Why visit Holkham Hall this year?

  • 20 Mar 2018
  • Article

This year, Holkham Hall in Norfolk, one of England’s greatest stately homes, will be celebrating the 300th anniversary since Thomas Coke, 1st Earl of Leicester, returned from his Grand Tour of Europe.

A new exhibition, ‘Treasures and Trophies: The Making of a Gentleman and a Great House’, shows how Thomas was inspired by his six-year journey to build Holkham Hall. Appealing to lovers of culture, history and families alike, ‘Treasures and Trophies’ will offer a great day out for all generations.

In addition, visitors to Holkham will have the opportunity to uncover renowned, landscape gardener Humphry Repton’s work in Holkham park with 2018 marking the 200th anniversary of Repton’s death. Frequently referred to as one of the best-loved luminaries of English garden history, Holkham’s celebration of Repton will offer a detailed insight into his important work at Holkham.


Over the course of six years, Thomas Coke undertook one of the longest and most influential Grand Tours of the 18th century. Whilst exploring the magnificent state rooms, visitors will have the chance to uncover the stories behind the arduous route of Thomas’s journey to Europe, how his travels turned an impressionable adolescent into a true virtuoso and architect in the making and the epic collection of paintings, statues, drawings, rare books and manuscripts that he amassed and which today attract a worldwide audience.

The exhibition also unveils the influential characters Thomas Coke met, such as William Kent, who became famous as an eminent landscape architect and furniture designer. The two became lifelong friends and it was William Kent who helped Thomas shape his vision to form a ‘temple of the arts’ and eventually complete a Palladian-style mansion on the north Norfolk coast. 

To bring the story and history to life, the exhibition team at Holkham has ensured that there will be plenty of opportunity for interaction. Adults and children can walk in the shoes of Thomas Coke, dressing up in costume, create a mini Palladian building from blocks, witness the food he ate and discover a replica studio of the Italian painter, Francesco Trevisani, where Thomas Coke, aged 20, sat for his portrait which now hangs in the Manuscript Library of the hall.


2018 marks the 200th anniversary of renowned landscape gardener Humphry Repton’s death. Repton is buried at the nearby Norfolk town of Aylsham. His life and work is being celebrated with a special programme of over 40 events across Norfolk this year. Repton, who is known for his influential landscape designs at Longleat House, Woburn Abbey, Kenwood House and Kensington Gardens, wanted to follow in the illustrious footsteps of Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown who had transformed so many great parks in the 18th century.

He produced his first iconic ‘Red Book’ for Holkham park in 1789, when Thomas William Coke commissioned him to reimagine the pleasure grounds around the lake. Humphry Repton viewed his commissions like an artist might and the Red Books he created set out his ideas and recommendations, often showing ‘before’ and ‘after’ views.

Over the course of his lifetime he produced many such books which were often bound in red leather. Repton used his Red Book of Holkham to detail his plans, hints and sketches for creating walks, a rope ferry to cross the lake and a boat house, as well as several other ideas. Visitors will now be able to trace back the landscape seen today to its natural origins.


Return to listing