When the children were younger, we joined The National Trust, and it quickly developed into one of our favourite things to do: We frequently visited the properties near our house, and we fell in love with our days using the grounds for fantastic walks, den building and tree climbing and visiting the houses that were rich with stories from the past.
However, as the children got older and weekends were taken over by sports matches and dance lessons, our visits became less and less frequent. Cancelling the membership was always on the list of ‘things to do’, but never quite got crossed off. I’d even grumble as it appeared on the direct debit.
Recently, we spent a few days up in our cottage in North Norfolk, and we had time for a leisurely journey back to London, so seeing as we still had memberships decided to stop off at Oxburgh Hall near Swaffham, Norfolk.
Oxburgh Hall is a moated country house built in 1482. Just as with many of the National Trust properties on your first view you have a ‘wow’ moment. It is a beautiful building. I always go a little bit Lloyd Grossman and start thinking of ‘who lives in a house like this?’.
The houses belongs to the Bedingfeld family, and has done since it was built 500 years ago. But as ever, these have not been 500 years of happy living: It has survived a dreadful fire during the Civil War, periods of near dereliction (they were evicted during the civil war) and a threat of demolition.
The family are also Catholic, and added to the problems of the upkeep of the hall, they were also persecuted in the 16th century when they refused to sign The Act of Uniformity and heavily fined as well as threatened with imprisonment. The house also contains a priest hole, to hide a priest in case of a raid.
Unfortunately, we couldn’t visit the house due to falling masonry and investigation to the structural safety of this house. It was at this point, I realised how important my membership funds are to The National Trust. Even if I only go once or twice a year, preserving Britain’s rich history is just so important. Oxburgh Hall is a fine example of how we can access history and protect our history for generations to come.
Of course, one of the great draws of a National Trust property is the grounds, and Oxburgh Hall does not disappoint. There are plenty of walks within the grounds and wood. Perfect for the dog, and of course, the children, to let off steam. My normally very cool, tween, quickly reverted back to the girl who loves charging about and climbing trees. Amazing how these places invoke those feelings of just reverting back to pure childhood activities. We went at the tail-end of the holiday, and both children loved the treasure hunt of finding butterflies in order to get an East er Egg. Yep, chocolate egg hunts still appeal to uber cool 12 year olds.
Do you support the National Trust or similar? Where is your favourite property?