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Sudbury Hall in Derbyshire, once the home of the Vernon family and now administered by the National Trust, was used by the BBC as the location for the interiors of Pemberley House in the 1995 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Erle.
The house was built in the 1660s by George Vernon: it is thought that the building took place between 1661-1701. It is in fact a strange mix of styles and some aspects of the building were positively old-fashioned for the era in which it was erected. It is built in an “E” shape, a style favoured by the Elizabethans as a tribute to the Virgin Queen, and its external features-the pattern of the bricks, and the carved stone entrances, all hark back of the past, to the Elizabethan and Jacobean periods. The cupola is, however, a very typically Carolinian feature. The interiors were also a mixture of the old and the new, and the inclusion of a Long Gallery, running the whole length of the garden front on the first floor,was a decidedly odd and old-fashioned feature in a house of this period. But that all worked in Sudbury’s favour when the producers were sourcing an appropriate interior to use for the rooms of Pemberley House. The slightly old-fashioned but grand rooms of Sudbury easily conveyed the impression of the Darcys as a family that was old-established gentry, not new money like the Bingleys, and the rooms were grand enough to reflect the Darcy ‘s associations with the aristocracy and their great riches. Shall we apply to the housekeeper to take our tour? Let’s ring the Bell, then….
Here is a plan of the rooms on the ground floor at Sudbury; do note that this and, indeed, all the other illustrations in this post can be enlarged by clicking upon them, in order to see the detail. The rooms that were used in the 1995 adaptation were the rooms to the right of the entrance passage.
(Plan ©National Trust)
They are marked in red on the plan below as 1) The Entrance Passage, 2) The Library, 3) The Drawing Room and 4) The Saloon. The Great Staircase was also used in the production but we shall deal with that ,and with the other rooms, on the First Floor, that were used in the adaptation in our next post in this series.
And we also see him greeting the innocent Georgiana Darcy.
The Entrance Passage as you can see from the plan above, runs the whole width of the house. It has a stone floor which was laid in 1671.
The day I visited , I’m afraid it was also very overcast outside, and so these photographs are a little dark. Do forgive me.
The next room on our tour is the Library. We see this in the tour of Pemberley conducted by Mrs Reynolds.Sadly, she gives incorrect information at this point , telling us and the Gardiners that this room was the favourite of the late Mrs Darcy. Of course as the daughter of an Earl, Fitzwilliam Darcy’s mother would have been correctly referred to as the late Lady Anne Darcy, not a mere Mrs!
The desk in the room was the one used in the adaptation….
In the Letter sequence, this is where George Wickham is compensated for not wanting to be a clergyman…
The wallpaper in the room was copied by Coles of London, the famous wallpaper firm, from a remnant found behind one of the bookcases during the restoration of the room by John Fowler in 1969. More on the somewhat controversial aspects of John Fowler’s restoration in my next post on Sudbury.
This room has always been a favourite of mine-I’ve been visiting the house since it was opened to the public by the National Trust. It has a cosiness and warmth perfect for contemplating books and engravings. The room that lies next to it on the plan is the Drawing Room, and this is glossed over in the adaptation,The Gardiners and Elizabeth merely walk though it, and Mrs Reynolds doesn’t mention it.
She then welcomes them into what she calls The Music Room and is known at Sudbury as the Saloon, the most important of the reception rooms at Sudbury. When it was first built it was probably used as a dining room.
It has the most wonderful plaster work on the ceiling, executed by James Pettifer and Robert Bradbury engaged expensively from London and the magnificent carving that decorates the walls was by Edward Pierce, -look at the magnificent swags of cloth,fruit and flowers- and all were completed in the late 1670s.
The panelling was made from trees grown on the Sudbury estate and was installed by Thomas Johnson in 1677.
Not that the carving and the panelling is highlighted in gilt…
Which gives a beautiful effect in sunlight or in shade
it is of course while in this room that Elizabeth Bennet has her moment of regret: “And of this place,” thought she, “I might have been mistress!
And this is the scene she looks out onto……except that it is not. She (and we) see the view of the grounds at Lyme Park in Cheshire, which provided the exteriors of Pemberley House and grounds.
If Elizabeth looked out of this window in the saloon at Sudbury-and this is the exact spot where she stood…
she would, in fact see this scene: a semi-formal garden…
leading down to the swans on the lake.
The fireplace is made of jasper and was added in the 1860s..but that didn’t prevent Miss Bingley from making her unfortunate remarks about Elizabeth Bennet’s tan whilst standing before it
And it was a useful place for Darcy to rest his hopeful head when recalling the rapprochement between Elizabeth and himself…
The Saloon at Sudbury is one of my favourite rooms in any of the hundreds of country houses I’ve visited over the years. And the rooms in the next post are also among my favourites: I do hope you will join me on Part II of our tour.