Top Ten Montacutians
Meet some of the movers and shakers who have lived at Montacute over the centuries, from the man who tried Guy Fawkes to a saucy novelist who courted scandal.
The Grand Designer
Conspirators beware – this portrait of Sir Edward Phelips (1560-1614) will be vetting you as you enter the house!
A successful lawyer and politician, he was Speaker of the House of Commons in 1604. Intensely loyal to James I, he wasn’t a popular man and was very harsh in his judgements on those people not embracing the Church of England.
He opened the trial of Guy Fawkes and kept the trial on track – Fawkes and his fellow conspirators were sentenced, and then hung drawn & quartered.
Having made his fortune, Phelips wanted the ultimate status symbol to show off his wealth and power. He commissioned Montacute House in 1588 and it was completed 13 years later.
At His Majesty's Pleasure
Never cross the King or you might end up spending time at his pleasure. So Sir Robert Phelips (1586-1638), son of Sir Edward, found out.
The intelligent but impetuous and anti-Catholic Sir Robert was arrested at Montacute and enjoyed an eight-month stay in the Tower for opposing King James I’s plans to marry his son, the future Charles I, to a Catholic princess.
At Montacute, Sir Robert could enjoy the finer things in life. The inventory taken on his death lists gold and silver plate alone valued at £470 - a small fortune. He knew he had lived it up too much when he was sued by his stepmother for money he owed.
Edward Phelips (1725-1797) left his mark on Montacute. He scratched a poem into the window glass of the Library – in Latin!
He also remodelled the west front of the house, adding parts of Clifton Maybank house on to the façade at Montacute. The wonderful view of the house along the drive from the road is down to this Edward.
Aunt Edith’s money helped to fund the alterations to Montacute. When she died in 1772 her money went to her nephew, Edward Phelips. She had no surviving children of her own.
Do the cherubs in her portrait above the fireplace in the Great Hall represent her dead children?
The Gambling Squire
Sir William Phelips (1823-89) cuts a dashing and prosperous figure in this portrait, which hangs in the Parlour Passage. Sadly, life wasn't as rosy as it looked for ‘The Gambling Squire’.
Local legend describes how he once placed a bet on one of two flies crawling down a window-pane. Upon losing, William was heard to mysteriously say 'There go Sock and Beerly!’.
The family’s finances never recovered from his excesses and this as well as the economic climate meant that by 1910 much of the estate had been sold off and tenants had moved in.
The last bride&.
...to be married out of the house was Marjorie Cecily Phelips. She was presented to Queen Victoria in 1895. To pay for her season, her father, William, sold the family silver!
She married Captain John Ingilby and moved out of Montacute to Yorkshire. She became the family historian and lodged her collection of documents at the Somerset Record Office. A famous descendent of Marjorie’s is Jane Asher!
The mysterious Mr Davies&.?
A tenant at Montacute after the Phelips family moved to London... Who was the mysterious Mr Davies….?
The PM in waiting
We all suffer our disappointments in life, but perhaps not so acutely as George Nathaniel Curzon.
In 1923, Marquess Curzon was waiting at Montacute for the nod to say that he was the new Prime Minister. There was no phone, but at last a telegram arrived with news. The supremely confident Curzon travelled up to London with great expectations only to find that Stanley Baldwin had got the top job.
During his 10 years as tenant at Montacute, from 1915 until 1925, Curzon redecorated the house. Sure to make a splash is the en-suite he installed in Lord Curzon's Room, hidden inside a cupboard.
Love in a Cold Climate
The things we do for love... The novelist Elinor Glyn lived at Montacute for 18 months as the mistress of Marquess Curzon, enduring arctic temperatures to stay by her man's side.
But she couldn't stop Curzon's feelings cooling along with the weather, and knew the frost had well and truly set in when she of read of his engagement to Mrs Alfred Duggan in the Times.
A Jilly Cooper ahead of her time, Glyn liked to cause a stir. Her passion, eccentricity and love of furs added to her notoriety.
'First Thing Every Morning: The World-famed Effervescent salt.'
Mrs Hainault lived at Montacute from1927 to 1928.
She was married to Mr Eno. One of the Eno’s babies was born in the house. Eno is famous as being the inventor of Eno's Fruit Salts which are still on sale today.
The salts assisted 'against sea-sickness, fever, and change of climate'. The fruit salts were so successful that their fame spread throughout the world. It was reported in the 1920’s that three out of four ships sailing from London had a supply of Eno’s Fruit Salts on board.
What is in Eno’s Fruit Salts? It is made up of 50% sodium bicarbonate, 15% sodium bitartrate and 35% free tartaric acid. It is described as a fast-acting effervescent fruit salts, used as an antacid and reliever of bloatedness.
Come and meet the familes at Montacute and find out more about their history.
Discover more about Marjorie Phelips Montacute, exploring who Marjorie was and why she was important to Montacute.