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History Elveden Estate

Mission Statement

Elveden aims to be a world-class producer and purveyor of local and regional food excellence. Our reputation for wildlife conservation, in harmony with our farming practices, make Elveden an obvious choice for food with a unique story.

Maharajah Duleep Singh

Maharajah Duleep Singh was the last Maharajah of the Sikh Empire.  He was exiled to England in 1849 , having been removed from his kingdom by the British East India Company.

The Maharajah purchased Elveden Estate in 1863 with the vision of rebuilding the country house and dressing it in an Italian Style, with the insides redesigned to resemble the fine Mughal palaces that he had previously been accustomed too.

Elveden Hall and Estate played host to a wide range of sporting activities but none rivalled the Maharajah’s passion for shooting. His shooting parties were popular amongst aristocracy including Prince George, Duke of Cambridge and Queen Victoria.  During his time at Elveden, he was proclaimed the fourth best shot in England.

After seasons of poor farming in the 1870s, a downturn in the Maharajah’s personal fortunes and political tensions in government, the Maharajah left Elveden and England in 1886. After his death in 1893, his executors sold Elveden Hall in 1894 to Edward Cecil Guinness.

The Guinness Family

Edward Cecil Guinness was an Irish philanthropist and businessman with a keen interest in field sports.  In 1919 he was created Earl of Iveagh and Viscount of Elveden.

At this time, the farmland on the estate was approximately 7,000 acres.  The land was cultivated under a four-course rotation of corn, roots, corn, clover, and large flocks of sheep were kept to tread and manure it.

Although some good crops of barley were grown on the more fertile parcels of land, light yields were the usual order with wheat selling at £7 a tonne the farming could not have expected to pay and was carried on primarily to provide cover and feeding for the game. High farming, however unprofitable, is necessary for good sport. (Birds would go else where!)

1900, annual loss was averaged at £3,500.

A large acreage was always down to such crops as buckwheat and kidney vetch, which provided feed or cover for the game and had no other purpose.

It was then Rupert Guinness 2nd Earl of Iveagh who transformed the lands for agricultural use in 1927.

Milk Production

Lord Iveagh’s first venture in farming was dairying, and he was already producing Guernsey milk at his farm at Pyrford in Surrey before he inherited Elveden.

The sale of milk has always been the largest source of the Elveden farms’ revenue. Lord Iveagh was extremely involved in the record keeping of cow’s individual performance and kept record of progeny testing of bulls.

During the period between 1953-1963, the milking cow herd increased by other 50 percent, from 470 to 715. Average butterfat content was registered at a similar growth rate, improving from 3.42 percent to 3.5 percent for shorthorns, and from 4.45 percent to 4.60 percent for Guernsey’s.

Self feed silage systems were used. An entry in the weekly Farms’ Report for the 25th  February 1957 which observes that “self feed silage saves the work of two men and a tractor for four hours a day”.

One clamp of 600 tonnes capacity, made in the spring or summer from 120 acres of lucerne leys, provides enough bulk feed throughout the winter for one hundred Shorthorn cows, without any further human intervention.


Pigs first arrived at Elveden from 1952, when Lord Elveden purchased six pedigree Essex in-pig gilts and installed them at the Dell, behind the Elveden Hall.


Sheep are the oldest inhabitants of the Elveden Estate and were to be seen roaming the “Brecks” and heathland long before Lord Iveagh started to reclaim the wilderness and populate it with dairy cows, beef cattle and pigs. Most of the breeding ewes are Suffolk cross, i.e. out of the border Leicester x cheviot ewes by a Suffolk ram. They are usually mated to a Dorset ram for fat lamb production. More recently Kerry hill ewes have been introduced and their ewes’ lambs by a Suffolk ram are kept for flock replacement. There were up until 1963, two flocks totalling 1,500 breeding ewes.

Arable Crops

In 1953 the crops grown included wheat, barley, rye, oats, sugar beet, potatoes, carrots, mangolds, rape, kale, lucerne, clover and sainfoin. Potatoes and carrots were abandoned in 1958 and 1959 respectively, and 1959 also saw the last crop of oats, after this cereal had proved unprofitable. In 1963 the acreage of wheat was greatly reduced and it has now been decided to grow no more on the fenland, while increasing the acreage of barley.

Mechanical harvesting of sugar beet was introduced during 1952 and various machines were tested over this period. During this time, the grain harvest was handled by 16 Claas Combines, eight of them self-propelled and eight tractors drawn.

Christmas Trees

During the mid 1970’s a small Christmas tree retail outlet was developed in Elveden Village. By 1991 there were in excess of 40,000 trees being sold annually and 1000 trees being sold just to the wholesale trade market. The two primary species grown are the Norway Spruce and Scots Pine. Elveden also supplies display trees nationwide for towns and city centres with trees up to 20metres. Many notable venues have an Elveden Christmas Tree as its centre piece including Sandringham House, St Paul’s Cathedral and more locally Ely Cathedral.

War Memorial

Elveden war memorial, next to the busy A11, is a major land mark for holiday makers to let them know they are in Suffolk. Commissioned by the Earl of Iveagh to commemorate the 48 men from Elveden, Icklingham and Eriswell who died in the First World War. It is situated at the point where the three parishes meet. It stands 113 feet high with a staircase inside with 148 steps and is the tallest war memorial in Suffolk and one of the tallest such memorials in Great Britain.

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