Inside the splendidly restored 18th-century Wolterton Hall in Norfolk

Serial renovators of historic houses on a grand scale, the dynamic design duo Peter Sheppard and Keith Day took on their greatest challenge yet with exquisite 18th-century Wolterton Hall in north Norfolk, which had lain uninhabited for almost 30 years
Inside the splendidly restored 18thcentury Wolterton Hall in Norfolk
Christopher Horwood

It has become a house that reflects the lives of the current inhabitants as much as it pays homage to those who came before. And this can be seen in some of its most appealing spaces – where Peter and Keith spend most of their time. They have been collecting furniture and art, objets and oddities for decades and finally seem to have the space to accommodate it all. Their bedrooms, which are at the top of the less grand of the two staircases, are characterful and far more personal than the more formal rooms below. Even their bathrooms – Keith’s is a large, panelled wetroom with a chandelier; Peter’s is furnished with rugs and hung with pictures – are truly handsome, individual spaces.

Life here is largely lived on the ground floor overlooking the north lawn. At the centre of this is the library, where a newly hung chocolatey damask wallcovering complements the dark mahogany bookshelves, which still bear the books amassed by the Walpoles alongside Peter and Keith’s own collection. Peter refers to it as ‘our everyday room for everything’. Today, this space is also an informal dining area, with a screened-off snug for watching television, a wing-chaired area for two by the fire, a writing desk and another couple of spots to perch to eat breakfast or read a book. Doors on one side lead to a fabulously large kitchen and, on the other, to Peter and Keith’s adjoining study-cum-studios.

Recently, the couple decided to rent out the house a handful of times a year. This was not part of their original plan, but the additional income will come in handy as they attempt to realise their endless ambitions for Wolterton. They have just finished restoring the clock tower – a moment commemorated with a topping-out ceremony attended by the local MP last summer.

And this points to another aspect of Peter and Keith’s achievement. They are, in a sense, restoring this great house’s place within the local community. ‘We deliberately set out to reinstate Wolterton as part of the social establishment of Norfolk,’ Peter explains. They have opened the house up as much as possible for exhibitions, classical concerts and charity events. Peter has become a trustee of The Norfolk Churches Trust – ‘a huge engine for social interaction in the area’ – and they hosted a reception at Wolterton for the new Bishop of Norwich.‘People were interested in what we have done – not because of who we are, but because we had taken on a house they were concerned about,’ explains Keith. ‘There has been a huge amount of goodwill and one gets the sense that what we’ve done has paid off.’

Wolterton Park: