Ah, the Georgian era: lavish balls, elegant Palladian houses and swathes of silks, satins and brocades decorating the well-heeled and their homes. One can quite imagine such opulent scenes in Cambridgeshire’s Peckover House in the prosperous port town of Wisbech. The house is typically Georgian – perfectly symmetrical, red brick and sporting a partially Wisteria-clad exterior. Inside it is equally impressive – all rococo mouldings, elaborate plasterwork and mahogany.
Its previous inhabitants aren’t perhaps what you might expect of this fashionable house – this isn’t a tale of 18th-century soirées and social climbing. ‘The Peckovers – who occupied the house from 1790s to the 1940s – were an unusual family,’ says Ben Rickett, house and visitor services manager at the house. ‘They were a contradiction – Quakers who ran a bank and were wealthy. Yet despite their success they chose to spend their money on the town, helping fund the Wisbech & Fenland museum and donating to local schools and the hospital.’ In short, the Peckovers were more likely to be found reading in their extensive library than living the high life.
The rococo mirror frame above the fireplace in the Drawing Room is believed to date from the 1750s and was probably commissioned by Henry Southwell, whose family owned the house for 40 years from 1752. The blue walls replicate the scheme as it would have appeared in the second half of the 19th century. The mid 19th-century cabinet was added in 1948 and was brought in to match the design that would have been here during the Peckover’s time.
The staircase hall is little altered since it was designed in the 18th century. The carpet is a replica of the design that would have been here up until 1948 when most of the contents of the homes were sold.
The dining room was originally painted salmon pink. The panelling, chimney piece and scrubbed pine floor date from the 18th century.
‘Snob screens’ were added to the house after the Peckover’s turned one of the wings into a bank. These shutters were fitted to the windows of the Drawing Room, Dining Room and Library to keep the private rooms of the house separate.
The Palladian arched window and intricate covering and plasterwork make an impression on the upstairs landing of Peckover House.
The original sink and cupboards of the Butler’s Pantry in the basement. This is where the butler would have cleaned the silver and decanted the wine.
The property opens on 25th February 12pm-3.30pm (house), 11am-4pm (garden). North Brink, Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, PE13 1JR. 01945 583463; nationaltrust.org.uk/peckover-house-and-garden
The full feature on Peckover House by Katie Hallett appeared in the April 2017 issue of Homes & Antiques.
Images: National Trust Images/Andreas Von Einsiedel