|Only about two hours by train…|
|Kingston Lacey – the north facade, which became the main entrance in the 1830s.|
After my adventures at Wimpole, I decided to choose a site directly served by a bus, even if it meant several changes along the route. I boarded the train with 3,000 other people in Oxford, most of them scantily clad and not an ounce of sunscreen anywhere on their bodies. I don’t know if sunscreen would have played a role normally, but this was the first sunny day after two weeks of cloudy gray chilliness, and all of Britannia was ready to go the beach.
Kingston Lacey is close to the small market town of Wimborne Minster, where I caught my second bus of the day. Dominating the center of town is the church from the which the town takes its name – the Minster Church of St. Cuthburga, which dates to circa 1120 (with many additions and alterations since). A religious order of one sort or another has occupied the site since 705 AD, when Cuthburga, a sister of the King of the West Saxons, founded a nunnery at Wimborne.
|Wimborne Minster, which includes the second largest chained library in England.|
|Interior of the church.|
The Bankes family created Kingston Lacey after their previous home, Corfe Castle, was destroyed during the English Civil War (I went to Corfe Castle in 2010, and it is a spectacular site). The family remained loyal to Charles I (and it is telling that it was Mary that defended the castle during two sieges, while her husband hung out with the king in Oxford…) and following the Restoration began construction of a new house on their “other estate” in Dorset. (How nice to have multiple estates…)
The first iteration of Kingston Lacey, built 1663-65, was a red brick house designed by architect Roger Pratt. Apparently, Pratt specialized in building “practical country houses” but until the 1920s, the earlier house was thought to be the work of Inigo Jones.
|The south facade of the house.|
|Looking down the “grand professional staircase” designed by Barry – made of Carrara marble.|
|The cove ceiling of the Saloon, which became William Bankes’ picture gallery – the painted ceiling dates from 1780.|
|A nice, cozy picture gallery….|
|Stairs leading to the upper floors and bedrooms. The small door seen at left is mirrored on the
opposite wall and leads to the hidden warren of servant’s stairs behind the walls.
William Bankes was a colorful character and spent money like it was going out of style. He commissioned numerous sculptures, paintings and a very bizarre bed. The bed, a concoction of walnut and holly, includes a carving of the Bankes coat of arms, but also – a row of bats along the headboard. When William died in 1855, the bed was still not finished (bats take a while to carve) and his brother, George, a bit more sober type where interior decor was concerned, tried to cancel the contract. That did not please the carpenter, and the bed was finally finished in the 1860s. I wonder what the German Kaiser (Wilhelm II) thought of those bats when he slept there in 1907?
The top floor at Kingston Lacey contains the children’s bedrooms – used by the last owner of the house, Ralph Bankes, the seven time grandson of the founder of the family, and his two sisters in the early 20th century (not a happy family, sadly). Ralph donated the entire estate to the National Trust in 1981 – Kinsgton Lacey, 12 working farms and Corfe Castle – some 8,000 acres.
|One of the tiny bathrooms nestled on the top floor of the house.|
|The courtyard of outbuildings (including kitchen and stables) on the west side
of the house, now serving as gift shops and tea rooms.
|The Dutch Garden on the east side of the house, which dates from the
end of the 19th century. The cedar trees in the distance were planted in 1835.
Kingston Lacey is still a working farm with sheep and cattle. A 19th century restored Shepherd’s Hut is located on the grounds. This corrugated metal hut (the epitome of luxury, but it did contain a stove) allowed the shepherd to stay with the sheep as they moved from field to field.
Of course, I missed my bus back to Wimborne Minster, so I threw myself on the mercy of some of the National Trust employees, who were most gracious and wonderful. (I owe lots of people in England some tours of Kentucky, some bourbon and Ruth Hunt candy) One of them gave me a lift to the train station in her Lotus, but I was too preoccupied with trying to figure out which train I would be able to take to really appreciate the car. (not too surprising given my general lack of automotive interest) The journey back to Oxford was slightly quieter than the morning trip down, as all around me, sunburned bodies whimpered and dozed.