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Behind the Scenes – Holkham Hall

Katherine Hardwick is the Collections Coordinator at Holkham Hall. An architectural historian by, Katherine’s remit is very broad and no two days are the same – sometimes researching an object or a character from Holkham’s past, sometimes rummaging around in the attic, sometimes leading a tour for visitors.

She tells us about what makes Holkham Estate so special, and what else she loves about North Norfolk.


Holkham Hall in North Norfolk

Holkham is one of the best-preserved 18th century houses in the country – it has had only minimal alterations since it was completed in 1764. The majority of the collection was acquired by a single man, Thomas Coke (confusingly pronounced Cook!) and the house is partly designed around some of those objects. The Statue Gallery, for example, which houses our collection of antique Roman statues, was specifically designed to display these particular pieces – some of the plinths are even designed to turn, so the statues can be admired from all angles, though I’ve never been brave enough to try turning them myself! We’re also lucky enough to own a fantastic collection of paintings, including by famous artists such as Van Dyck, Rubens and Gainsborough.


The Saloon Fireplace at Holkham Hall

I’m always excited when the visitor season officially begins each year. Welcoming visitors and delivering tours is one of my favourite parts of the job; thinking about how best to explain Holkham’s history to visitors, often helps me deepen my own understanding of the house and its history. I always get asked some excellent questions as well, sometimes about things have never considered. Last year, someone was interested in the fireplaces throughout the house, how they are all constructed using different types of marble. It wasn’t something I had noticed before – cue a rabbit hole of research.

I spend the majority of my working time in the house itself, but when I get the chance I really enjoy exploring the wider Holkham estate, particularly the beach. One of my favourite things to do is to run through the sand dunes early before work. It’s the best way to start the day.


The Beach at Holkham

Although I’m biased towards Holkham, North Norfolk is especially blessed with beautiful beaches, and as a non-Norfolk native I’ve really enjoyed exploring them all. As you might expect for someone who works in a historic house, I also enjoy visiting other houses in the region to see what they have on offer; the display of modern sculpture at Houghton Hall is always a highlight, and I’m always excited to see their latest exhibition.


Anthony Gormley sculptures will be installed at Houghton Hall this summer

Having moved to Norfolk six years ago, it’s been really great to get to know the county. We’re incredibly lucky to live somewhere with a great cultural scene, fantastic food, and beautiful landscapes.