anmer Hall.
Which leads us back to Anmer Hall and Norfolk and the Turnip Toffs.
The highest of high society in Norfolk is Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip, followed by Prince William and Kate and next would undoubtedly be The Marquess of Cholmondeley and his wife Rose, the Marchioness of Cholmondeley.
Yes THAT Rose.
Rose and her husband live on the estate he inherited when he was just 29 – Houghton Hall.
All Roads Lead to Houghton Hall.
It certainly started to feel that way when this story came together. When first reading all the reports of William supposedly having an affair, it seemed impossible. An affair with William and one of the Turnip Toffs and for it be Rose from Houghton House, no less, the house that William’s father Charles considers the jewel of private houses in England. Impossible!
And when would she even have the time? This past year, Rose worked with de Gournay to recreate a handpainted wallpaper that has hung in Houghton Hall for centuries. The collaboration ended with a black tie dinner at the Hall for 100 guests, one of the most coveted tickets of the year after the Met Ball.
Let me say straight out – I don’t believe the affair rumors. I’m not even sure I believe that Kate even had words with Rose. I DO believe the story sold a lot of tabloids.
For once the spotlight was off of Meghan. Some haters even accused Meghan of spreading the gossip.
The reason why this story took so long to finish is I became lost in the Hall. Seriously. I became obsessed with Houghton Hall. I mean obsessed! Every time I would say to myself – “enough. Move on! Write the story already.” Something would drag me back to the research. I could not put it to bed. To say that Rose Hanbury, 35, and David Rocksavage, 58, are an interesting couple is a great understatement. They are parents to twin boys and a little girl who used to play with the Cambridge children. Rose & David attended William & Kate’s wedding and have been close friends all these years. They are godparents to each other’s babies. On paper, they seemed very close.
I mean obsessed! Every time I would say to myself – “enough. Move on! Write the story already.” Something would drag me back to the research.
I could not put it to bed.
To say that Rose Hanbury, 35, and David Rocksavage, 58, are an interesting couple is a great understatement. They are parents to twin boys and a little girl who used to play with the Cambridge children. Rose & David attended William & Kate’s wedding and have been close friends all these years. They are godparents to each other’s babies. On paper, they seemed very close.
In 2017 when Prince Harry attended his first state dinner, he was chosen to escort Rose down the red carpet and he was her dinner partner, all of which is a grand acknowledgment of Rose’s extremely high position in English society.
Besides David’s inherited title, Marquess of Cholmondeley, he is also the Lord Great Chamberlain of England. David opens Parliament and handles all communications between The Queen and the House of Lords. Here is David in his official clothing and the Queen doing their duties.
This further illustrates the closeness of the two families.
As the Lord Great Chamberlain of England, David stores official thrones at his home, Houghton Hall.
As for the rumors of Kate wanting to banish Rose from their social circles, some claimed it might be that Rose thought she was above Kate, socially.
Huh? Really? I doubt that.
As the rumors about the alleged affair grew, the Turnip Toffs turned to the messaging service “What’s App” to discuss it all, in private amongst themselves. A fight like this in such a tight social circle is rare but it was impossible for the Toffs not to discuss it. Next came the leaks and Kate was desperate to discover who was calling the press about this sordid business. Today, the only ones actually speaking to the press are William’s attorneys and their presence made the situation that much more serious.
It couldn’t really be true; could it?
Doth thou protest too much?
Here at their estate, Houghton Hall – the two couples looked so happy just a few years ago. Houghton Hall is a few miles from Anmer Hall and Sandringham and sits on over 1000 acres of land.
OK. Pet peeve. Why is there no red or gray carpet here? I hate to see the dresses dragging in the mud!!!!! Put down a carpet!!! If you don’t have one – you can rent one. There’s a reason why red carpets were invented in this first place – this!!!
The perfectly symmetrical Houghton Hall and the story about five rolls of wallpaper.
I’ve read that one day Rose discovered five rolls of centuries old wallpaper while poking around in Houghton’s attic. At a lecture he gave, I watched as David said he found the rolls of wallpaper! Regardless of who actually found the ancient paper, de Gournay was immediately interested in reprinting it. They have just released the paper in new colorways and the wallpaper is called, Houghton, of course!
The ancient paper, above, hung in the Cabinet Room at Houghton for ages. In Rose’s private bathroom, she has ordered the blush colorway of the Houghton paper.
