Columbine Hall, Stowmarket, Suffolk
This medieval manor house, full of romance and rising straight from the waters of a spectacular moat, has been likened to a ship at anchor. The ancient building sits in an acre of formal garden inside the moat (designed by Chelsea Gold Medal winner, George Carter). Another 28 acres of orchards, woods, farmland, wild flower meadows and bog gardens make an equally romantic setting outside the moat. As a result, Columbine Hall has appeared in many articles and books. Pevsner’s Guide to West Suffolk describes it as “enchanting”. The gardens were featured in Gardens Illustrated and The English Garden (twice) along with The Walled Garden and The Water Garden, books by owner, Leslie Geddes-Brown. The interior has been in World of Interiors and style books by Kevin McCloud, George Carter and Ros Byam Shaw along with many newspaper articles.
Hew Stevenson and his wife, Leslie, bought the manor house, which had been empty for seven years, in 1993, and, along with Melvyn Smith, designer of genius, have transformed interior with panelling and library shelves of MDF, restored medieval fireplaces and a traditional quarry-tiled kitchen. They are avid collectors – Hew’s key collection was recently featured in a water colour by Lillias August; other paintings include those by Angie Lewin, whose book Leslie helped to write. They bought a lifesize Chinese auspicious deer at auction (without seeing it). Other objects from Hew’s ancestors include Nelson’s mug (battered and taken from HMS Victory) and Napoleon’s map, looted from his carriage at Waterloo. Ancestral portraits include Newson Garrett, who built the maltings at Snape. Many are a result of Hew’s interest in his family, now described in his book, Jobs for the Boys: The Story of a Family in Britain’s Imperial Heyday.
Visitors are struck by the quantity of objects – Hew and Leslie are following in the footsteps of Charles Paget Wade at Snowshill Manor who eventually had to live in his outhouse. They have a spear taken from the fuzzie-wuzzies at the battle of Tamai, a mandarin’s silver fingernail guard and a full-size wobbly wooden salmon not to mention two six-foot Burmese earth spirits and a huge map of Columbine Hall’s grounds in 1741, all field names included.
Guided tour of house and garden. Visitors are welcome to arrive early and picnic in the grounds.
Thank you for an enchanting, inspiring visit round your amazing house which you have preserved so faithfully, loved so imaginatively and then shared so generously … We would like to thank Mr & Mrs Stevenson for being such entertaining hosts, and showing us their delightful home. So many rooms filled with mementos and treasures of a long family history, together with stunning visual scenery! And all explained with humour.
Take the A1120 into Stowupland. Turn off almost opposite the petrol station and cross the village green. Turn right at T junction and go beyond Columbyne Close bungalows on left. Just beyond the de-restriction sign turn left through wooden posts into the drive. Please park in car park and meet Hew or Leslie Stevenson at the front door at start of tour.
No photography in house. Because our properties are old and fragile, unfortunately we cannot include children under 14.
Ground floor only, gravel courtyard.