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Burton Agnes Hall and the Cunliffe-Lister Family
'Burton Agnes Hall ranks among the finest, and best presented, houses in England. It is the perfect English house, embodying the climax of the final great age of domestic architecture.' Simon Jenkins, 'England's Thousand Best Houses'
Burton Agnes Hall is a Grade I listed building, built by Sir Henry Griffith in 1598 to designs attributed to English architect Robert Smythson, master mason to Queen Elizabeth I. The historic house is famous for its unsurpassed Elizabethan plasterwork, carving and panelling, and it also boasts the Queen's state bedroom with a spectacular stucco ceiling, a Chinese room with 18th-century lacquered panels, and a fine collection of French Impressionist and contemporary art (including pieces by Cezanne, Gauguin, Matisse and Renoir), bronzes, furniture and porcelain bought and commissioned by the family over generations.
The Hall’s previous owner, Marcus Wickham-Boynton, died in 1989; with no direct heir to take responsibility for the estate, it passed to his cousin’s son, the then 12 year old Simon Cunliffe-Lister. Simon’s mother, Susan Cunliffe-Lister, daughter of Viscount William (Willie) Whitelaw (a former Home Secretary who served as deputy prime minister to Margaret Thatcher), and a gifted gardener, managed it on his behalf until seven years ago, when Simon took over. Simon now lives at the Hall with his wife Olivia, and their four children Islay, Joss, Otis and Inigo.
The estate has always remained in the same family, and Simon can trace his ancestry back to the original inhabitant of the Norman manor house, which was built around 1170 and stands beside the Hall. The 3,000 acres of woodland, grazing pastures and arable farm land lie on the southern edge of the Yorkshire Wolds, five miles inland from the stretching sands of the Holderness coast.
Over recent years, Susan Cunliffe-Lister has transformed Burton Agnes Hall’s grounds into a thriving visitor attraction. In 2001 she was voted Country Life magazine’s Gardener of the Year, and, in 2005, the walled garden which she created won the Historic Houses Association/Christies Garden of the Year award. Manicured lawns and topiary yew bushes surround the Hall, and the walled garden contains a maze, giant board games (chess, draughts, noughts and crosses, snakes and ladders), a jungle garden, a national collection of campanulas and more than 3,000 species of plants. Other attractions include a woodland walk with sculptured woodland creatures, a children's playground, a Gift Shop, Home and Garden shop, Courtyard Gallery showcasing works by local artists, a café and a 1963-vintage ice cream and coffee van.
Burton Agnes Hall plays host to a variety of annual events, such as the Jazz & Blues festival, an Easter Egg Hunt, a Classic Car Rally, a Civil War Re-enactment, a Gardeners' Fair, and a Michaelmas Fair. In November and December the family decorates the Hall for Christmas, and in February the gardens are open to view a blanket of snowdrops in the Woodland Walk.
Images of the Hall and Gardens are available on request.
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