The Cholmondeleys hosted a fabulous dinner paper along with de Gournay to celebrate the new Houghton line.
Rose Hanbury aka the Marchioness of Cholmondeley (Chumley) didn’t just marry into a title, she grew up surrounded by royals. Her grandmother was Lady Elizabeth Longman, nee Lambert - a bridesmaid to Queen Elizabeth when she married Prince Philip.
Longman, was the daughter of the 10th Earl of Cavan, a close friend of King George V. Her godmother was Queen Mary. and one of her daughters dated Prince Charles briefly. All these connections, plus her husband’s rank, places Rose in a perfect place to become friends with the future queen of England. Except now, that connection seems to be over.
David Rocksavage, the Marquess of Cholmondeley, inherited his own title and Houghton Hall when he was just 29 and was known as the greatest catch in England. David once dated the actress Isabelle Adjani and the heiress Sabrina Guinness. He is a direct descendent of Robert Walpole, Britain’s first prime minister and the creator of Houghton Hall. In an earlier life before Rose, David made documentaries. One was about Madeleine Castaing while another was about Houghton Hall seen through the eyes of his beloved grandmother, the great Sybil Sassoon of the Sassoon/Rothschild family. It was Sybil’s great taste and money that helped saved Houghton Hall in the early 20th century.
In truth, Houghton Hall makes Anmer Hall look like a stable block, if even that much. But of course the Cambridges will one day rule the country, hard to top that one.
Houghton Hall a Palladian vision in symmetry.
It is glorious. There is no other word for it. It’s one large mansion that you might envision living in with your children and grandchildren. Most of England’s grand houses aren’t as livable or as pretty. Many look a bit shabby if you look too deep. But this house is different. It is just glorious and that’s thanks to Robert Walpole, William Kent, and the Cholmondeleys.
Sir Robert Walpole who commissioned Houghton Hall.
He was rather overweight, which you can see here in this photo. Walpole had so many houses he only visited Houghton twice a year!
Houghton Hall was built in 1720s for Sir Robert Walpole – Britain's first Prime Minister. It is one of, if not the, most beautiful home in Norfolk and it is considered the finest Palladian house in England. Its architects were Colen Campbell and James Gibbs, but most well known are the interiors by William Kent.
There are cupolas on each corner of the main house. When David was small, these were the children’s rooms. When he moved in, they were used as storage, filled with junk. With three children, David & Rose reclaimed the cupolas and turned them back into the children’s area. Notice too, the windows in the cupolas. You will see these again – later.
Cholmondeley Castle where David lived before inheriting Houghton Hall.
Many in the Cholmondeley family preferred to live in their smaller castle because the tenants on the estate made it self sufficient. During the 1800s the money-poor family rented out Houghton Hall and tried to sell it. But, when David’s grandmother, Sybil Sassoon married into the family, she moved back into Houghton Hall and spent her long tenure there updating the house. Those 100 years in the 1800s when Houghton Hall was mostly vacant had actually help preserve it since there was no wear and tear on the furnishings and fabrics.
Today Cholmondeley Castle is the dowager home. One day, when Rose Hanbury is widowed, she will probably move into Cholmondeley Castle herself.
Robert Walpole, the first Prime Minister of England, collected so many fine pieces of art that Houghton Hall itself became a museum to house all the works. After his tenure as Prime Minister, he moved his art from 10 Downing Street to Houghton Hall. When he inherited his title, Walpole’s grandson was forced to sell much of the prized collection to Catherine the Great of Russia in order to pay off all the debts. Catherine gave the estate a large painting of herself as a thank you for all the canvases she was able to purchase.
Today, Catherine The Great’s portrait hangs over the mantel – a thank you gift for the sale of art from Houghton Hall which help to establish The Hermitage in Russia.
When David inherited the house, he discovered detailed plans that showed how all the art once hung in the house before it bought by Russia. This planted a seed in his mind and a few years ago, David worked hard with the Hermitage and others to find all the art that was sold to Russia. The art was brought back to the house and hung as it once did.
Packed up ready to be opened and hanged.
The event was called “Houghton Revisited” where over 234 years later, more than 70 paintings were returned to Houghton from The Hermitage in Russia.
The “Houghton Revisited” show was a huge success and the number of visitors to the Norfolk estate skyrocketed. In order to serve them all, Rose turned the old work kitchens into one where the overloaded visitors could eat and drink.
