Why Crow’s Hall and its gardens make the picture-perfect venue for your Suffolk barn wedding.
Read what Country Life Magazine had to say about the gardens created by award-winning Xa Tollemache for Crow’s Hall.
An island full of glorious intimate gardens backed by rolling Suffolk countryside panoramas – Crow’s Hall near Debenham is a spectacular setting for weddings and celebrations. Colourful with cottagey borders and heritage roses, neat box hedging and smooth lawns; creative with its garden amphitheatre, attractive vegetable beds and lavender-lined courtyard – discover a set of garden ‘rooms’, delightfully designed to enhance the statement made by a remarkable 16th century redbrick manor house home.
When a Country Life gardens feature writer visited Crow’s Hall, he was enchanted by the ‘modest array of miniature formal gardens’ designed for their owner by award-winning garden visionary, Xa Tollemache and fascinated by the history of the garden layouts which had gone before them.
The following extracts are taken from Tim Longeville’s 2014 article about Crow’s Hall Debenham Suffolk entitled ‘Water, water, everywhere’.
Crow’s Hall and its gardens – a fascinating history
“Standing alone on a high ridge of lands above Suffolk’s Deben valley and approached along a half-mile-long avenue of 300-year-old double-planted oaks, Crow’s Hall is an interesting building in a remarkable situation – and, nowadays, with a garden skilfully designed to act as a suitable immediate setting for it.
“The present building, although a delightful small country house, is, in fact, only a fragment (the north wing and the gatehouse) to the grand moated manor house Sir Charles Framlingham built here in the mid 16th century, on a site already long occupied. (The manorial records of the place go back to 1086, the name Crow’s Hall deriving from a John Crow who owned it in the 1270s.)
“Sir Charles began to build as soon as he inherited in 1559, the new house clearly being described as a fitting home for Dorothy Heigham, the new bride he married in 1561. In the 1580s, he also extended an even older building on the site: the vast 15th-century barn – so vast, indeed, that, nowadays, it acts as the venue for an annual summer opera performance. It was probably also then that he built the new bridge across the moat and, beyond the moat’s north-west corner, the splendid dovecote – now serving a different but still useful function as a two-bedroom cottage.
“The Framlinghams finally sold the estate at the end of the 17th century and it seems likely that much of the house was demolished at that time. As with many such houses, what remained gradually declined into a farmhouse, first a tenanted one and then one owned by two successive 20th century farmers. Thus when present owner Caroline Spurrier acquired the estate in 2005, the house needed serious repairs (since carried out and given award by the Suffolk Association of Architects) and the garden was mostly lawn, plus a large vegetable area.
“After its renovation, the house ‘made much more of a statement’ says Miss Spurrier and she felt it needed a garden that would reinforce that statement. She frankly confesses that other own major passion isn’t gardens, but her horses, her dogs and the house – and its past connection to her family (one of the Framlinghams married a grand-niece of Warwick the Kingmaker and she herself is the great-granddaughter of the 5th Earl of Warwick).”
Crow’s Hall gardens – by award-winning designer, Xa Tollemache
“She turned for help to Xa Tollemache, ‘who would be able to create something in a suitable style’. It would need not only to be suitable in terms of the building, but suitable in terms of Miss Spurrier, who self-deprecatingly describes herself as ‘a novice gardener of modest ability and conservative tastes’.
“What is now a courtyard, between house and moat, was originally the site of the south wing and the great hall. Here, Lady Tollemache created a stone-flagged terrace and, beyond it, a bold circular raised bed filled to overflowing with an abundance of tall lavenders. That bed swirls around a central plinth, now topped by the dramatic ‘Two Against One sculpture by David Cemmick and Sebastian Wylder.
“Brick paths separate the circular bed both from the terrace and from the two deep beds at either end of the courtyard. Despite the amount of new stone and brick her, Miss Spurrier explains with relief that ‘it never looked brash’, even when the terrace, the paths and the central bed, were first created, the reason, she thinks, being that the renovations to the house had also necessarily included much new tile and brick.
“ ’One end bed contains a fine magnolia, retained from an earlier garden here, but, otherwise, all the planting is new and’, says Miss Spurrier, ‘quite cottagey, which I like. Xa knew there was no point giving me something too complex to maintain!’ “
Are you a keen gardener? Interested in the planting at Crow’s Hall? Read more »
“The same combination of formal layout and informal planting can be found in the second relatively sizeable area, a yew-hedged Pool Garden, in which the central raised pool is surrounded by four box-hedged beds, each containing a similar palette of plants to that used in the courtyard beds…”
“North of the Pool Garden is a small box-edged herb garden centred on a Warwick vase and round the corner from that (once more designed in the footprint of earlier buildings) is a miniature knot garden, in-filled in gravel as it’s deep in shade throughout winter.
“The modest array of miniature formal gardens still has one surprising coup de théâtre to offer, however: from the courtyard garden, a narrow, grassed, yew-hedged allée (interrupted only by a single, engagingly just-off-centre mulberry) runs down to a sunken semi-circular amphitheatre by the moat, where musical and theatrical events are sometimes held. Its curved retaining wall and the central steps down to its lower level are both of brick, but the wall is surmounted by box balls and fronted by a box hedge, cut low enough to leave the bricks just visible.
“In either direction – whether from house to moat or from moat to house – the vista is impressive. Indeed, ‘not huge but seriously impressive’ applies to the whole of this delightful creation, one which perfectly fulfils its role as the atmospheric setting for an intensely atmospheric house. “
Have a chat with Caroline about how the gardens at Crow’s Hall can be the perfect backdrop for your dream wedding – contact us»