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The Present Past: Kingston Lacy

Please note this post is full of images. Kingston Lacy was built by Ralph Banks, beginning in 1663, and remained in the family until 1981 when it was given to The National Trust. It started out as a red brick hall and was remodelled in the 1800s. It houses many Egyptian artefacts, the result of the travels of the re-modeller.

Kingston Lacy is one of, if not the best, historic house I have ever visited. In relative terms it is small – it’s a massive mansion but mini when compared to the likes of Highclere Castle. And as I hope my photographs will show, it is simply spectacular. It’s luxury in the extreme, there are acres upon acres of land – split into parts so that it feels bigger than most – and there is enough for an entire day out and then some. But perhaps the best thing about Kingston Lacy is the fact you’re able to see so much of it. Unlike many, most, historic buildings wherein there are many floors and rooms but you are only allowed in a few of them (Knighthayes, I’m looking at you with your four floors and your ‘oh sorry, you can only see half of two of them’) you get to explore the vast majority of the house. You get to go on all floors. You get to use the grand staircases where other houses relegate you to the back entrances. And, significantly, you are allowed to take photographs.

When you drive up to Kingston Lacy the car park is a little to the side. This means you get to walk up to the house, take photographs from the front, and enter through the main doors. The entrance hall walls are packed, similarly to the rest of the house as you’ll see, and it’s a good indication of the marvel waiting for you further in. Stag heads abound, which may not be particularly nice but are at least relics of an older time rather than the present, and there’s the rather splendid clock that I liked so much I concentrated on it instead of waiting around to see if I’d be able to get a shot of the hall itself (pretty impossible unless you’re happy to have a crowd in your pictures). The hall has a chequered floor and is on two levels.

First up is the Audit room, the name of which took me ages to discover because it seems not many people like it enough to photograph it… and I’m writing this a year late. There’s a reason for the lack of photography; it’s a nice room but nowhere near the scale of the rest.

Into the library and here comes the luxury. I’m under no impression all the paintings in this house were here originally – they may have been but it’s not unlike Trusts to chop and change furnishings – but it’s no matter because the effect is jaw-dropping. The library is your typical wall-to-wall bookshelf affair, which is a much appreciated typical and one I’m sure you appreciate, too. The room, despite being rather large, is very homely and warm.

Next is the drawing room, just as beautiful. There is a lot more light here as you might imagine and it looks straight out of an Austen adaptation. The fact that that could well be the case considering the number of films and TV shows that require historical houses just adds to its appeal. And if we needed any more evidence that pink used to be more of a neutral colour, take a look at the walls. Obviously I couldn’t sit down on the sofa but how I wished to and how certain I am that most everyone else felt the same way.

The Spanish Room is where things take a step up, as if they needed to. More paintings, more sparkle, it’s a combination of Georgian beauty and the ‘exotic’. I haven’t a clue if this room was used to eat in, but the table and chairs look nice regardless. The dining room has an organ. Yes, an organ in the dining room; it’s pretty epic here, isn’t it? (I haven’t a photo of it – there were too many people – but you can easily find one online.)

Up the stairs. The white marble stairs that are lovely themselves but are housed in an elegant hallway. You can view the ceiling here but I recommend waiting until you’re higher up and have less chance of twisting your neck out of joint.

The saloon opts for brighter, lighter colours. The ceiling is high; I believe it reaches the top of the house. There is much to savour here; the paintings as always, the perfect bureaus that you’ve always wanted but would cost the earth.

The state bedroom is fairly small in comparison, as you can see, but no chances were being taken in the bed department. Clearly no crowd of visitors was involved in the thought process behind the decision.

There are other bedrooms and bathrooms. One bedroom in particular is quite a sight – you’ll find all the vanilla ice cream you’ve ever wanted in it.

Up another flight of stairs and you find yourself in the attic. This fact in itself is awesome as few attics are open to the public, but even better is the tent effect that’s going on. Building dens seems to have been as popular back in the day as it is now but how many people can say they were able to keep their dens in place indefinitely? Not me, that’s for sure! I suppose it’s possible such decoration was considered easier than constantly grabbing blankets from the laundry.

Downstairs, the domain of the servants, are some models of houses and a general exhibition on Kingston Lacy.

The laundry is located in a long barn outside. The rooms have been set up as they would have been and at three long rooms you can imagine how much there was to do. But look at those stairs – there’s very little room for anyone!

The gardens are vast; too vast to explore completely in one day, but as long as you’ve not spent too long in the house you’ll see a fair amount. There’s the lawn that takes you down to one of the Cleopatra’s Needles taken from Egypt. There’s a path that takes you all the way from the far end of the lawn to the kitchen gardens (and a few pigs). The traveller who reaches them will find ice cream and snacks awaiting their arrival – the time it takes to get there makes ‘traveller’ a most suitable descriptor. On this path you’ll also find a Japanese garden and a small place that’s been left to grow wild.

The restaurant’s housed in the stables. It’s not particularly good – cramped, few items on the menu – but it’s the only downside. And now for a slightly slanted photo:

It’s really no wonder, when you take in everything I’ve said above, that Kingston Lacy is a favourite amongst history lovers. It’s no wonder my parents kept on about it throughout my childhood. I’m not sure how popular it is in international recommendations, it’s hardly Highclere/Dowton Abbey or Buckingham Palace and no queens ever lived there. But I would recommend it in a heartbeat. If you go, check which days allow free roaming – some days you can only see the house via guided tour and for a place like this that wouldn’t be fun.

The rest of my photos (and afterwards a question for you). I’m aware this is messy!

Forgetting that I said I visited last year, where did you go this summer? (Or, for those in the southern hemisphere, where are you hoping to go?)



October 28, 2015, 10:48 am

I have heard of Kingston Lacy but I have not been myself. It looks wonderful. I will definitely have to put it on my list to see.

This year I have visited a small, private house Hinton Admiral in Hampshire which was open to raise money for charity. Then I walked around the vast grounds of Calke Abbey in Derbyshire. I must go back and see inside though. Then I have just been on a school trip to The Black Country Museum. No big houses but it is fascinating to see how the working class people worked and lived in the Victorian times.

Tracy Terry

October 28, 2015, 3:39 pm

How magnificent, I love visiting stately homes like this.

April Munday

October 29, 2015, 8:49 pm

I’ve driven past loads of times and never been in. Now it’s on my list. I didn’t go anywhere this summer, but in the winter I went to Hampton Court. It was almost 50 years since the last visit, so it was time. Sadly, my camera was angry with me and none of my photos turned out well. This is not an excuse, I’m a good photographer. I loved it and would go again tomorrow.

vicki (skiourophile)

November 19, 2015, 7:25 am

Oooh, this one’s been on my wishlist for a long time and now I am burning with envy. Wonderful pictures, thank you!



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