Text and still images kindly provided by, and copyright of, Jane Mary Bennet Earle - many thanks
Rougham Hall is a Grade II listed building that’s hard to find. Hidden deep within the Suffolk countryside, it is arguably one of the most beautiful and most romantic ruins in England. There was an earlier Rougham Hall, a Jacobean Manor, which stood close to the site of the present building and was built circa 1688. It was owned by various people such as John Drury, the Burwells and Sir Robert Davers. Finally it was purchased in 1792 by Rev. Roger Kedington. By 1818, Rougham Hall had descended to Rev Kedington’s daughter, Jane Judith and her husband Philip Bennet (1771-1853). It is worth noting here that every first born Bennet son was called Philip until the death of the last Philip Bennet in 1913.
Philip and Jane Bennet decided it was time for a new Rougham Hall. They built the present building in a Tudor and Gothic style circa early 1820s. The architect is unknown but it is in the style of period Architects such as James Wyatt, Sir Jeffry Wyatville, Thomas Hopper and Robert Smirke. Co-incidentally, the old Hall burnt down not long after the new one was established.
Further renovations were undertaken by Philip and Jane’s son, Philip Bennet (1795-1866) and his wife Lady Anne Pilkington. They added a substantial wing which adjoined the rear of the house to the surviving stable block that has since been converted into accommodation. You can clearly see their mark today as their initials are carved into one of the bricks and dated 1824, two years after their marriage.
The next generation of Bennets carried out further home improvements with Philip Bennet (1827-1875) and his wife Barbara Disney installing a beautiful staircase (c.1700) which was purchased from nearby Finborough Hall in the early 1870s.
Within the grounds of Rougham Hall is possibly an ice-house, swimming pool and maze that have never been found. The pool may have been filled in or possibly just reclaimed by nature over time. Beloved pets were buried in the grounds with tiny headstones to remember their existence but now forgotten under vast foliage. The remains of an orangery can still be seen. Interestingly, Rougham Hall may have been the first house in the UK to have under floor heating.
During WWII, Rougham Hall was used as a base of operations by the Armed Forces, with Rougham Airfield nearby. The large safe can still be viewed within the building - possibly used to store confidential documents. The clock tower, whose hands remain static, remind us of the time that all hell broke loose. At 1:05 am in September 1940, a stray 2,000lb bomb from a Luftwaffe raid landed in the courtyard, destroying the foundations and causing large ruptures of the main building. Chaos unfolded as the roofs collapsed and chimneys fell. It is the only country house in Suffolk that was lost due to enemy action during WWII. A caretaker was one of few people in the building that night and all escaped unharmed.
We can assume Rougham Hall was hit due to its military involvement or its close proximity to Rougham airfield. There is another story however. Nearby was Rushbrooke Hall (yet another house now lost) which the Rothschild family had owned since 1938. The Rothschilds were allegedly involved in assisting Jews during WWII and it’s said that possibly the bomb that hit Rougham Hall was actually destined for Rushbrooke Hall. It was reported in German newspapers that Rushbrooke was destroyed during the raid. However Rushbrooke wasn’t touched and Rougham Hall took the bomb instead. I guess we’ll never know their true intention that night.
As one of England’s derelict buildings, its survival for the foreseeable future is uncertain. What is certain is that its unique beauty never ceases to fascinate photographers and videographers. Permission must be obtained from the Rougham Estate office to enter the grounds otherwise you will be trespassing. The best way to view this lost country house is by watching the incredible video below by im-AGE. As a direct descendant of those who built and once resided at Rougham Hall, I am in complete awe of the video they have captured.
Still Images: Jane Earle Photography
Words: Jane Mary Bennet Earle
Video: im-AGE https://youtu.be/VdBqCh4kn98