One day I’ll be ready to rival Simon Jenkins

Simon Jenkins wrote the book ‘England’s thousand best houses‘.  I appear to own a signed copy, courtesy of

Being a fan of visiting houses, gardens and architecture I’m building up quite of list of places I’ve been.  I hope my accounts will be less matter-of-fact than Simon’s and give you a flavour of whether or why somewhere is worth your hard-earned pound.

The Historic Houses Association is a gem of an organisation for people like me, providing a website from which I can plan itineraries to visit lesser-known houses all over the country:

Nothing makes me sadder than forking out £16 to visit somewhere and then finding it as dull as dishwater or offering nothing different from all the other places: Burghley House is one of these such houses: although it has significant historical connections and promised much, had it not been for the recently restored water gardens it really wouldn’t have been worth its £12+ entry price.  Longleat is, I think, a much better example of Elizabethan grandeur at its best even if (as I’m told by a conservation-insider) they have done some rather ‘dodgy’ stuff to conserve their collections.  Longleat also has lions and tigers! The water gardens at Burghley are worth visiting though if you’re in the area.

For my benefit more than your’s I’ve been through Simon’s index of places and I think that so far I’ve been to:

  1. Alton Towers (Staffs)
  2. Attingham Park (Shrops – NT)
  3. Bateman’s (Sussex -Rudyard Kipling’s home)
  4. Banqueting Rooms, Bath (Somerset)
  5. Beningbrough Hall (Yorks – NT; has NPG collection there)
  6. Blenheim Palace (Oxon)
  7. Bodiam Castle (Sussex – NT; looks like a proper castle so good for little boys)
  8. Bolton Castle (Yorks – don’t bother unless you’re in the area)
  9. Bramham Park (Yorks)
  10. Buckingham Palace
  11. Burghley House (Hunts; see above – do visit the Garden of Surprise)
  12. Burton Constable Hall (Yorks)
  13. Calke Abbey (Derbys – NT – great for seeing something left in the state many houses were in during the ’50s)
  14. Cambridge University Colleges (not all of them yet)
  15. Cannon Hall (Yorks)
  16. Carlyle House (London)
  17. Castle Drogo (Devon – NT)
  18. Castle Howard (Yorks)
  19. Chartwell (Kent – NT)
  20. Chatsworth (Derbys – expensive but worth it on a sunny day)
  21. Chiswick House (London – English Heritage)
  22. Clandon Park (Surrey – NT)
  23. Clarence House (London)
  24. Clevedon Court (Somerset)
  25. Cliveden (Bucks – NT)
  26. Colvelly (Devon)
  27. Cottesbrooke Hall (Northants – my favourite house of 2010 – gardens are beautiful and house gorgeous inside too)
  28. Danson House (Kent – like Lord Burlington’s palladian villa in Chiswick Park this is a good example and has had its shoes shined after a long period of neglect)
  29. Duncombe Park (Yorks)
  30. Dunham Massey (Cheshire)
  31. East Riddlesden Hall (Yorks)
  32. Elton Hall (Nr Peterborough – a very interesting  family home but only open afternoons on select days so check in advance)
  33. Fairfax House (York – NT)
  34. Fenton House (London – NT)
  35. Fountains Abbey (York – NT)
  36. Hall Place (Kent)
  37. Ham House (London – NT)
  38. Hampton Court Palace (London)
  39. Hardwick Hall (Derbyshire – NT)
  40. Harewood House (Yorks)
  41. Hatchlands Park (Surrey – NT)
  42. Hestercombe House (Somerset)
  43. Hinton Ampner (Hants – NT)
  44. Hugheden Manor (Bucks – NT)
  45. Igtham Mote (Kent – NT)
  46. Jorvik Viking Centre (Yorks)
  47. Kedleston Hall (Derbys – NT?)
  48. Kelmarsh Hall (Northants:
  49. Kingston Lacy (Dorset – NT)
