Gallery: Duke of Grafton opens the doors to Euston Hall
12:00 25 June 2013
Euston Hall – one of Suffolk’s hidden treasures – is to close in 2014 for refurbishment. Its current owner Harry Grafton is already beginning to put his stamp on his ancestral home.
The Dukes of Grafton have lived at Euston Hall for more than 300 years.
Full of treasures, the impressive hall is still home to the FitzRoy family and is open to the public for just four days in July and August this year.
And in 2014 the doors will close to the public for about a year as refurbishment of the principal rooms takes place.
The fabulous works of art – a unique collection of paintings of the Court of Charles II which includes works by Van Dyck, Lely and Kneller – displayed in the hall will be displayed in galleries in London, Norwich and New York while the house is closed.
The family descend from Henry FitzRoy the son of Charles II and Barbara Villiers.
Euston Hall is home to an array for portraits and artefacts from the Court of Charles II.
The 12th Duke’s grandmother – the Dowager Duchess of Grafton is the Mistress of the Robes to The Queen.
Visitors can also enjoy a visit to the tea rooms in the Old Kitchens.
The Hall was built between 1670 and 1676.
The collection includes a number of racing and horse-themed paintings.
Before he succeeded to the Dukedom the Duke was known as Viscount Ipswich.
Euston Hall is open to the public on Sunday July 7 and Monday July 8 and Sunday August 25 and Monday August 26 from 2.30pm to 5pm. For more information visit www.eustonhall.co.uk
Henry FitzRoy, the 12th Duke, Duke Harry as he prefers to be known, is a 35-year-old father of one.
Following the death of his father the Earl of Euston and then the death of his grandfather the 11th Duke in 2011, Harry found himself the head of the family’s 10,500 acre estate and responsible for the family’s ancestral home.
He said: “I wasn’t expecting to be moving in here until my 50s but that’s the way the dice rolled and so we’re here now.”
The last Duke opened up the house to the public and the new Duke and Duchess and their young son Alfred have been resident for about a year and a half.
Duke Harry said: “In 1902 there was a big fire that destroyed a large portion of the house. It was rebuilt but not very well so it was pulled down in the 1950s. It is big but it is quite manageable. My grandfather secured the roof, which is what you always worry about.
“It is quite comfortable to live in and it has a cosy feel to it. There are not loads of enormous rooms like some stately homes.”
Refurbishment is necessary to bring the house in line with the 21st century requirements of a young family.
Duke Harry said: “There isn’t a shower in the place. It needs a bit of modernising. I’m not sure when the wiring was last done.”
Estate manager Andrew Blenkiron, 48, came to the Euston Estate about two years ago. He said the estate and house are going through a period of natural evolution and change.
He said: “Estates like this do face challenges. I know the Duke would like to open up the park a little bit more for events, he would like to continue to open the house as well. It is also very much a family home so a balance has to be struck. There is no private wing where the family live, they live in every room of the hall.”
Inside from the wellies in the entrance hall to the toys in the drawing room and the drum kit in the dining room it is clear Euston Hall is lived in.
While the carpets are a little threadbare in places, the fabulous paintings and furniture are displayed alongside the Duke’s impressive vinyl collection and his own guitars.
Indeed, the visitor is in no doubt of the hobbies and passions of this particular Suffolk aristocrat.
Inside the visitor moves through a number of principal rooms including the outer and inner halls, a breakfast room, a dining room, and upstairs to a large landing known as The Square and a bedroom beyond.
The Duke is planning to open up the drawing room and his study in the future as well.
He said: “We haven’t really changed much since we moved in. We are just getting used to living here.”
While Duke Harry makes it clear he isn’t going to turn Euston Hall into a theme park or huge tourist attraction, he is keen to exploit some of its best features and improve the visitor experience.
The 60 acres of pleasure gardens and parkland – designed by Capability Brown – alongside the River Blackbourne will continue to be enjoyed by visitors.
Andrew said: “There are plans afoot to take advantage of the park perhaps with more events.”
The Duke is also proud of a new crinkle-crankle garden which has been laid out close to the hall by garden designer Justin Spink.
The Duke said: “It’s mostly herbs and flowers and we have put it in this year. It will really develop in the next couple of years.”
The estate includes a range of properties as well as woodland and farmland stretches across five parishes – Barnham, Bardwell, Fakenham Magna, Sapiston and Honington, and Euston.
For Andrew working for the Euston Estate is a dream job.
He added: “It is a beautiful Suffolk estate to work on and the family are very down to earth, genuine people. I enjoy every day.”