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Photoshoot Diary: The Bylaugh Story

Photoshoot Diary: The Bylaugh Story

We feel very privileged to have been able to work in some incredible locations for our photoshoots and this season’s Mulaayam shoot was no exception. For four days we were kindly hosted by Ben and Helen Budworth, Publisher and Managing Director of The Lady and new owners of Bylaugh Hall.
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Birdie Fortescue Journal | The Bylaugh Story
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Bylaugh is an intriguing house with a tumultuous history that has seen it stripped of its assets, requisitioned, ruined and partially restored before finally falling into sympathetic hands in recent years. The house was built to fulfil the much contested instructions of a family will to a design that, although innovative, was not in the style originally prescribed. The house that was eventually built by Charles Barry Jr and Robert Richardson Banks bore a striking resemblance to Barry Sr’s Highclere Castle (of Downton Abbey fame) and was surrounded by expansive woods and parkland overlooking the Wensum Valley.
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Birdie Fortescue Journal | The Bylaugh Story
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In its heyday Bylaugh was one of the largest estates in Norfolk but by the advent of the First World War its future was becoming uncertain. In the years following the end of the war the estate was auctioned off, with the house occupied by various families before being requisitioned as the headquarters of the 100 Bomber Support Group. It was at Bylaugh that the first Allied Bombing Raid was planned and the first mission which took off from nearby Swanton Morley on 29th June 1942 was attended by both Winston Churchill and the President of the United States of America, Dwight D. Eisenhower.
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Birdie Fortescue Journal | The Byalugh Story
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The period following the Second World War saw the end of a great many houses across the country as social and economic structures shifted. In 1950 a demolition sale was held at Bylaugh after which the building was de-roofed and stripped of its remaining contents and architectural features. For the next forty years the house gradually fell into an increasing state of ruination and by 1990 it was nothing more than a gutted, windowless shell. In 1990 Bylaugh was sold again and partially restored but the project remained largely unfinished.
Ben and Helen Budworth’s acquisition of Bylaugh represents one of the most exciting chapters in the building’s history. With a thorough program of sympathetic work already underway, the house has now become home to the specialist recruitment division of The Lady. Future plans will see the house developed into a centre of excellence for the training and accreditation of staff, an extension to The Lady brand, along with sumptuously appointed holiday accommodation.
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Birdie Fortescue Journal | The Bylaugh Story
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The charm of the house at this point in its life cycle is that it is a palimpsest of remarkable clarity. As work continues to sympathetically restore and mend, every layer of the building’s history is clear to see. From the supporting steel framework jutting out of the ruined block to the exposed brick structure of the internal arches and the layers of original paint visible under successive finishes. The beauty of the building today lies in its scarred imperfections.
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Birdie Fortescue Journal | The Bylaugh Story
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Birdie Fortescue Journal | The Bylaugh Story
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To be able to shoot in such an extraordinary building was an absolute privilege and we are so thankful to Ben and Helen for their kindness.
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We look forward to observing a much happier chapter in Bylaugh’s history.
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Birdie Fortescue Journal | The Bylaugh Story
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