One of the delights of the place being that one can arrive and leave by train from Gunton Station, built for Lord Suffield in 1876, and directly opposite the Suffield Arms.
Sometimes an unassuming building can be turned into an exciting and dramatic one without losing its original modest character. This is the case with the Suffield Arms a newly regenerated pub and restaurant on the edge of the Gunton Estate in North Norfolk. Its owner, Ivor Braka, has over the last 40 years restored many of the parkland buildings and the landscape itself, once one of the largest ornamental deer parks in Norfolk, but by 1984 wrecked by over farming, division and neglect. Now it is one of the best-preserved 18th/19th century parks in East Anglia.The downstairs bar. The sculpture by Darren Almond, Waiting for You, is in the form of a steam locomotive name plate. ©Hufton +Crow
The Gunton Estate built the Suffield Arms as an estate pub for workers in the 1886. It is situated next to Gunton station (still operative) on the Norwich to Cromer line. By 2016 it was semi-derelict and had lost most of its fixture and fitting – the original windows had been replaced and it looked neglected and forlorn in a slightly depressing landscape next to the railway bridge.
Having already created the Gunton Arms pub and Hotel from the old Steward’s House within the park, Ivor Braka has a track record for making neglected buildings within the park attractive, comfortable and quirky. With Ivor as mastermind, the architecture was by Whitworth Howell, in association with decorators Robert Kime, and Christopher Howe. The Suffield Arms is the latest estate building to get a remarkable new lease of life. The original square rather non-descript building has been discretely extended to create a large dining room and tapas bar in the form of 19th century glasshouses to the West and North. The main building has reverted to a traditional looking bar downstairs and a decadent looking plush fin de siècle Saloon bar upstairs. Everywhere diverse contemporary art adds thrilling interest.An aerial shot of the the Suffield Arms from the South with the giant chair just visible beyond. ©Hufton +Crow
What makes the ambience of the whole place so successful is the way the building has been integrated into the landscape with a new brick and flint walled garden set into a shallow declivity to the North. Overlooking this is the glasshouse restaurant and open tin roofed cartsheds for summer dining, and a roof terrace at the rear of the main block.An in-situ work has been painted by Caragh Thuring listing all the principal artists of the Norwich School and the 17th century Dutch landscape painters they admired. The curtains are Afghan horse blankets.©Hufton +Crow
On entering the building, the spectacular surprise is the diversity of the interiors – designed to suit every mood or time of day – something that most pubs and restaurants sadly lack. The downstairs bar has reclaimed fittings replacing the lost original interior detail. Above the fireplace is a sculpture by Darren Almond, Waiting for You, in the form of a steam locomotive name plate. The main tapas bar is designed as a nineteenth century glass house. Above the bar an in-situ work has been painted on the ceiling by Caragh Thuring listing all the principal artists of the Norwich School and the 17th century Dutch landscape painters they admired. The curtains are Afghan horse blankets.The upstairs Saloon bar with four Hogarth engravings. ©Hufton +Crow
The Suffield Arms from the South overlooks the North Norfolk farming landscape – the designed landscape with which it is associated is a mile or so to the West. In the distance you can catch a glimpse of the giant chair by Henry Brudenell-Bruce in the field beyond – a foretaste of the exciting art to be found in the pubs amazing re-imagined 19th century interiors. And of course one of the delights of the place being that one can arrive and leave by train from Gunton Station, built for Lord Suffield in 1876, and directly opposite the Suffield Arms.The new Glasshouse restaurant extension at the back of the Suffield Arms. ©George Carter