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Suffolk’s Ickworth House stays shut for now – but first National Trust houses open doors

PUBLISHED: 12:39 13 July 2020 | UPDATED: 12:39 13 July 2020

The scaffolding at Ickworth took three months to erect. Picture: PAUL GEATER

The scaffolding at Ickworth took three months to erect. Picture: PAUL GEATER

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The National Trust is starting to reopen some of its properties to the public – but at present there is no reopening date for any houses or museums in Suffolk.

The work has created unique conditions in which to show Ickworth's treasures, such as Flaxman's The Fury of Athamas sculpture. Picture: JIM WOOLFThe work has created unique conditions in which to show Ickworth's treasures, such as Flaxman's The Fury of Athamas sculpture. Picture: JIM WOOLF

The Trust did open some of its parks and countryside last month – people can now walk around Sutton Hoo estate, Ickworth Park or Dunwich Heath – but houses, exhibition halls, visitor centres, shops and most cafes have remained closed.

It is now re-opening seven properties across Britain in a trial to see how possible it is to safely run them with social distancing. The only one to reopen in East Anglia is Oxburgh Hall in west Norfolk – but if the reopening is successful more could follow over the next few weeks.

MORE: National Trust starts to reopen parkland

The closure has meant that visitors have been unable to see a special exhibition that was set up in Ickworth House near Bury St Edmunds to take advantage of the dark conditions there while it is covered in scaffolding for major restoration work.

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A £5m restoration of the roof of the historic house started at the end of last year and was due to be completed by the summer – however the lockdown has delayed the work and it is still continuing.

Because the Oculus at the top of the rotunda has been covered during the work, light cannot get into the house and artificial light was brought in to showcase some of its features in an exhibition called “Ickworth Uncovered.”

MORE: Ickworth restoration moves ahead as scaffolding goes up

Soon after it opened, the country went into lockdown and a spokeswoman for the Trust said staff were looking forward to the time when they could reopen to show off the exhibition.

But she said visitors who were coming to walk in the park and gardens were very impressed by the scaffolding around the house: “It’s almost a work of art in itself. It took about three months to put up and covers the rodunda and part of the wings. As a temporary feature, it is attracting a great deal of interest.”

Work is continuing – some continued at the height of the lockdown because of the dangers to the fabric of such an important property – but with social distancing it is taking longer than originally planned.

Although the house and main shop and restaurant are closed, there is a kiosk selling drinks and snacks and the plant centre and car park toilets are open – but as with all National Trust properties visitors do have to book in advance to ensure there is room for social distancing.


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