The art that rightly belongs to Houghton Hall did not stay in the house for a long time. When it was all packed up again and shipped back to Russia, it must have stabbed the heart of David to see it all go away…again.
This photo captures the great size of the estate. It’s so big, that the walled garden on the left side is cut off, as is much of the estate land on the left and right sides of the house. The photo was taken in the dead of winter which accounts for the color of the leaves. This shows the East Front with the two wings, to the right is the North Wing and to the left, of course, is the South Wing. Beautiful!
This shows the East Front with the two wings, to the right is the North Wing and to the left, of course, is the South Wing.
A view from 1901.
A view of the large amount of white deer on the estate. Houghton Hall is famous for its white deer – these are the result of a program where the regularly colored deer were culled from the others.
Another view of the deer.
An original floor plan shows the two wings and the ground floor.
The main state rooms.
The Stone Hall:
The Stone Hall – a two story room is incredibly beautiful. Today, thanks to David, this hall is sparsely furnished.
I love this story about David and his house, Houghton Hall, in particular. When he inherited the house, he needed to fund an endowment so that repairs could be done and finding the necessary money in the future wouldn’t be such an issue. To fund this endowment, he sold off an array of items from the house – all at once - to create buzz in the auction world. David believes that selling pieces off, one by one, is not as appealing to the buyer, nor will the prices be as high. The Christie’s auction was a great success and Houghton Hall now has an endowment set up for future emergencies and repairs.
The state rooms lead off this entry room. This set of benches is original to the Stone Hall.
What if you never had guests to welcome into your entry hall? I’d be in serious trouble myself!!!
The gorgeous ceiling – close up.
What I am about to tell you will amaze you – this is a carved wood chandelier!!!! Gilded. Wood!!!!
It’s wood. Amazing!
A view towards the other side of the hall.
Instead of benches – there are console tables. The black sculptures highlight the touches of black.
These consoles and benches were designed by William Kent.
The three Cholmondeley children.
Phoebe Dickinson painted the children playing in the Stone Hall.
With the painting finished, Rose showed us where she hung the painting – in the family room.
Rose has an Instagram and through her account, she allows the public to see Houghton Hall as a family home instead of just a tourist stop. Remember, Rose is young, not yet even 40. She likes social media just as any other young mother her age does, plus it is good PR for tourism. Rose is sharing images of her house – it just so happens the house is one of the most fabulous ones in the country! Still, Rose has helped put her own touch on Houghton Hall and allows us all to share in it and imagine what it would be like to actually live there.
The Stone Hall is used for different occasions. It acts as a reception area and sometimes as the main dining room. Notice on the second floor a choir is serenading the guests.
At the de Gournay black-tie dinner, the Stone Hall was where drinks were served. And lookie here! Our favorite designer was invited and looking quite pretty too – Kathryn Ireland.
Before: Before David & Rose, the Stone Hall was used as a living room, if you can believe that! This photo is from a family who leased the Hall in the early 1900s, before Sybil Sassoon Cholmondeley, David’s beloved grandmother moved in.
This décor shows the Stone Hall with a large skirted table and animal skin rugs!!!!
In the 1940s, the room looked like this under Sybil Sassoon with Oriental screens and velvet chairs and settees.
These three photos of the Stone Hall as it was before the current décor under David, tells a story of its own. It validates what David did – turning the Stone Hall into a sparse space where the architecture takes center stage.
David wrote a book on the history of Houghton Hall, which I highly recommend (obviously.)
To order, click on photo.
In one section of his book, David talks about changing the interiors once he inherited the title. David said that the rooms were too full of furniture, especially French (!!!!) pieces. David said that now the Stone Hall has been cleared out of most of its furniture, the kids use it as a great big play area, something that was unthinkable when he was a child.
I can’t get enough of this room!
An interesting factoid about Houghton is all the doors and wood features are mahogany, making it the first house in England that used mahogany.
Sir Robert Walpole made his fortune in the South Sea Bubble (don’t ask!) and began to build Houghton Hall in 1722 with those funds. From his time in the West Indies he had mahogany shipped back home, setting a trend for mahogany wood that is still valued today, even though most of our doors are made of cheap particle board.
A rare view of the Stone Hall looking towards the front door.
And towards the opposite side is the Saloon.
BEFORE: The Saloon filled with a mass of furniture, palms, and accessories!
The red Saloon was one room that suffered greatly from the sale of the paintings to Russia. Above the fireplace is the portrait of Catherine The Great, her parting gift to Walpole’s grandson who sold her the paintings.
