A ‘real gem’ of an Elizabethan hall where Virginia Woolf came to recuperate, and ended up writing a story

Blo Norton Hall is a delightful Norfolk home with a lot to tell. Penny Churchill is watching.

Between the Fens, the vast Thetford Forest to the west, and the Broads to the north, you will find the Breckland area of ​​southern Norfolk, whose name means “abandoned field.” It is a sandy wilderness of moorlands and dry grasslands nestled in the rich farmland of East Anglia, where for centuries the land has been plowed by itinerant farmers who leave when its fertility is exhausted. Now a precious habitat for some of Britain’s rarest flora and fauna, it was to this isolated area that modernist writer Virginia Stephen, later Virginia Woolf, came to find solitude and inspiration after a bout of recurring mental illness that would haunt her for the rest of her life. the rest of her life.

In the summer of 1906, Virginia and her elder sister Vanessa rented Blo Norton Hall, a moated Elizabethan house near the Saxon village of Blo Norton on the Norfolk-Suffolk border, seven miles from the market town of Diss, 16 miles from Bury. St Edmunds and 40 miles from Cambridge. The diary records her journey from Diss Station, where “every mile seemed to draw a tighter veil between you and the world.” So that finally, when you sit in the Hall, no sound will reach your ear; it seems that the light itself seeps through the deep layers; and the air circulates slowly, as if he had only to circle the Hall, and his duties were done.”

Blo Norton Hall and its magnificent gardens are in the heart of the 72-acre estate in Norfolk.

In a letter to her friend Violet Dickinson, she describes the hall: “300 years old, striped, with oak gratings inside, old staircases, ancestral vats and portraits. There is a garden; and a moat… By day, Nessa draws windmills, and I roam the country for miles with a map, jumping over ditches, climbing walls and desecrating churches, writing beautiful brilliant stories at every step.”

The hall and its surroundings were to be the setting for a short story, Joan Martin’s Journeyin which the thinly disguised protagonist, Rosamund Merridew, is a historian researching the medieval land tenure system in England.

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Now listed for sale through Savills’ office in Norwich for an estimated price of £2.6 million, Blo Norton Hall sits in the heart of a 72-acre estate on the outskirts of the village, where there is a network of small back streets, narrow paths and footpaths. unlimited space for walking, cycling and horseback riding.

Bounded on the south by the Little Ouse River, the estate is a mixture of meadows, farmland and wooded parkland, and a yard with old outbuildings with obvious development potential.

According to the Historic England listing, the current house was built in the mid-16th century, expanded in 1585 with the addition of gabled south and east wings, and partially rebuilt or altered in the 17th, 18th, 19th and 20th centuries; the moated monastic site on which it stands dates from 1280.

Described by sales agent Ben Rivett as “a home with an amazing atmosphere – a real gem”, the lobby and its two cottages (sold by separate negotiation) have been the subject of an ongoing renovation and improvement program since 2009, which included new plumbing and electrical wiring, redecoration, new plumbing system and replacement of defective sections of the roof.

The heart of the house is the dining room, with original 16th century paneling, an open fireplace and majestic proportions. This leads into a living room, again with paneling and a fireplace, and into a living room with access to the west facing garden.

A pleasant surprise is the large, bright open-plan kitchen/dining room, which is a rarity among houses of this vintage. The hall has two notable staircases, one of which in the west wing has a particularly beautiful 17th-century oak staircase with curved legs.

In total, Blo Norton Hall offers 7,900 square feet of living space on three floors, including an entrance hall, five reception areas, a kitchen/breakfast room, a boiler room, and a ground floor basement.

There are also six bedrooms and bathrooms on the first floor, as well as a games room and three more bedrooms and bathrooms on the second floor.

Blo Norton Hall is up for sale through Savills for £2.6m – see more details and photos.

With wood paneling and armor in the lobby, the Home Counties Mansion is one of the gems on offer.

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