Polesden Lacey is one of those houses that could be Regency but really it’s a product of the Edwardian world, reaching racy heights in the 1930s.
The façade above is that of Thomas Cubitt (1821-23) but the house was extended and remodelled following its purchase by Mrs and Mrs Ronald Greville in 1906.
Mrs Greville was widowed only two years after the Grevilles moved in and dedicated the rest of her life to entertainment, taking great pleasure in the connections she maintained. She planned to leave the house to Princess Elizabeth and Prince Albert, until they unexpectedly found themselves on the throne and didn’t need a country home. Legend has it that The Queen Mother persuaded Mrs Greville to leave Polesden Lacey to the National Trust.
Look at the right wing below: the kitchen wing has blocked out windows.
It was a condition of Mrs Greville’s bequest that only her entertaining space should be on show, which means that the kitchens (and until recently all the bedrooms) are out of bounds.
Spot the Dowager Duchess Grantham. To me, with the NT prerequisite “curtains down” approach, I thought the original oils were photocopies. Gawd, NT, please open the curtains, even if just for one pre-specified day a week (NOTE: Chatsworth, Castle Howard, Woburn etc [i.e. the really important houses], don’t mind opening their curtains; they just accept that new curtains will need to be bought in due course)….
The Grevilles inherited their money from beer and hired The Ritz’s builders to redesign Polesden Lacye’s interior, hence the mini-Versailles for the sitting room where D had to plead with the pianist to play Jingle Bells (we were told “we can only play it if it is from the 1930s”. D said “well, Jingle Bells was written in 1931!”) Such a liar (for a just cause).
I was confused by the Jacobean barrelled ceiling but the typical NT volunteers weren’t as interested in the house as they were a day out and were either petrified of whoever is in charge here or didn’t know as single answer to my questions.
Sometimes, NT, I despair.
My trip to Polesden Lacey reminded me of the “when is a biscuit a cake?” debate. They claimed to be putting on an “event” meaning even NT members had to pay to go in the (partially-closed) house, but nothing was spectacular enough to justify an occasion worthy orf extra cost and the title “event”. Surely it was just Christmas opening and an historic house open to the public should be dressed for the season, shouldn’t it?
Sorry Polesden, you’ve achieved a black mark in my book. Even in the shop, D, a comic at heart, was told the joke book that we were laughing at should be thrown in the bin because it was poor: we took it away, saving it.
When visited: December 2013
House * out of 5: **
Garden out of 5: ** (I will never forget the rat we saw in the walled garden during a visit in 2009, but the house has since installed an automatic shutter for the gates that has kept the “bunnies!”, who were eating the tulips, out)
Theme tune: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pItdDbtWSPE
And after I left, I felt like this about the NT (there is a lot of damage to repair after this visit): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=My2FRPA3Gf8