Gallery: Going behind the scenes of the National Trust’s Ickworth House
- Credit: Archant
Ickworth attracts thousands of visitors every year.
They explore the parkland as well as marvel at the impressive rooms – the library, the dining room, the hall, the kitchens – of the rotunda.
But visitors only really get to see about half of the property.
Away from the public rooms are former servants’ areas and bedrooms that today are used as meeting rooms, offices and store rooms.
Once in the lift Sue Borges turns a key and we climb to the second floor of the rotunda – an area to which the public rarely see.
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Sue Borges, marketing and engagement manager for the property said she often got lost when she first started working at Ickworth.
She said: “It took a while to get to know the layout as it is quite a complex building.”
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With a warren of corridors and staircases – originally used by servants as the Bristol family entertained – the rotunda is a fascinating building.
Sue opens the door to what would probably have been a bedroom or servants quarters.
Today it is the house team office and volunteer Jane Gore is busy recording visitors comments.
She said: “I’m retired and I wanted to do something to help.”
Here each window is designed to have a different view of the parkland and Jane overlooks the front drive and east wing corridor.
Through another door and we’re in the room which stores the costumes used for various living history events held throughout the year.
Sue said: “Part of my job is to plan the various events and publicity around them as well as making sure the website is up to date and organising official visits. At the moment we are planning next year’s exhibitions which will possibly be porcelain or portraits.”
Through another door and into a corridor where you overlook the middle of the rotunda itself.
A huge void with the dome at the top and a laylight – which lets in light – to the hall below. It is an impressive sight with access doors into the roofspace.
Sue said: “The public don’t often get to see this area but we do organise occasional behind the scenes tours.”
Beth Faulding is Ickworth’s assistant house steward. Beth’s duties include looking after the furniture store.
She said: “We don’t know much about what the rooms were used for at the top of the rotunda. They may have been bedrooms for visiting servants. It an area of the house that we know the least about.”
The furniture store is a large room overlooking the Italianate garden. It is above the library.
Inside there are chairs, tables, firescreens, beds and sofas wrapped in acid free tissue paper and dust sheets.
Beth said the furniture is part of the house’s collection and can’t be sold.
She said: “We don’t have room to display it all or some of it doesn’t fit in with the theme of the rooms we have open so we store some up here.”
As well as furniture there are textiles and paintings that are stored in various unseen parts of the house.
Beth said the house’s conservation textiles store includes bed spreads, clothes, curtains, and is regularly checked for insects that could damage the collection.
Through yet another door and we are into the meeting room complete with portraits of various Bristol family members on loan from St Edmundsbury Borough Council.
Down some stairs and we find ourselves in the upper east wing corridor. A former rat run for servants the corridor is now used to store other objects in the collection that cannot be displayed.
Beth said: “Everything is wrapped up individually and stored here. The public can’t see everything in the collection in the house but it is possible to view a lot of it online.”
Sue said 900 items of the house’s silver collection is now on display.
She said: “It is an nationally important silver collection, an ambassadorial dinner service which contains work by some of the best Huguenot silversmiths. We were only able to display about 100 items but now we have 900 on display. We tracked some down which had been in the bank and in storage and brought it back to the house.”
Down stairs again and we are in the kitchen area. Sue points out a room they are hoping to clean up and open up to the public - the wine cellar.
Sue added: “The wine cellar still has labels marking out each area whether it be for sherry or port or champagne and the date bottles were laid down. They had some lovely wines and drinks.”
Why noy pay a visit this half term? Or for more days out ideas, see our autumn guide here