Burton Agnes Hall is a fine early-17th century house, set on the southern edge of the Yorkshire Wolds overlooking the flat landscape of Holderness.
The house was begun by Sir Henry Griffith, whose ancestors acquired the estate by marriage in 1355. The family's original brick-built medieval manor house, with its late-12th century vaulted undercroft, still survives to the west of Burton Agnes Hall and is maintained by English Heritage.
The ground-plan of Burton Agnes Hall was probably designed by Robert Smythson, the reknowned master-mason, and the work was completed in 1610.
When Griffith's son died childless in 1654 the estate passed to his daughter, who married Sir Matthew Boynton. Sir Griffith Boynton, their grandson, made improvements to Burton Agnes Hall, which then became the family's principal residence. In 1947 the property was inherited by Marcus Wickham-Boynton who carried out an extensive restoration of the house. He also introduced a superb collection of furniture, porcelain and late-19th and 20th century paintings and sculptures. These enhanced the treasures already accumulated by the family over the centuries.
Marcus Wickham-Boynton died in 1989 and the property is now owned by the Burton Agnes Hall Preservation Trust.
The house is approached through a detached brick gatehouse with corner turrets and from here a gravel path leads to the impressive south elevation. This long and symmetrical three-storey red-brick block has gabled bow-windowed projections at either end. Less pronounced projections, surmounted by strapwork carvings, are found on either side of the Hall at the centre. Although some of the mullioned and transomed windows were replaced by sash windows in the early-18th century the elevations have seen very little change.
The rooms are grouped around a small courtyard and many of the interiors retain their Jacobean fittings.
The Hall, which is approached through the screens passage, has some fine examples. The magnificent screen has two wooden arches topped by a frieze showing representations of the Twelve Tribes of Israel. Above this are three teirs of plaster figures which reach up to the flat 18th century ceiling. The ornately carved alabaster overmantel depicts the Wise and Foolish Virgins and the Five Senses.
On the arch leading out of the Hall to the east are the figures of Apollo and Diana. Beyond the former high table is a vestibule containing a portrait of Sir Henry Griffith's three daughters by Gheeraerts and a bust entitled 'Sunita' by Sir Jacob Epstein, dated 1930.
The Drawing Room, the former parlour, has retained its early-17th century panelling. Over the fireplace is a Mannerist carving of the Dance of Death, flanked by figures representing Quiet and Liberty.
The other rooms on the ground floor were remodelled in the 18th century and rearranged again in more recent times.
The 18th century lacquer panels on the walls of the Chinese Room were originally screens. The Dining Room, at the north-east corner of the house, has a fine collection of 18th century English paintings. These include a set of four landscapes of the Boynton family's estates by William Marlow, dated 1762 - 65a and a landscape by Gainsborough. The adjoining vestibule contains late-19th century and early-20th century paintings including 'Sheepshanks House, Bath' by Sickert.
A wooden staircase, with carved newel posts joined together by arches, leads to the upstairs reception rooms.
The Upper Drawing Room, which was the former great chamber, was remodelled in the early-18th century with plain bolection- moulded panelling. The room now has some good 18th century furniture and a wonderful collection of paintings including works by Utrillo, Boudin, Renoir and Gauguin.
The two state bedrooms to the south have retained their Jacobean panelling and plasterwork ceilings. The Queen's Room has an ornate ceiling and a chimneypiece with allegorical figures, dated 1610. The early-18th century state beds with their original hangings were brought here from other houses. A dressing room, known as the Justice's Room, separates the two state bedrooms. The early-16th century linenfold panelling in this room came originally from Leconfield Castle, near Beverley.
The finest room in the house is the Gallery, which occupies the whole of the top floor on the south front. In the early-19th century this room was divided into bedrooms but was restored to its present form by Francis Johnson of York in 1974. The Jacobean plastered barrel ceiling was recreated using surviving fragments from the house and fittings from Methley Castle and Kilnwick Hall, two ancient Yorkshire houses that have now disappeared. The two Venetian windows lighting the Gallery at either end were added in the 18th century. This room now houses a splendid collection of Chinese porcelain and many outstanding paintings include canvases by Vlaminck, Corot, Manet and Matisse and water-colours by Edward Lear.
The two smaller rooms to the south contain works by Duncan Grant and 20th century realist painters.
The house is surrounded by lawns and topiary yew.
The old walled garden contains a potager, campanula collection and jungle garden. There are also colour gardens incoporating giant game boards, a maze and a children's corner.