Burghley was built for Sir William Cecil, later 1st Baron Burghley, who was Lord High Treasurer to Queen Elizabeth I, between 1558 and 1587 and modelled on the privy lodgings of Richmond Palace. It was subsequently the residence of his descendants, the earls and, since 1801, marquesses of Exeter. Since 1961 it has been owned by a charitable trust established by the family. Lady Victoria Leatham, antiques expert and television personality, followed her father, Olympic gold-medal winning hurdler and runner, IAAF President and MP David Cecil, the 6th Marquess by running the house from 1982 to 2007. The Olympic corridor commemorates her father.
The house is one of the main examples of stonemasonry and proportion in sixteenth-century English Elizabethan architecture, reflecting the prominence of its founder and the lucrative wool trade of the Cecil estates. It has a suite of rooms remodelled in the baroque style, with carvings by Grinling Gibbons. The main part of the house has 35 major rooms on the ground and first floors. There are more than 80 lesser rooms and numerous halls, corridors, bathrooms and service areas. In the seventeenth century, the open loggias around the ground floor were enclosed. Although the house was built in the floor plan shape of the letter E in honour of Queen Elizabeth, it is now missing its north-west wing. During the period of the 9th earl's ownership, and under the guidance of Capability Brown, the south front was raised to alter the roof line, and the north-west wing was demolished to allow better views of the new parkland. The so called "Hell Staircase" has substantial ceiling paintings by Antonio Verrio from 1697 and walls by Thomas Stothard who completed the work about a century later.
The avenues in the park were all laid out by Capability Brown, paying due respect to pre-existing plantings, some of which were from the 16th century or earlier. Brown also created the park's man-made lake in 1775–80. He discovered a seam of waterproof "blue" clay in the grounds, and was able to enlarge the original 9-acre (36,000 m²) pond to the existing 26-acre lake. Its clever design gives the impression of a meandering river. Brown also designed the Lion Bridge at a cost of 1,000 guineas in 1778. Originally, Coade-stone lions were used as ornamentation. After these weathered, the existing stone examples were made by local mason Herbert Gilbert in 1844. Queen Victoria and her husband Prince Albert also planted two trees to commemorate their visit.
As well as the annual Burghley Horse Trials, the park plays host to the "Burghley Run" for Stamford School and an annual meet for the Cambridge University Draghounds. Recent developments have included starting a sculpture garden around the old ice house and, in 2007, a "garden of surprises" was created using traditional ideas of water traps, shell grottos and a mirror maze, but in a 21st-century style. The medieval settlement of Burghley, mentioned in Domesday, was abandoned by 1450. Failure to locate its site leads to the supposition that it lay below Burghley House. Disabled parking is available close to the house entrance and there are disabled toilet facilities. All of the state rooms and the Orangery restaurant are on the first floor and are accessible via two chair lifts. These lifts do not take a wheelchair and you will need to transfer onto and off the lift.They also have movable ramps for use in other areas of the property. Assistance dogs are welcome.
Location : Peterborough, Stamford, Lincolnshire PE9 3JY
Transport: Stamford (National Rail) 1 mile. Bus Routes : Delaine 201 and 202 stop here.
Opening Times : Daily 11:00 to 17:00
Tickets : Adults £14.00; Senior £12.50; Children (3 - 15) £7.00
Tel: 01780 752451