First built in 1643 and much altered by subsequent owners, Wimpole has developed into the largest country house in Cambridgeshire. Wimpole's owners employed noted architects of their day to make alterations to the Hall: Lord Harley, 2nd Earl of Oxford employed James Gibbs; the Earls of Hardwicke during their period of ownership from 1740- 1895 employed Henry Flitcroft, Sir John Soane and Henry Kendall. Evidence of the work of all of these architects can be seen today, but the most notable work is that of Soane. Examples include: the Bathhouse, Book Room and the striking Yellow Drawing Room.
Mrs. Elsie Bambridge, the last owner of Wimpole, who bequeathed her estate to the National Trust in 1976. Bought in 1938 Wimpole Hall was devoid of any furniture or paintings and Mrs Bambridge spent her life trying to return some of them. What you see today at Wimpole is a culmination of development of the earlier owners and the collection assembled by Captain George and Elsie Bambridge.
Wimpole provides almost a case-book history of English Gardening from 1690 to 1830. The contributions of successive generations were, broadly speaking, five main periods of activity.
From 1693 to about 1700 the 2nd Earl of Radnor created an elaborate formal garden, perhaps designed by the Royal London gardeners, London and Wise, to the north of Sir Thomas Chichley’s seventeenth century house.
This was greatly extended to the south by Charles Bridgeman, working for Lord Harley in the 1720s, with a system of great axial avenues and a series of canalised ponds, woods disposed with serpentine paths leading to ‘cabinets’, bastions and ha-has similar to those at Stowe.
The naturalisation of the Wimpole landscape was begun with the 1st Earl of Hardwicke who, between 1749 and 1754 employed Robert Greening to grass over the old beds on the north side of the house and it was he who designed the original Walled Garden to the North East of the house (since demolished.)
In 1767 Capability Brown was employed by the 2nd Earl of Hardwicke to further naturalise the landscape with belts of trees, turning the fishpond into serpentine lakes and built the Gothic Tower on Johnson’s Hill, which was designed years earlier by Sanderson Miller.
The last important changes to the landscape were made by Humphry Repton for the 3rd Earl of Hardwicke between 1801 and 1809, further naturalising the landscape.
Built over 200 years ago and first opened to the public in 1983, Wimpole Home Farm, is a working farm set amidst both thatched farm buildings and modern farmyards.
It is home to many rare breeds of sheep, cattle, pigs, poultry, horses and goats which are rarely seen on farms these days and is one of the Rare Breed Survival Trust's Approved Conservation Centres.
National Trust visitors to Home Farm can join in with a variety of farm activities, perhaps grooming the donkeys and ponies; collecting eggs; halter training; meet the bunny; even watch animal bath time in the summer and the milking demonstration, which is usually a daily event at Home Farm from May onwards.
Hidden amongst the trees, the Adventure Playground is a popular spot with those who love to climb, slide, scramble and swing, while tiny tots enjoy their own play area and mini pedal tractors.