Knole - Brown Gallery

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One of the country's two earliest surviving Jacobean portrait galleries, is at Knole in Kent. The other is at Hardwick Hall, also owned by the National Trust.  Enjoy our grand display of pictures of the great and good of the English and European courts of the 16th and 17th centuries.

This is the first of three long galleries you'll see as you reach the first floor showrooms. With its oak panelling and ribbed ceiling, its 88-foot length steers you through an atmospheric collection.

Tudor characters

It's fascinating to pick out famous characters of the Tudor period, painted in familiar poses. These portraits are copies of well-known images of the day: Thomas Cromwell clutches a paper in his fist, Thomas Cranmer opens his book.  Children love to spot Henry VIII, one of his six wives and children too. There's also a unique set of heraldic stained glass installed by Henry VIII to commemorate his marriage to Jane Seymour and their son, the future Edward VI, as Duke of Cornwall.

Dating the portraits

Some recent dendrochronological (tree ring dating) work undertaken on the gallery, examined the age of the wood panels on which the portraits are painted. We found that most of the boards come from the same oak forest in the Baltic area, now part of Poland, which was an important exporter of timber in the 17th century.

Royal Stuart furniture

Walk past the first examples of Knole's extensive collection of royal Stuart furniture. Chairs of state, armchairs and footstools originally used at the Hampton Court or Whitehall palaces form a collection which is the most complete in the world. In the Brown Gallery, they stretch its entire length, 'lovely silent rows forever holding out their arms and forever disappointed', as described by Vita Sackville-West, who was born at Knole and grew up there.