AFTER – HOUGHTON REVISTED: And here you can see what the Saloon looks like with all original paintings back in place before they were sold to Russia. What a huge difference! There are so many grand paintings the house was designed around – and now they belong to the Hermitage in Russia.
NOW: This view shows the beautiful ceiling, and again, the Saloon without the, now Russian, paintings.
At the de Gournay party, Amanda Brooks dress was without a doubt, the prettiest, especially against the reds and hot pinks in the Saloon. Miguel Flores Vanna, of course, captured this fabulous photograph!
The Marble Parlour:
The Marble Parlour is the State Dining Room, the first dedicated dining room in England. Notice the fireplace with the two marble alcoves.
Houghton Revisited: The returned art hangs on the walls. These gilded chairs with eagle arms were designed to resemble the coronation chair of Queen Charlotte.
For Houghton Revisited: The south wall of the Marble Parlour.
The alcoves were designed to hide the entrances and exits of the servants bringing in the food from the kitchen. At this alcove, a tiny tap was said to serve water or beer. That marble is gorgeous!!!!
The White Drawing Room:
Early 20th century - White Drawing Room
As the room looks now. When the Russian paintings returned to Houghton, research showed that the White Drawing Room was once hung with dark green velvet!
Get ready for a shock!
The White Drawing Room during the Houghton Revisited show – now hung in the original design – with green velvet. Have to say, it looks better!!!
Notice the fireplace with the figures at the side.
Another view – with much of the French furniture now gone for the .
This room looks so much better with the original paintings back in the right place. It must have been so painful for David to send them away, again.
The Grand Staircase:
This photo is a good view showing the skylight.
The grisaille canvases that line the walls were all painted by Kent. The statue is a bronze copy of the Borghese Gladiator unearthed in 1611; it stands on a model of a Doric temple.
Looking up at the grand staircase to the skylights.
One more look up on the stairs. So pretty.
From Instagram during the de Gournay party. A rare view of the grand stairs from the ground floor entrance. No photos of this entrance existed until the Americans get invited to a party and bring their phones. Thank you!!!!
The Common Parlour:
The pink chairs are original to the house while the needlepoint chairs belonged to Sybil Sassoon’s brother.
Workers hanging all the Houghton Revisited paintings in the Common Parlour.
The Common Parlour sits between the Library and the Stone Hall and continues on an enfilade ending at the blue Cabinet Room.
Notice the painting in the corner – on the easel. It’s Sybil Sassoon painted by John Singer Sargent – her friend. David said that she grabbed a piece of silk fabric for the sitting and wrapped it around herself, instead of a dress.
The beautiful Sybil Sassoon by Sargent wrapped in the silk fabric.
A daughter of the famously wealthy and Jewish families – the Sassoons and the Rothschilds, Sybil was a huge influence on David. She would take her grandchildren around the house and explain the history of the furniture, paintings and architecture. She instilled in David a great love of Houghton Hall.
The Cabinet Room most felt the loss of the paintings sold to Russia. It was designed to hold a mass of canvases which were almost all sold. To hide their absence and a very dirty and empty wallcovering, new handpainted paper was ordered for this room and installed.
Look at the ceiling – it is so pretty!
It was the extra rolls of this wallpaper found in the attic that de Gournay is now making in different colorways.
The Cabinet Room is breathtakingly beautiful.
The child’s bed is draped in Chinese embroidery, a gift of King George II and Queen Charlotte.
And look how pretty the ceiling is!
No wonder de Gournay wanted to join up with Houghton Hall in the new wallpaper endeavor. Just gorgeous.
A hanging shelf in the beautiful Cabinet Room.
I would claim this room!!!!!
I collect antique Oriental Altar Fruit and I was so excited to see my favorite piece – the pink melon was also at Houghton Hall! I have never seen one in situ before, besides mine. The melon is beautiful – once opened there are sections inside in celadon. I inherited mine from my aunt Janice, except mine BROKE a while ago!!!! SOB!!!!!!! Hey, Mr. Cholmondeley, can you spare the pink melon? My address is on my blog! Please!!!!!! LOL!
One state bedroom is here with the green shell and original green velvet – at that time a very expensive fabric.
The incredible headboard with the shell above it.
The Tapestry Bedroom.
Originally there were 12 bedrooms, 4 of which were extra large. Ten of the bedrooms have tiny rooms set up next to them for their servants.
