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The Vannecks of Heveningham, like the Gooch family of Benacre, are an excellent illustration of the relative ease with which middle class families joined, in a comparatively short space of time, the ranks of a supposedly exclusive and aristocratic rural ruling class. Gaining wealth in business, and/or marrying well, became a common social route to access wealth and privilage in the 18th century and is also exemplified by the rise of the Vannecks of Heveningham. They first appear in British history in the person of Gerard Vanneck an Anglo-Dutch merchant with a property named Brockholds in Hertfordshire. As a participant in a somewhat tortuous legal process, Gerard managed to exchange this estate for land in Roehampton from where he was enobled Baronet Putney. For many centuries, Roehampton was just a small village, a medieval offshoot of Putney. The early 16th century saw the formation of Putney Park, a royal hunting preserve, and it is likely that the village was moved at that time to its present site on the edge of the common. In the 18th century it became a favoured residential suburb for wealthy Londoners following the opening of Putney Bridge in 1729. Four mansions of this period still survive today, all now occupied by various institutions.

Gerard Vanneck managed to secure a position in this desirable mass of real estate at the end of a protracted series of land deals which began when a Thomas Martyn by his will dated Oct. 22, 36 Car. II. bequeathed all his landed estates in Roehampton, in case his niece Lucy Cook died unmarried or without issue, for the purpose of building and endowing a school for the education and maintenance of 20 watermen's sons. He directed that this should be built upon a piece of ground belonging to himself, in the parish of Putney. The estates bequeathed under the will consisted of the manor of Bucksteep in Sussex, and lands there, valued, at the time of the testator's death, at £127. per annum; lands and tenements at Staplehurst in Kent, valued at £128 per annum; and lands and houses in Putney, valued at £100 per annum.

Thomas Martyn died Nov. 18, 1684. The year after his death his niece married Sir Samuel Gerrard, and died without issue in January 1686. A suit was instituted some time afterwards in the Court of Chancery relating to the charity proposed in Martyn’s will, which was continued for many years. It appears by the proceedings that eventually Lady Gerrard and her husband recovered the estates in Kent and Sussex and Martyn’s trustees were obliged to convey these estates to Sir Samuel Gerrard.

At the conclusion of the suit, there was a sum of money in hand belonging to the charity amounting to £600. and upwards, which had accrued from the rents of the premises at Putney. By an order of the Court of Chancery one of the houses near the water-side, called Copt-Hall, was let upon a building lease to Robert Eyre, Esq. who erected upon its site a large house; the other house, was let upon a repairing lease to Peter Renew, merchant.

By the final decree of the court in 1715, it was directed that the Putney estate belonging to the charity should be vested in eleven trustees elected from the parish church vestry. The sum of money above-mentioned was ordered to be expended in building a school-house, and certain regulations made, corresponding with the diminished income of the charity, which was then only £70. per annum. Sometime in the 1760s, it was these premises at Putney that were advantageously exchanged with Gerrard Vanneck for an estate called Brockholds, in Hertfordshire, then valued at £130 per annum.

Gerard Vanneck’s son, Joshua, carried on the family business as London merchants. He managed to enter politics as MP for Dunwich, and was created 1st Baronet Putney in 1751. To consolidate his political position in Suffolk he purchased the relatively small estate of Heveningham Hall in 1752 from the Bence family. In 1784, he began to wield local power over the agricultural community by purchasing the Manor of Heveningham from Thomas Coke, Earl of Leicester.

Table Vanneck Baronets, of Putney (title created 1751)

Sir Joshua Vanneck, 1st Baronet, of Putney (d. 1777)
Sir Gerard Vanneck, 2nd Baronet, of Putney (c. 1791)
Sir Joshua Vanneck, 3rd Baronet, of Putney (1816) (created Baron Huntingfield in 1796)

Joshua’s eldest son, Gerard, the second Baronet Putney, also represented Dunwich in Parliament. In 1778, the year after the death of his father, Gerard commissioned Sir Robert Taylor to rebuild Heveningham Hall around what was essentially a Queen Anne building on the estate . James Wyatt completed interiors by 1784 after dismissal of Taylor. Lionel Esher has called James Wyatt's Vaulted Hall "the most beautiful room in England". Wyatt's work at Heveningham is among his most significant. The length of the House, twenty-five bays, far surpasses the ordinary and contributes to the ranking of Heveningham as one of the most important country houses in Britain. Gerard died in 1791 and was succeeded by his brother Joshua, third Baronet Putney, who was also elected to the Dunwich parliamentary seat. An view of the state of local politics at this time comes from the diaries of Goodwin of Earl Soham.

“June 11th 1790 The Parliament was this Day Dissolv'd and a new one commanded to meet the 10th of Aug'st next - A war with Spain being expected is one cause of the Dissolution
16th The Election for Suff'k is order'd by the Sherrif to begin at Ipswich on the 29th and no nomination day. Candidates Sr. Jno Rous and Sr. Ch. Bunbury in union, against Sr. W. Girod Vanneck - the present state of the Votes, given by the former is for
Bunbury 3283
Rous 2975
Vanneck 1095
The number of Voters is suppos'd to be about 5000”

In 1796 Joshua was made 1st Lord Huntingfield in the Peerage of Ireland. Heveningham Hall is on the border of Heveningham with Huntingfield but it is not clear why Huntingfield was chosen rather than Heveningham for siting the peerage.

