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Dalham Hall

While the manor of Dalham is first recorded as being owned by William the Sinner during the reign of Edward the Confessor, there is no evidence of a manor house on the site until much later. In 1313 there is a reference to Queen Margaret’s close, the wife of Edward 1st., at Dalham having been broken into and damaged by “certayne personnes”. Subsequently, when Thomas Stuteville bought the estate in 1417, he is presumed to have rebuilt the house. This family occupied what was then called Manor Place for nigh on three hundred years, only selling the estate to Gilbert Dolben in 1697. He in turn, due to his move to Ireland, quickly sold it on to Simon Patrick Bishop of Ely in 1702. That year Simon Patrick was to write “made a purchase of an estate at Dalham in Suffolk twelve miles from Ely; where my wife and my son might live comfortably after my decease [the Bishop was some 20 years older than his spouse]. In order to which, I began not long after to build an house, the old one, by neglect, being fallen down before I purchased it.” The Queen Anne style hall created by Bishop Patrick was completed in 1705. It was described as a fashionable house with a perfect exterior, though some deemed it unusually high for such a small building, as well as having an improved interior that was both simple and serviceable. The house might have been considered even taller except for Simon Patrick’s untimely death in 1707. For he is thought to have been planning to crown the roof with a gazebo or lantern. This feature would not only have harmonised well, perhaps even echoing the great octagon atop his nearby cathedral, but might also have permitted him to view it across the fens to the North. The surrounding park, carved out of primary oak woodland, may date from this period too, as do also the lines of the present gardens and lawns. John Affleck Esq. acquired the estate from the Bishop’s widow in 1714. Thereafter the hall, the adjacent stables and the gardens remained much as the Bishop had originally conceived them throughout the Affleck family’s almost three hundred year tenure of the manor. In 1901 the estate was then sold to Cecil Rhodes, although his untimely death meant he never actually resided at Dalham. Various Rhodes’ heirs then ran the estate until they, in turn, sold it to Lord Milford in 1927. Three generations of the Philipps family have since made their home at the hall. But sadly, in 1955, the third storey was lost during a fire and not reinstated when the hall was repaired. Thus the current prospect was not simply willfully “removed” as Norman Scarfe implies in his ‘The Suffolk Landscape’, but actually in its stead a better-proportioned building was thereby created (as a comparison between the above colour and the black and white photograph below amply demonstrates).

This picture taken in 1955 shows the Hall with three stories before the fire which destroyed the top floor

Aerial view of the Hall and Church