It’s hard to remember when you see the state rooms, but this IS a family house with young children running around. Houghton Hall was designed so that its left side is like a house within a house. The State Rooms are for parties and visitors, while the left side of the house is for the owners. The family rooms are hidden behind the back stairs, halls and doors, therefore these family spaces are not seen by others in the more public rooms of the house. The family rooms start with the Common Parlour, Walpole’s Library, his bedroom, another dressing room, Blue Damask Bedroom that is now the Family Room, and the Yellow Drawing Room. Back stairs lead up to the next floor and more bedrooms, and onto the children’s rooms up in the turrets on the north side.
The Yellow Sitting Room:
The Yellow Drawing Room with fabric walls replaced by Sybil. over 100 years ago, which is referred to as “new” fabric by Rose and David.
Rose posing on the French sofa in the Yellow Drawing Room, while pregnant.
Another view with the French sofas gone, now filled with just upholstered sofas.
The Family Room:
The Family Room is on the North East corner of the state floor. It was once a bedroom, but the bed was removed. A set of tapestries cover the walls.
Rose and David in the family room, with the fire blazing and their dog on the sofa – just like any other family
Rose getting her portrait painted in the family room.
The piano, which David and his sister both play, is now located in the Family Room, as is this bone desk against the window.
The desk and accessories in the Family room. The Library: The fabulous library – some consider it Kent’s masterpiece. The portrait is King George I, which rests in a baroque frame designed by Kent. The shelves are all mahogany. Another view of the Library. A rare view of the Library – the side wall. In the library, an elderly Sybil Sassoon Cholmondeley sits in front of her portrait by famed John Singer Sargent. Next to the Walpole’s library was his dressing room – which was changed here into a bathroom for the Marquess by Sybil Sassoon. A marble bath is behind the columns. Here is the marble tub – with the hidden taps. Remember, no matter how old or how fancy, it is still a family home that needs bathtubs. From the de Gournay party – this bathroom is used for extra guest space. DYING!!!
The fabulous library – some consider it Kent’s masterpiece. The portrait is King George I, which rests in a baroque frame designed by Kent. The shelves are all mahogany.
Another view of the Library.
A rare view of the Library – the side wall.
In the library, an elderly Sybil Sassoon Cholmondeley sits in front of her portrait by famed John Singer Sargent.
Next to the Walpole’s library was his dressing room – which was changed here into a bathroom for the Marquess by Sybil Sassoon. A marble bath is behind the columns.
Here is the marble tub – with the hidden taps.
Remember, no matter how old or how fancy, it is still a family home that needs bathtubs.
From the de Gournay party – this bathroom is used for extra guest space. DYING!!!
Somewhere in the house is this powder room with starry walls.
And this new paper, from de Gournay, in the rose colorway, is from the Cabinet Room’s “Houghton” wallpaper. This is going to be installed in Rose’s personal bathroom.
The Second Floor:
This is a bedroom on the second floor which is called the Attic Floor. I think this might be what Rose & David use as their master bedroom.
Rose poses in this upstairs bedroom that she says she decorated herself.
From the de Gournay party, guests stayed in this bedroom. Love those mirrors!
Posing here is Elle Décor editor Whitney Robinson.
The same bedroom.
Across from the bed, a chaise and more paintings.
Next to that bedroom, is this bathroom, with a wonderful heated towel rack and mahogany doors, of course.
Another beautiful guest room.
From Instagram, this well-known guest stayed in this room. This guest has the prettiest house herself!
I love views that show the rooftops of the large, old estates. This photo shows the two wings connected by the arcades. The far wing is the North Wing where the Picture Gallery is, and where the de Gournay dinner party was. From this view, you can see that there is a large empty space inside the North Wing, where long ago there was a fire – a few days after the already sold paintings had left for Russia. If the paintings had been sent a few days later, there would be no Houghton Hall as it is today because those sold paintings saved the house from bankruptcy and ruin.
Further, to the main house – you can see that there are the skylights over the Grand Stairway and over the secondary smaller stairway – it has its own skylight.
And finally, at the South Wing, this is where the old kitchens were. Rose remade them into a place for the family to eat and another for tourists and visitors to eat. There is an open-air courtyard where during warm weather, people can eat outside.
Sybil Sassoon had this elevator built using wood and brass, and hid it behind the stairs. The elevator goes from the ground floor up to the cupolas. It is said to be the first elevator in a private house built in England.
