Visit to Burnley Hall, East Somerton
June 2022

A privileged visit on the longest day of the year, and what a lovely evening it was for thirty of us to visit Burnley Hall in East Somerton.  We car-shared our way there and were greeted by our host, Clare (Lady Agnew).

Once all were gathered, our Chairman, Noel Mitchell, presented Peter Lavender and his wife Christine with a card and a garden token, thanking Peter for all that he has done for the history group, and wished them well in their new home.  We will miss them.

Ann Meakin then introduced us to our host for the evening.  Lady Agnew gave us a brief outline of what we were about to see in her large home and extensive gardens, the changes that have been made, and some history of who used to live there.  The Agnews have lived in the Hall since 2004.  The house is not normally open to the public so we were lucky to have a private visit.

Into the house, up the grand staircase of this large rambling Georgian home with so many rooms able to cater for many guests.  One room had five beds in it where a school in Suffolk would come to stay to study mathematics!  Even the cellar was open to view for those who were sure-footed.

Ann Meakin had told us about the interesting estate maps to be seen on the staircase but it did not prepare us for what we saw: several magnificent maps of East and West Somerton and Winterton in the early 1800s.  The maps were hand painted and showed the estates before and after the Enclosures.  The maps were in their original wooden casings with cords enabling them to be pulled down for viewing.  Apparently, when these maps were printed, three copies were made.  We were looking at the set of maps given to the Lord of the Manor at Burnley Hall.

The Hall has an abundance of high bookshelves, some on the broad staircases which themselves sometimes creaked in a suitable manner, whilst behind the scenes we experienced the steep, winding and narrow servants' stairs.

Our last room to visit was the one-time billiard room, now turned into a large and high-ceilinged kitchen, where we enjoyed a cup of tea and biscuits.  Once refreshed it was out into the grounds to see the old stables, no longer in use.  Apparently, there are old fireplaces in the room spaces above where presumably the stable boys used to live.  The nearby dovecote was amazingly large - room for three or four people, but no doves were at home.

Those of us who weren't flagging were able to go through another gate to visit the ruins of the church, where a large tree is growing up in its centre - many stories abound regarding the origins of the tree - who knows!

Members considered it a very enjoyable evening.  I think so too.

Pat Mitchell
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