The Two-Halves Staircase


So half of it was from 1620s, and the other half was from 1767.

The owners of Blickling Hall in Norfolk liked their staircase. It had character. It had characters, to be precise; figures which stood proudly on each stair post, swords and pikes in hand, intricately carved, quaintly dressed.

But it was a bit to small for the new entrance hall.

So, after some thought, they commissioned another half of the staircase; same dark wood, same slight style, just 150-odd years younger.

The guide told me gleefully that you can easily tell the difference between the old stairs and the new; the old figures held blades, the newer, muskets.

It is a gloriously cobbled-together fantasia, made from what has been described as a ‘heady mix’ of woods. And since 1940, when it was bequeathed to the National Trust, visitors had been forbidden to walk it.

A £65,000 refurbishment changed all that, unceremoniously evacuating the resident death-watch beetles, and making firm what was wobbly.

These days, you can walk all the way up. And it is heart-stoppingly amazing; as if The Doctor himself had stepped out of his Tardis for just a moment to pause time , on one staircase, in all this time-drenched land.

The figures have something almost animated about them. They are larger-than-life.  It is like watching small wood-fashioned ghosts  standing sentry, bringing a pocket of their own time to a staircase stranded in the 21st century.

Standing on the staircase, which does not know whether it is 1620s or 1760s, in 2013, I felt, for the first time in my life, temporally confused.

Odd sensation.


25 thoughts on “The Two-Halves Staircase

  1. What a beautiful hall. The stained glass window, the paintings, the ceiling, the staircase with the lovely statues. I wonder who the carving artist was. Would you call someone who carves in wood a sculptor?

    1. Very good question, Tandy. Someone wanted to send a message about the old and the new, it seems. The musket figures are amazing up close – I’m quite glad they went for 18th century figures.

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