  50. Knebworth House (Herts)
  51. Knole (Kent – NT)
  52. Lambeth Palace (London)
  53. Lamport Hall (Northants:
  54. Lanhydrock (Cornwall – NT – best example of Victorian kitchens I’ve seen to date)
  55. Leeds Castle (Kent)
  56. Levens Hall (Cumbria – best topiary around:
  57. Little Clarendon (Wilts – NT)
  58. Longleat (Wilts)
  59. Lotherton Hall (Yorks)
  60. Mompesson House (Wilts – NT)
  61. Moseley Old Hall (Staffs – NT)
  62. Mottisfont Abbey (Hants – NT)
  63. Newby Hall (Yorks – good easter egg hunt!)
  64. Nostell Priory (Yorks)
  65. Nunnington Hall (Yorks)
  66. Ormseby Hall (Yorks – NT; don’t make a special trip there but call in if you’re passing)
  67. Osterley Park (London – NT – one of my favourites for prime Robert Adam interiors and a good condition throughout)
  68. Oxford University Colleges (pretty much all of them)
  69. Pencarrow (Cornwall)
  70. Petworth (Sussex – NT)
  71. Polseden Lacey (Surrey – NT)
  72. Powderham Castle (Devon – NT)
  73. Quebec House (Kent)
  74. Red House (London – NT)
  75. William Morris House (that now houses the HQ of the William Morris society – London)
  76. Remisham Hall (Derbys)
  77. Ripley Castle (Yorks)
  78. Rievaulx Abbey (Yorks)
  79. The House of St Barnabas (London)
  80. St Michael’s Mount (Cornwall – NT)
  81. Scotney Castle (Scotland)
  82. Shibden Hall (Yorks)
  83. Shugborough (Staffs)
  84. Sizergh Castle (Cumbria)
  85. Skipton Castle (Yorks)
  86. Sledmere House (Yorks)
  87. Soane Museum (London)
  88. Syon House (London)
  89. Tatton Park (Cheshire)
  90. Tiverton Castle (Devon)
  91. Trelissick Gardens (Cornwall – NT)
  92. Trerice (Corwnwall)
  93. Trewithen (Cornwall)
  94. Uppark (Sussex – NT – the only house where I left feeling that I HAD to buy the guide book and then another book on the restoration of this house after it was destroyed by fire.  Fascinating & do try to go when the family are allowing the four Canalettos to be exhibited in the public rooms)
  95. Waddesdon Manor (Bucks – NT)
  96. Wakehurst Place (Sussex)
  97. Wandsworth Prison
  98. Westminster Abbey: Little Cloister (London)
  99. Wilton House (Wilts)
  100. Windsor Castle (Berks)

…and counting.

I’ve also been known to frequent places not in England:


  1. Villa Panza, Varese – FAI
  2. Villa Bozzolo, Varese – FAI
  3. Villa Carlotta, Lake Como
  4. Villa Balbianello, Lake Como – FAI (has the famous balcony from the prequel film of Star Wars)
  5. Villa Melzi, Bellagio, Lake Como (George Clooney was having a party there the night we visited!)
  6. Villa Necchi Campiglio, Milan – FAI (where the film Io Sono Amore was filmed)

20 thoughts on “One day I’ll be ready to rival Simon Jenkins

  1. Exactly 100?
    Are any of these not open to the public?”
    Do you make requests to visit houses that are never open to the public?

    1. I’m currently visiting houses open to the public or opened up for me as part of groups I’m a member of. I’ve only ever had one house opened for me (in Boston). Once I’ve visited all the ones open to me using usual means, perhaps I will make request. The Acceptance in Lieu list of houses is a good place to start for making such requests.

  2. That is sensible. I suspect you intend to visit every country house in great Britain and one day you will exhaust the supply of public properties. I do believe it is possible to see those country houses that are entirely private just by asking. Years ago I spent most of two days at Easton Neston, just by asking. I’ll write a bit about that on a different page of your blog.

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