Seckford Hall

Pictures of buildings mentioned in the second edition “Suffolk” volume of “The Buildings of England” series by Sir Nikolaus Pevsner.

I’ve been visiting Seckford Hall since the 1980s, even before I lived in Suffolk. All this time it has been a hotel. For many years I took business guests to dine there and Americans in particular enjoyed its charms. It changed hands in 2012 and has since been extensively refurbished and I visited it for a nice lunch on a sunny day. This was good for the south facing side but a problem for the north-facing front - I must get a better shot of that one day, not into the mid-day light, and a close up of the front porch as well.

It has its own entry in Edition 2 of Pevsner (p414) (or p481 in Edition 3, Suffolk East), and there is quite a lot to say. As a significant Suffolk house it also has nearly three pages in Sandon’s
Suffolk Houses (pp180 - 182) and the following notes indicate the sources accordingly.

Pevsner (Ed 2): “Built some time between 1553 and 1585. Red brick. A long symmetrical N front. Big stepped gables to the l and r and beneath them four- to two-light transomed windows with pediments. The gables are followed by smaller ones towards the centre, two l. and two r. In the centre a two-storeyed porch without a gable. This centre and the two-gabled wings have polygonal angle shafts with very good finials. It has been suggested that the facade was originally E shaped and the infilling done shortly after its erection. This would account for the unusual fact that the hall does not fill the depth of the house, but that there are small rooms N of it.” He then details some interior aspects.

Sandon disagrees with some of that. He first notes that “The house is sited at the upper end of a short deep valley ...” and “It is the least ostentatious of any of the sites of great Elizabethan houses in Suffolk...” but then “Seckford Hall was evidently planned for entry from both north and south. Important visitors would doubtless be travelling to the Hall from Ipswich and would use the southern approach...”. James Bettley in Edition 3 steers clear of this by noting "The house is now approached from the north, although an approach from the south would be more impressive and might have been intended". Sandon goes on to say that “there is little evidence to support the theory that the north porch originally projected and that the space between the porch and cross-wings was filled in afterwards”. A drawing by R Loader of 1791 (presumably an “artists impression” as it pre-dates the building) looks remarkably like the present north facade seen here:

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The polygonal angle shafts and finials can be seen on the north facade above but similar ones are better seen on the west side:

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The south side is here:

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Referring to the south side, Pevsner says: “... two projecting wings of unequal length. The longer one has a doorway with Doric pilasters and a pediment. The same motif repeats in the centre, and here the Doric is followed on the first floor by the Ionic. Many windows are renewed. The house was partly in ruins thirty years ago (i.e. early 1930s) and is altogether much restored”.

Sandon notes it was “rescued from demolition when purchased in May 1940...”.

Here is the door in the longer wing. I will not dwell on the insensitive downpipe.

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And here is the door in the centre with what is noted by Sandon as the Seckford coat of arms displayed over the doorway. So this would most likely have been the main entrance for visitors arriving from Ipswich:

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Pevsner notes that there is “a fine barn with a diapered gable-end” to the NW - seen here much modified and extended (only a little diapering still remaining on the gable-end on the second picture):

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Finally Pevsner notes “To the NE a summer house, square, tall, with stepped gables”.
Sandon calls this “a gazebo adjoining the Great Bealings/Woodbridge road” and also notes that many of the brick garden walls “indicate the way in which the surroundings of a great Tudor house were architecturally separated into courtyards, orchards and gardens ...”. The summer house/gazebo is shown here:

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Notes on the history of the Seckford family who built the Hall and were notable in Suffolk and Woodbridge can be found at the beginning of the entry in the third edition.