I never tire of visiting Burton Agnes Hall in North Yorkshire. It has so much to offer the visitor.
It’s one of the most beautiful of Jacobean country houses, in warm brick with distinctive round “compass bays”, with extraordinarily fine wood panelling, fireplaces and a magnificent staircase.
The history of the place goes back a long way.
In the grounds, behind a seventeenth-century façade, are the standing remains of the original Norman manor house.
The Jacobean house was built by Sir Henry Boynton after he was appointed to the Council of the North in 1599.
His daughter Anne was attacked nearby and subsequently died of her injuries. She asked her sisters to make sure that after her death her skull should kept within the house saying that “if my desire be not fulfilled, my spirit shall, if it be permitted, render the house uninhabitable for human beings”.
Initially, her corpse was buried intact in the churchyard, but the supernatural ructions were such that, in consultation with the vicar, the sisters had the grave reopened and the skull brought within, upon which peace was restored.
Subsequent attempts to remove the skull from the premises – in one instance by burying it in the garden – always led to terrifying consequences until eventually the skull was interred within the walls. Anne, and Burton Agnes, now rest in peace.
Marcus Wickham-Boynton, who owed Burton Agnes Hall between 1947 and 1989, resolved when he inherited to live “quietly, but not too quietly”, and spent his life modernising and beautifying the house and its gardens.
With the Yorkshire architect, Francis Johnson, he brought in panelling and fireplaces from neglected and unwanted houses and restored the long gallery, which had been divided into bedrooms and a store.
Marcus Wickham-Boynton was an astute art collector, bringing to Burton Agnes an impressive array of English and French paintings by such artists as Paul Cézanne, Paul Gaugin, Duncan Grant, Augustus John, Edward Lear, Édouard Manet, Henri Matisse, Camille and Lucien Pissarro, Pierre Auguste Renoir, Walter Sickert and Maurice Utrillo, alongside two impressive bronze busts by Sir Jacob Epstein.
His heir has added further items that are displayed in the Long Gallery, such as a tapestry by Kaffe Fassett and furniture by John Makepeace including the Millennium collection, ‘Tuscan Obelisk’, ‘Spiral’ and ‘Coppice’.
Visitor information for Burton Agnes Hall is at http://www.burtonagnes.com/Home.html.
The 40-page, A4 handbook for the 2009 Country Houses of North-East Yorkshire tour, with text, photographs, a chronology and a reading list, is available for purchase, price £15.00 including postage and packing. To view sample pages click here. Please send a cheque, payable to Mike Higginbottom, to 63 Vivian Road, Sheffield, S5 6WJ.