From Instagram, a view of the attic, or at least a hall with flag floors leading to the attic.
One of the cupolas before the room was redone by Rose. Look how pretty it is with paneled walls and the arched window.
Another view shows the bedroom furniture – coming together for its renovation.
And amazingly, here is the finished bedroom for their twin boys! The fireplace and built in shelves mix with brass beds. The rotunda of the cupola makes a perfect place to emulate the solar system.
I doubt the paneled walls have been removed, I’m thinking that a faux wall was built in front of the paneling and then painted the bright yellow.
Again, this shows a perfect way to make a house built over two hundred years ago livable for today.
Our friend Kathryn Ireland at the de Gournay party. Here you can see how you enter the house on the east side, through the ground floor arcade that takes you up to the state floor.
This plan below shows the bottom floor or the ground floor where the arcade is. If you study it, you see a combination of six large columns and 8 smaller ones with four fireplaces. To get to the de Gournay dinner party, you go through the arcade to the left half-moon arcade which leads to the long, thin room – The Gallery, known today as the Picture Gallery.
Below are a series of photos from the ground floor, showing the arcades. This floor plan shows the arcades through the piers in the ground floor which hold the entire house up. A series of fireplaces lit the spaces downstairs, making it a warm, cozy space instead of a cold, spooky one.
A photo from the early 1900s shows the beauty of the arcade back then, remarkably the same, but with less furniture today.
Decorated for the de Gournay party, the ground floor is a series of arches that hold up the grand house.
At this fireplace an old rocking horse is too cute!
The outside view of the North Wing.
This is where the Picture Gallery is located. There is also the old chapel which today is an amazing, surprise room in Houghton Hall. The retractable awning was recently changed out by Rose & David to this more neutral color.
The de Gournay party: this curved arcade leads to the North Wing, where along the left wall is a light art installation and on the right side masses of candles helped light the way.
The North Wing is a real surprise. Here is the original Hunting Room, now a Breakfast Room. The walls were originally hung with this fabric which needed replacing so, a few years ago Bennison rewove this fabric, a custom copy, to line these walls. Notice the chandelier – the hanging acorn is the same that hangs from the gilded wood chandelier in the Stone Hall.
Through the door is the redone Picture Gallery that burned down right after its paintings left for Russia. David has been buying paintings for this room to replace those sold to the Hermitage.
And here, Sybil Sassoon Cholmondeley by John Singer Sargent. Sargent dressed her in these clothes – having the House of Worth create this robe.
Rose wore the same Worth dress that Sybil wore in her painting. Rose’s pose is a little more sexy than Sybil’s!
Bennison had reproduced this fabric for the house a few years before, not sure why it is not hanging properly, but who cares? This vignette is fabulous. The table is beyond gorgeous. GORGEOUS!!!!! Love the dog basket and dog bowl.
After-Breakfast during the de Gournay event.
The table was set for breakfast the night before. I love the placemats with their house on them. Class you can’t buy. Hey, I have placemats like that! Just not with my house on them!!
For the Henry Moore lunch recently held at Houghton Hall, buffet was set up in the Hunting Room!!
And the other side of the room for the Henry Moore buffet lunch.
The Picture Gallery, looking back towards the Hunting Room. In this photo, you can see how truly wide this room is. During dinner parties, the furniture is pushed up to the walls, leaving plenty of room for the long table. At the de Gournay party, there were 100 guests at the table.
At this end of the Picture Gallery, an Oriental screen is broken up into two pieces which acts like a doorway into the last 1/3rds of the room. The area is treated as a more private sitting room. A tall window looks out to the west vista.
A window in the Picture Gallery overlooks the back grounds.
The de Gournay party in full swing in the Picture Gallery.
Oh, to be that proverbial fly on the wall!!!
Recently, there was a luncheon in the Picture Gallery – set up with six long tables. Here the chair seats are lilac. For the de Gournay dinner they were pink.
Past the Picture Gallery and the burned section is what was once a chapel. You can still see the pews in the front part of the photograph. During Sybil’s tenure the room became an old fashioned gym.
Today, the room is so chic and modern! It is a total shock after seeing all the state rooms in Houghton Hall. It’s most likely used as a family room for the five Cholmondeleys.
A bad scan from the Houghton Hall book – a larger photo of the family room.
Rose and David in what was called “his” room in a magazine!
