The elaborate Anglo-Italian style house was designed by John Thomas for Samuel Peto in 1843, a dramatic change from the Tudor building that had been there for years under the Wentworth family.
The first house on the Somerleyton site was built in 1240 for the Jernergan family, but was transformed into a Tudor-Jacobean mansion by John Wentworth, who bought the estate in 1604. However, more changes were on their way for Somerleyton: in 1843 it was bought by MP Samuel Morton Peto who had grand ideas for an Anglo-Italian house. He employed Prince Albert’s architect, John Thomas, to design the house, along with William Andrews Nesfield and Joseph Paxton to design the garden. Harold Peto, the famous garden designer, was Samuel’s son, and he may have been inspired by the gardens at his family home in his garden designs in the future. Paintings were specially commissioned for the house, and the gardens and grounds were completely redesigned, with an emphasis on grasses and greenery rather than flowers.
In 1863 the Somerleyton estate was sold to Sir Francis Crossley, of Halifax. Hugh Crossley, 4th Baron Somerleyton, still lives there with his family today. Though you can’t explore their private rooms, you can take a tour of some of the downstairs rooms, including the Victorian chintz ballroom, Jacobean Oak Parlour and the library. The 12-acre garden has plenty of different areas depending on your interests. The large yew maze, planted in 1846, will keep you occupied for ages, or you might like to visit the sunken White Garden, designed by George Carter and Verity Hanson Smith. They’re currently redeveloping old features such as the Walled Kitchen Garden and My Lady’s Garden. Walk around for enough and you might even bump into one of the family members out on their walk.