As a new book focuses on one of Norfolk’s most magnificent mansions, we discover eight fascinating features of Raynham Hall

Great British Life: Raynham Hall (photo: Julius Beltrame)Raynham Hall (photo: Julius Beltrame) (Image: JULIUS G. BELTRAME juliusgb@hotmail)

1. The Townshend family have lived at Raynham, near Fakenham, for almost 1,000

2. The present Raynham Hall was built in 1622 and has been called one of the loveliest houses in the country. A century after it was completed designer William Kent transformed the interiors, at the same time as he was creating the lavish rooms at Kensington Palace in London and Houghton Hall, Norfolk.

3. Under the spectacular plasterwork ceilings, are fine paintings and furniture spanning centuries, collected by generations of one of the most important families in English history.

4. The King’s Bedroom is named for when King Charles II came to stay with his friend, Horatio Townshend, the first Viscount Townshend, at Raynham Hall in the 17th century.

Beyond is the room the king would have used as his private dining room and a set of chairs thought to have been made especially made for the royal visit.

Great British Life: ______ (Image: JULIUS G. BELTRAME juliusgb@hotmail)

5. The current owner is Charles Townshend, the eighth Marquess Townshend.

A previous Charles Townshend, who owned Raynham in the 18th century, became known as Turnip Townshend for his farsighted agricultural reforms, including the development of crop rotation systems still used worldwide.

He was also an ambassador, a secretary of state and the man who invented the term Prime Minister.

6. Could that slight chill in an upstairs corridor, that shimmer of shifting light on the staircase, those footsteps fading into silence, be the Brown Lady of Raynham?

Raynham Hall is home to one of the best documented ghost stories in Britain. For centuries there were unsettling suggestions of a shadowy figure in a brown dress drifting through the house.

It was said to be Dorothy Walpole, the second wife of Charles “Turnip” Townshend.

And then, in December 1936, the Brown Lady was revealed to the world, snapped on the hall’s magnificent oak staircase.

A photographer had been taking pictures at the hall when his assistant was astonished to glimpse an apparition gliding down the staircase. When the film was developed the men were astonished to see a ghostly figure on a single frame. There still hasn’t been a convincing explanation.

7. Discover more about the history of Raynham Hall at open days on June 20 and Sept 5. Tours include the Marble Hall, State Dining Room and King’s Room.

Raynham’s magnificent Marble Hall is the venue for a harpsichord recital by internationally renowned musician Mahan Esfahani, performing The Goldberg Variations on Saturday June 16 and Les Laurentines performing Les Trois Lecons des Tenebres by Couperin on Sunday June 17.

Open day and concert details and tickets from or 01328 862133.

8. Michael Ridgdill, the head of American Friends of British Art, has written a book about the history of the house and of the aristocratic Townshend family. It is a comprehensive survey of the Norfolk mansion and of a family whose political impact spread around the globe.

Raynham Hall, An English Country House Revealed, by Michael Ridgdill, with photography by Julius Beltrame and a foreword by John Julius Norwich, is published by ACC Art Books, for £30