The South Wing is filled with kitchens and dining rooms, some private, some not.
LOVE LOVE LOVE!!!!
I love the colors, the yellow walls, the horns, the Oriental chair, the Kime? curtain fabric – whatever it is, I LOVE IT! lol. The basket, the fireplace, the stone mantel, the stone floors, the rug, the lamp – this must be the family dining room.
From the other side of the room. See that hot plate on the console?
This is a copy of an old, classic hot plate that Rose’s mother makes.
This kitchen is for visitors.
The brass pots have the Cholmondeley seal on them.
Another view – love this room too.
These are the original kitchens that Rose remolded to accommodate all the extra visitors that came to see “Houghton Revisited.”
Make me a reservation!!! Love!!
Here in the right South wing – you can see the open courtyard that helps serve the customers who eat in the newly installed kitchen. Next to the right wing is enclosed parking lot for employees.
Inside the courtyard at the South Wing where the new restaurants for tourists are located.
Right outside the South Wing, Rose sets up a lunch. The West View – during Victorian times.
Right outside the South Wing, Rose sets up a lunch.
The West View – during Victorian times.
David’s tribute to his grandmother. The only way you can see this is from the sky.
Look at the top left corner - you can see the Sybil garden from the drone’s camera.
Notice in the North Wing, past the Picture Gallery there is a swimming pool and tennis court!!
Past the South Wing is the large stable block.
Inside the stables is the fabulous Toy Soldier Museum.
David’s father had one of the country’s largest collection of toy soldiers. David moved this incredible collection from the over crowded Picture Gallery to the Stable Block where the soldiers are set up in play battles.
And here’s another scene set up with the model soldiers.
I’m sure someone will recognize what battle this is, but not me!!
Well, wait… Now that I am looking at it – is that Napoleon at Waterloo?
Mr. Slippersocksman just confirmed it is Waterloo.
Past the stable block is the five acre walled garden. Sybil had wanted to create the garden, but there were other priorities during her time at Houghton Hall. It was left to David to design the walled garden and today it is a favorite stop with tourists.
Inside the walled garden. Beautiful!!!
Another favorite spot, the sunken garden.
The beautiful white deer.
And so, we’re at the end of the tour of Houghton Hall.
The legend of Houghton Hall just grows and grows, helped along with the new de Gournay wallpaper along with its royal connection and the close proximity to Sandringham and Anmer Hall. David Rocksavage keeps his house alive by inviting contemporary artists to produce huge installations in the landscape, Henry Moore is just the latest. After the Houghton Revisited show, David took it on the road, showing the art and furniture in fine museums. Houston’s MFA was the first in line.
And most recently, Houghton Hall influenced Jonathan Rachman for his drawing room in the new San Francisco Showcase:
Rachman’s drawing room inspired by Houghton Hall and the de Gournay wallpaper.
Photos of the family were used all over the drawing room.
Love this photograph of the iconic couple.
So…what’s next?It’s been more than a month since the rumors reached the world about Prince William and Lady Rose Cholmondeley.
And since it all came out – there has been no confirmation and lots of denials.
All we know, is that Kate asked William to keep Rose away from her and who knows if that is even true?
What?!? Two years ago, David escorts Kate’s mother to church before lunch at Sandringham. It’s just hard to imagine that with such strong family ties, the rumors are true.
I don’t think I believe the rumors – but then again I never believed that Charles was really in love with Camilla and not Diana. And how could William want to repeat with his children what he went through as a child? That seems unthinkable.
The happy foursome just a few years ago – this scene won’t be repeated anytime soon.
Right after the tabloids erupted with the news of adultery, the Cambridges were seen out with their children and their cousin Zara Phillips. These types of photoshoots don’t happen very often, Wills and Kate closely guard their children and the images of them. Were they just trying to promote a vision of a happy family?
If the unthinkable DID happened, who would keep Houghton Hall and who would keep Anmer Hall? That’s an easy one.
Of course, David would stay at his ancestral home Houghton Hall and William would stay at Anmer Hall – he owns it outright, thanks to his grandmother. It would be the wives who would be homeless. Hmmm. That sounds barbaric!
I do have to say – I’m not a big believer in divorce unless there is truly absolutely zero love left and the children are suffering or these is abuse or addiction.
I suppose when you are happily married and you are in love with your mate, divorce is really hard to imagine. Right, Mr. Slippersocksman???!?!!?!