Knole - Ballroom

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The Sackvilles ate in this grandest of rooms for at least a century after Thomas Sackville, 1st Earl of Dorset, remodelled it. As with the other state rooms, the family stopped using this room for day to day living after this, and the Ballroom became a ‘show’ room for occasional entertaining. It tells us much about the Sackvilles too.

Family portraits

The full-length family portraits, many in their original 17th and 18th century frames, include the wonderful van Dyck of Lady Frances Cranfield and the charming Vigée-Lebrun portrait of Lady Arabella Cope, Duchess of Dorset, who created Knole’s Orangery. Sir Godfrey Kneller, George Sandars and William Larkin also painted portraits of the Sackvilles, displayed in this magnificent room.


Master craftsmen, including masons, carpenters and plasterers to King James I, worked on this room's decoration. The magnificent chimneypiece is the first of three which greet you on this final part of your showroom tour. All are the work of Cornelius Cure, Master Mason to the Court. This one's made of the olive green Bethersden Marble from Kent, English alabaster and various other marbles from either side of the Channel.

The central cartouche (framed panel), which would often display the family's coat of arms, has been left empty. It's thought that this is because Thomas Sackville's great ambition was to host King James, in which case a copy of the royal arms would be put up here for the occasion, secured to the four bosses in the corners, in the form of Tudor Roses. The Sackville arms were discreetly placed lower down. Look out for the carved fruit and contemporary musical instruments which remind us that this was a room where both good food and music were to be enjoyed.

The ceiling is reminiscent of a Tudor knot garden which one could well have seen from the window in Thomas Sackville's time. Many of the moulds used by the master plasterer, Richard Dungan, were used for the Cartoon Gallery ceiling as well. See if you can identify some of the different plants depicted here, amongst the more obvious Sackville leopards.

Mermaids in the panelling

Look out for pairs of mermaids and mermen, hippocamps and grotesque figures in the intricate wooden frieze. See if you can spot one figure below the frieze, in the ornate panelling, with her hands clasped in prayer – the door beneath her leads to the Chapel, in the private section of the house.