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Drinkstone Park Mansion

Drinkstone ParkThe Ambers, Drinkstone Park Bed and Breakfast was built in the grounds of Drinkstone Park a mansion demolished in 1951.

There is no evidence that it was built on the site of any earlier house, but it is likely that its parkland predates the building of the house and was possibly the area of a medieval deer park. The house and its park stood in an estate comprising Links Farm and other lands in the parishes of Drinkstone and Hessett, which the second Joshua Grigby assembled in the middle of the eighteenth century.

Joshua Grigby II, whose father, son and grandson all bore the same name, came from a family of some means but he greatly augmented his inheritance in the course of his career as a lawyer.

On Joshua Grigby’s death in 1771 the estate passed to his son Joshua Grigby III, a barrister and member of Parliament and then in 1798 to his grandson Joshua Grigby IV a local magistrate, a deputy lieutenant of Suffolk and in 1810 High Sheriff of the County. After his death in 1829 without children the house was lived in by his second wife Anna until her death in 1853, but the estate had been left to John Harcourt Powell, the son of Grigby’s niece, Lucy.

For much of the second half of the nineteenth century Thomas Hardcourt Powell [presumably Johns eldest son] lived at Drinkstone Park, where he created a very fine garden with specialised hot houses, greenhouses and a fernery and planted many specimen trees in the park. Thomas Hardcourt Powell died in 1892 and the house ceased to be occupied by members of the family who built it.

Drinkstone Park mansion was built in 1760, being described in the Suffolk Traveller in 1764 as ‘new erected’ It was a plain, unadorned building of white brick, probably from nearby Woolpit, with stone quoins and a hipped slate roof. It was of five bays on the entrance front and five bays on the sides of the main block, which had three storeys. At the rear there was a two-storey wing with a bay extending to both floors, which is likely to have been a later addition. A porch was also added in the nineteenth century.

It seems that during the nine years following after Thomas Harcourt Powells death the house was let to tenants including the Hodgson Roberts family and John Reginald Hargreaves, who was to buy the property in 1901. It remained in his family until after World War II, although they do not appear to have lived in it after his death in 1934 when the house was inherited by his son, John Carne Hargreaves, an Army officer.

During the war the house was requisitioned by the War Department and was first used as a Divisional Headquarters and later occupied by United States troops. Occupation by the forces resulted in considerable damage. After the war Hargreaves did not return to the house and in 1949 sold all his property in Drinkstone.

The purchaser in 1949 was a speculative buyer, John Wilfred Russell of Crowbridge, and in January 1951 the house’s fixtures and fittings were sold in 150 lots, including oak panelling, sixty sash windows and sixty panelled and glazed doors, chimney pieces, roof and floor joists, slates and roofing lead. The shell of the house was reported to have been sold to Mr O H Churston of Eye, who said at the time that he had no specific plans for what remained of the property. However, shortly afterwards the house was demolished.

The stable block was converted into two dwellings, the gardeners cottage survived, A new house was built in the old walled gardens [Little Court] and a bungalow was built in the grounds, now known as The Ambers; Drinkstone Park Bed and Breakfast. When we came here the turning circle was still here. This can be seen in an Ariel photo in our dining room. The Ha Ha runs along part of our boundary giving us the fantastic views that were enjoyed by the occupants of the mansion.

The Tomb of Joshua Grigby IV

Joshua Grigby IV the last of the Joshua Grigbys died in 1829. Being a Unitarian, he did not wish to be buried [with the rest of his family] in all Saints church Drinkstone. He therefore had a corner under the Mulberry tree in the walled garden, hallowed for his resting place.

His elaborate raised tomb can be seen in the garden of Little Court today under a gnarled ancient Mulberry, to the left of the house. There is also a plaque behind the tomb. [See photo]

It is said he was buried standing up to keep an eye on the gardeners. At some later date, superstitious gardeners refused to work in the walled gardens within the sight of the tomb, so the corner was enclosed in walling.

Drinkstone Park painted in 1747 by Thomas Gainsborough.

Thomas Gainsborough’s Connection with Drinkstone Park

Gainsborough painted a landscape titled Drinkstone Park in 1747 [before the mansion was built] This painting had been retained by the Harcourt Powell family and was sold in 1935 by ‘T H Powells estate’; subsequently sold again to Sao Paulo Museum Brazil in 1951.

Thomas Gainsborough later painted a portrait of Joshua Grigby II now in a museum in Berlin.

Portrait of Joshua Grigby  II  By Thomas Gainsborough