Belchamp Hall

BELCHAMP HALL

The current Belchamp Hall was built by the third John Raymond in 1720 and is lived in now by his direct descendants. It is a Queen Anne period house of rich red brick with a front nine bays wide and of two storeys, below a cornice and solid parapet. The attic rooms have dormer windows, three to the front and one each to the other three sides. Pilaster strips alternating with down pipes bearing the family crest break up the façade vertically. The windows have emphasised keystones and neat apron pieces below the sills. The central bay has a little pediment and narrower pilasters confined to the upper storey.

On the first floor, bay windows forming powdering chambers have been added to the two principal bedrooms on the north and south of the house. This was done in Georgian times when hair powdering and wigs were the fashion.

The dressings are all red brick – said to be Dutch – and the walling is of cream-coloured stock.

The house, which faces south-east, looks down to the ancient brick and flint church of Saint Mary the Virgin. The view extends across the valley of the Belchamp Brook (which runs into the River Stour at Sudbury) to the village of Bulmer.

The front porch leads into the central hall, hung with family portraits and from which an elegant staircase leads to the upper rooms. To the right is the dining room, which is panelled in oak and chestnut thought to have come from the original Elizabethan house which is believed, was demolished when the present house was built. One of the various portraits that hang here depicts the first John Raymond who as previously mentioned bought the estate from Sir John Wentworth in 1611. Elizabethan portraits of Sir William and Lady Harris, whose daughter Frances married Oliver Raymond, MP. for Essex in the two Protectorate parliaments, hang each side of the door. Sir William commanded a ship in the battle against the Spanish Armada and relics which he captured then, including an iron Treasure Chest with its original huge key, are still in the house.

The beautiful drawing-room, on the other side of the hall, has white panelling and is hung with charming family portraits and 18th century mirrors. The marble fireplace and iron basket are identical to those in the dining room opposite.

Leading out of the drawing-room is the smoking room, the principal feature of which is a 17th century chamber organ, given by Handel to the owners great-great-great-great aunt, Lady Dundonald, who in her youth was one of his pupils, Her portrait, by Gainsborough is now in America.

Next door the Library with its old leather bound books contains a French marble statue of Diana and Actaeon, sent by King Louis XVI to Tippu Sahid, Sultan of Mysore. It was captured in 1799 by another ancestor, Colonel Valentine Blacker, after the Siege of Seringapatam in Southern India, where Tippu met his death.

Panels of armorial glass recording various family marriages have been inserted in most of the downstairs windows. The earliest dates from the end of the 17th century, while the latest is of the present owners grand parents.

Outside, large lawns border the central drive with its circular sweep round an old sundial in front of the house. To the right is a long raised terraced walk, originally planted with an avenue of Scots firs, these have now been replaced with smaller cherry trees. The terrace leads on the south to a small early Victorian summer house with formal marble floor and windows made of early coloured glass depicting pastoral scenes, flowers and vegetables. Nearby the old dry pond has been converted into a sunken garden. At the other end of the terrace an old ruined folly stands on a mound.
A great copper beech tree, one of the largest in the county, stands to the right of the front gates. Other trees include a big Wellingtonia, cedars, Scots firs, cherries, cornus, litriodendron, yew, eucryphia, ginkgo, walnut, oaks and birches etc.