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Historic Towns & Picturesque Villages

Landslide Babbacombe


in the county of Devon

Walford church, Herefordshire


in the county of Herefordshire

Pictures of Montacute House

a Historic Building in the town of Montacute, in the county of Somerset

About Montacute House

This is one of the most glittering of all the great Elizabethan mansions in England. It is built of glowing honey-coloured Ham Hill stone and has the most amazing windows letting in streams of subtle light, giving the rich interior a light and airy feel.

The house was built for Sir Edward Phelps, who was Speaker of the House of Commons, a wealthy landowner and lawyer. It was completed around 1600. Sir Edward quite possibly engaged the services of a noted young architect, William Arnold, who was also a brilliant master-mason. Arnold's art can be clearly seen in the wonderful decorative windows and tall chimney stacks rising aloft on the Somerset skyline. It can also be seen throughout the exquisite interior.

Only a few changes have been made to Montacute over the centuries. The most important of these has been the addition of the lovely Renaissance porch now on the west front which was brought from Clifton Maybank, and Lord Curzon, during his tenure between 1915 and 1925, made some changes to the interior. However, on the whole, the character of the house remains largely unaltered, with the dominant feature being the Long Gallery. This stretches an impressive 172 feet from one end of the house to the other and, at either end there is a cluster of smaller, more intimate rooms. The Long Gallery is incredible, it is Elizabethan it all its purity, its only enhancement being portraits adorning the walls, these number around one hundred, and most are loaned from the National Portrait Gallery.

One of the most splendid rooms is the Library, this was originally the great chamber and the room where manorial courts would have been held. There is a Portland stone chimneypiece, intricate wood carving in the porch, Elizabethan panelling, and four superb windows.

Wherever you go in this wonderful house, the eye is drawn to ornamental plasterwork, magnificent fireplaces and in the great hall there is a most impressive carved screen. Attractive panelling in some of the rooms dates from the 19th-century when Lord Curzon was in residency.

Interestingly, it is perhaps due to the shortage of money that kept Montacute House much as it is today, with there being little alteration before late in the 18th-century. Another historic factor concerning the house is that it was Sir Edward Phelps - the original owner, who made the opening speech for the prosecution at the trial of Guy Fawks.

By the time the house was put up for sale in 1925 its interiors had been plundered of most of its fine furnishing and lavish decorative pieces. Edward Cook, grandson of Thomas Cook, founder of the travel agent company, generously bought the property and gave it to the National Trust who have depended on gifts and bequests to bring the house back to its golden days.

Visitors to Montacute House can stroll in romantic gardens and grounds, lush with imaginative planting which was mostly the creation of the renowned Vita Sackville-West.

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