Melford Hall was originally a sixteenth century banqueting house for the Abbots of Bury St Edmunds. Later it was bought by William Cordell who had to provide accommodation for Elizabeth I and her huge household in 1578 during one of her progresses around England. Then in 1786 Melford Hall passed to the Hyde Parker family, who are commemorated at the house today. The Hyde Parkers were a naval family, and their house provides a fascinating insight into British naval history. Sir Hyde Parker the 5th Baronet was a vice admiral during the Seven Years War 1756 - 1763. In 1762 he was involved in the capture of a Spanish ship in the East Indies. At this time men were rewarded for navy service by taking a portion of the plunder from captured enemy ships. This system is illustrated at Melford Hall by a display of items allocated to Hyde Parker following his capture of the Spanish ship in 1762.
Hyde parker's second son, Sir Hyde Parker the 6th Baronet, served on his father's ships. He was involved in engagements during the American War of Independence, and reached the rank of vice-admiral by 1799. By 1801 he'd reached the rank of admiral, and was put in command of the Royal Navy's response to a military alliance between Russia and Denmark. In April of 1801 a large British fleet was sent into the Baltic to challenge Denmark. Hyde Parker was admiral of the fleet which attacked anchored ships and shore batteries at the Danish port of Copenhagen, with Horatio Nelson as his second in command. This was the battle where Nelson ignored Hyde Parker's command to withdraw, supposedly telling his flag captain: "You know Foley I only have one eye. I have the right to be blind sometimes." He is then supposed to have held his telescope up to his blind eye. When I visited Melford Hall, a guide was regaling her visitors with this story. Sadly according to Nelson's biographer Terry Coleman, this famous event did not happen. It is one of those myths that can attach themselves to famous figures.
The 6th Baronet's son in his turn served in the Royal Navy and rose to vice admiral in 1852. During the Crimean War he led an attack on the fortress of Sulina and was killed there in May 1854. His men created a memorial to him out of the rear section of a whaling boat. This can be seen at Melford Hall today.
Also of interest is a small display of items linked to Beatrix Potter. The author visited Melford Hall many times, and wrote much of The Tale Of Squirrel Nutkin here. Her cousin was Ethel Hyde Parker, grandmother of the present baronet, Sir Richard Hyde Parker.
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Address: Melford Hall, Long Melford, Sudbury, Suffolk CO10 9AA
Directions: Melford Hall is in Long Melford, Suffolk, off the A134. There is ample car parking. Click here for an interactive map centred on Melford Hall.
Access: Disabled drivers can park at the house. There is a ramp at the entrance. The ground floor is accessible, and a stair lift serves other floors. Adapted toilet facilities are available. The teashop has level access.
telephone: 01787 379228
infoline: 01787 376395