The Regency library at Ickworth

The Library at Ickwworth. A number of important pictures in this room were acquired in 1996 with the help of the Art Fund and the National Heritage Memorial Fund. ©NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel

Following the post about the Regency library at Stourhead – and again inspired by Mark Purcell’s National Trust Libraries Facebook page – I wanted to show a few images of the Regency library at Ickworth, in Suffolk.

Portrait of the 1st Marquess of Bristol by Hoppner. ©NTPL/Angelo Hornak

This room was created by architect William Field in the late 1820s for Frederick William Hervey, 5th Earl and 1st Marquess of Bristol, with furnishings by Banting, France & Co, who also worked for George IV and William IV.

Italian marble chimneypiece in the Library, installed in 1829 but probably acquired much earlier by the Earl-Bishop. ©NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel

The 1st Marquess had inherited the half-built house in 1803 from his mercurial father, Frederick, 4rd Earl of Bristol and Bishop of Derry. The height of the Library, and of several other rooms in the main Rotunda, reflects the Earl-Bishop’s belief that high-ceilinged rooms kept his asthma at bay. He seems to have had a yen for circular buildings, as evident in one of his other projects, the Mussenden Temple at Downhill, Co. Londonderry

The Rotunda, Ickworth's central block. ©NTPL/Andrew Butler

The Earl-Bishop quarrelled with his son and out of spite left his personal fortune to a distant cousin (although he couldn’t deny him the entailed English family estates). It took the 1st Marquess until 1821 to amalgamate sufficient funds to re-start work on the house.  

Page from a seventeenth-century Italian mansucript in the style of Ulisse Aldrovandi, c. 1600, in the Library at Ickworth. ©NTPL/Angelo Hornak

The curtains and upholstery in the Library were replaced in 1909-11 by Frederick William Hervey, the 4th Marquess, with green and silver damask from the Gainsborough Silk Weaving Company. The 4th Marquess also moved the Regency carved and gilded pelmet boards from the Drawing Room into the Library.

6 Responses to “The Regency library at Ickworth”

  1. Parnassus Says:

    A grand treatment for an odd-shaped room, which really seems more like an additional parlor than a dedicated library. In America, Orson Fowler’s book on octagonal houses set off a building craze. Round and octagonal houses create a series of non-rectangular rooms that are hard to deal with, although obviously sheer size can be an advantage, as you demonstrate here with Ickworth.

  2. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Yes and you can see how Field has tried to mitigate the odd shape of the room with the screens of scagliola columns. I didn’t know about Orson Fowler’s 1848 book, how interesting. With the Earl-Bishop the liking for circular buildings seems to have sprung from his interest-bordering-on-obsession with classical antiquity.

  3. James Says:

    Often religious people liked to have round shaped rooms because they believed that it would stop the devil from hiding in dark corners. The church in George Street in Edinburgh is an example of a round church built for this reason.

  4. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    James, how interesting. In the case of Ickworth, the shape of the Rotunda seems to have been inspired purely by the ancient monuments of Rome. Moreover, although the 4th Earl was a Bishop, and eccentric, he was also a rather worldly man and more likely to be swayed by the visual impact of things rather than concerns about the Devil 🙂

  5. Anna Forrest Says:

    The design for Ickworth evolved straight out of the Earl Bishop’s abandoned project for a circular building at Ballyscullion (Co. Londonderry). Ballyscullion had itself been inspired by John Plaw’s circular “Belle Isle” on Lake Windermere, which was derived from the Pantheon.

  6. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Thanks very much Anna, how interesting (Anna, by the way, is the National Trust curator advising on Ickworth, among other places). The house built by Plaw on Belle Isle in 1774 can be seen here ( and here (

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