There had been two previous creations of the title Baron Huntingfield. The first was in 1351 William de Huntingfield (http://www.answers.com/topic/1329%7C1329-1376) and the second, in 1362, was John de Huntingfield. Both titles had lapsed on their deaths with no male issue.

Barons Huntingfield, Third Creation (1796)

Joshua Vanneck, 1st Baron Huntingfield (1816)
Joshua Vanneck, 2nd Baron Huntingfield (1844)
Charles Andrew Vanneck, 3rd Baron Huntingfield (1897)
Joshua Charles Vanneck, 4th Baron Huntingfield (1915)
William Charles Arcedeckne Vanneck, 5th Baron Huntingfield (http://www.answers.com/topic/1883%7C1883-1969)
Gerald Charles Arcedeckne Vanneck, 6th Baron Huntingfield (1994)
Joshua Charles Vanneck, 7th Baron Huntingfield (b. 1954)

A significant addition to the family’s local standing in Suffolk came with the marriage of Sir Joshua Vanneck to Lucy Anne Blois. A son, Charles Andrew was born on 12 January 1818 in Leiston House and he was educated at Eton College. He succeeded to the titles of 3rd Baron Huntingfield of Heveningham Hall and 5th Baronet Vanneck, of Putney in 1844. He held the offices of Deputy Lieutenant of Suffolk and High Sheriff of Suffolk in 1848. A very significant increase in the family’s wealth came with the marriage of Charles Andrew to Louisa Arcedeckne, daughter and heiress of Andrew Arcedeckne and Harriet Beckford, on 6 July 1839 in St. George's Church, Hanover Square, London. The Arcedeckne (normally pronounced 'Archdeacon') family gained their considerable wealth from estates in Jamaica, which were worked by slaves and where the main crop was sugar. After his death on 21 September 1897 at age 79 in Heveningham Hall his will was probated, at £130,698. In other words he had become a multimillionaire in the currency of the day.

The Vanneck family owned Heveningham Hall until 1970, when it was turned over to the Department of the Environment (later English Heritage), in poor condition, in lieu of death duties. During the 1970s Heveningham was open to the public on one day each year and administered by The National Trust, though the Trust refused to take ownership of the House without a proper endowment. After no solution to public ownership was found, the House was closed to the public and the original furnishings (owned by English Heritage) were lent to Heaton Hall in Manchester. In 1981 Heveningham Hall and its parkland was sold to the Al Ghazzis an Iraqi family. Their plans included the completion of Capability Brown’s plans for landscaping the park following the report of Dame Sylvia Crowe and the ecological management of the woodlands to a plan made by Prof. Denis Bellamy of the University of Wales. There was also a scheme to create a golf course. Repair, restoration and conversion work on the house were under way when, in 1984, an extensive fire damaged the East Wing. This slowed down the entire project and restoration of this damage was incomplete in 1991 when the owner died.

There was considerable local and national concern about the commitment of the Ghazzis to their proposals, which came to a head when one of the Hall’s main fireplaces was stolen. The issue is highlighted in the following extract from the House of Commons papers for 1991.

Mr. Dalyell : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will now serve listed building repair notices on the owner of Heveningham hall.
Sir George Young [holding answer 13 May 1991] : No. I have been advised by the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission for England that the restoration work at Heveningham hall is being carried out to a satisfactory standard.

Mr. Dalyell : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what recent representations he has received about the sale and present condition of Heveningham hall ; and what response he has made.

Sir George Young [holding answer 13 May 1991] : Since March of this year, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment has received six letters regarding the sale and present condition of Heveningham hall. All six letters focus on his right of pre- emption in the event of the present owners wishing to sell Heveningham hall or part of it within 21 years from the date of the conveyance--November 1981. However, there is no reason to believe that the present owners will wish to sell the property in the foreseeable future. The owner's agents, Gulf Park Property management Ltd. have advised that the Al Ghazzi family intend to go on using the hall. This information has been passed on to the authors of the letters. In addition, two of the letters mention the poor condition of the gardens and car park and criticise the quality of interior furnishings. We have explained to the authors that these are subjective matters which do not affect the integrity of the property as a listed building. I understand that good progress is being made with the restoration of the building itself.

In 1994 the House and park were purchased by Mr. and Mrs. Jon Hunt for family use. Robert Adam Architects were employed for the renovation and alteration of the house, the design of new outbuildings and architectural elements in the park. In addition, the landscape architect Kim Wilkie was employed to restore and continue the design of the incomplete Capability Brown landscape, which involved construction of a second lake, restoring the meanders of the River Blyth and tree planting on a massive scale. The project involved the restoration of the state rooms, minor changes to the secondary rooms and conversion of the upper floors to provide modern family accommodation. The Hunts organise an annual charitable open day in the form of a country fair by which the public can obtain a closer view of the house, its park and grounds.