A tour around the house at Polesden Lacey
Polesden Lacey was the country residence of wealthy heiress, Margaret Greville from 1906 to 1942. She left the estate and its collections to us when she died, in memory of her father, William McEwan.
Margaret and her husband Ronald Greville bought Polesden Lacey in 1906. They commissioned architects Mewès and Davis, who had recently designed the Ritz, and interior decorators White, Allom and Co. Between them, these firms created a sumptuous and luxurious house fit for royalty. Sadly Ronald passed away in 1908, but Margaret remained at Polesden Lacey for many years, entertaining a stream of high profile guests, including Kings Edward VII, George V and George VI.
If these walls could talk, what dinner party conversation they would remember. Famous guests who ate here include King Edward VII in 1909, royal mistress Alice Keppel (great-grandmother of Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall) and Winston Churchill. Author Beverley Nichols remembers Winston Churchill at Polesden holding forth 'with a good cigar in one hand and a better Armagnac in the other'.
A wonderful selection of late 18th and early 19th-century portraits can be seen in this room, including one of Mrs Greville's father, William McEwan by Benjamin Constant.
Pick up an iPad during your visit to find out more about this room.
This room was the first to make an impact on Mrs Greville's guests, so it needed to be impressive. White Allom and Co. specialised in architectural salvage and it features a carved reredos (screen from behind the altar) from St Matthew's Church, one of Sir Christopher Wren's churches. Flemish tapestries from the 16th, 17th and 18th-centuries cover the walls and a silver-plated chandelier hangs from the ceiling.
Author Beverly Nichols remembers the footman serving drinks here at 6pm as the glamorous guests began to mingle before dinner.
After Margaret Greville died, paintings from her London home were brought to Polesden. Some of the most spectacular, including her collection of Dutch old masters, now hang in the Picture corridor. Margaret consulted experts for advice on her collection and in this Jacobean inspired oak-pannelled gallery, you'll find fine paintings by Teniers, ter Borch and de Hooch, as well as an antique Roman sarcophagus, dating from 3AD.
The Library was designed in French style by Mewès and Davis with mirror-backed doors.
Mrs Greville organised her social life from the early 19th-century mahogany writing table which today is covered with a collection of photographs of, amongst others: her parents, the Aga Khan, King George VI, Queen Elizabeth and the two princesses.
Mrs Greville liked to interview her guest of honour in the study after dinner. Towards the end of her life, when confined to a wheelchair, she spent a great deal of time in this room.
You'll find a showcase of 18th-century Meissen and Furstenberg porcelain here, including a rare tea and coffee service c.1770.
When commissioning this room, Mrs Greville famously asked her architects for a room 'fit to entertain a Maharaja'. The Saloon is designed to overwhelm and intoxicate guests, decorated with early 18th-century pannelling from an Italian palace.
Here you'll find Meissen porcelain; Chinese and Japanese ceramics; Fabergé and Cartier carvings of animals; and a snuffbox and brooches, gifts from King Edward VII.
The Tea room catches the afternoon sun and has views over the South lawn and Rose garden.
Polesden's afternoon teas were sumptuous affairs and good enough to entice royalty. Queen Mary, wife of King George V, would often telephone to announce herself for tea the same afternoon. Mrs Greville kept her favourite tea in stock as well as the blend enjoyed by Lord Reading, Viceroy of India. Much of the French furniture in this room was originally used to furnish the guest bedrooms.
This room was designed like a gentleman's club with a mahogany-framed billiard-table and armchairs, plus a quieter area near the fireplace with books, easy chairs and writing tables.
Male guests, amongst them King Edward VII, gathered here after dinner to talk, to play cards and of course to play billiards.
Why not have a go? Children can play puff billiards too.
This is a gentleman's bedroom and faces east with a wonderful view of the lawns directly in front of the house. South-facing rooms were usually reserved for royalty.
The gilded, cane work bed is from another guest bedroom, the Copper Beech room and it dates from the Edwardian period. Here you'll find books by Osbert Sitwell, a close friend of Mrs Greville. In 'Laughter in the Next Room', he described her as 'a personality of power and discernment.'