Does Knole have 365 rooms?
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There's a popular myth that Knole is a calendar house, with 365 rooms, 52 staircases, seven courtyards and so on. This has been an uncontrollable story over the years because the truth – we don’t know how many rooms Knole has – seems so unlikely. (The nearest we can get to a total is actually something like 420.)
Rooms or spaces
The number of rooms at Knole has changed hugely over the years. The Sackvilles and the National Trust have created new rooms by dividing up larger spaces, and we have equally removed rooms by taking away modern interventions, such as the 1960s partitions that divided the beautiful retainers’ gallery until a few years ago. It's difficult, also, to define a 'room': many of our spaces, such as the painted staircases, or the closets, are as important as our grand showrooms. We have spaces, such as the tiny lobby or prayer closet between the Brown Gallery and the ballroom, which couldn’t qualify as rooms, but which have their own unique character.
We're also constantly discovering new spaces; we found a large void in the walls during our emergency repairs that clearly indicated the rooms behind had changed in shape and number at some point in Knole’s history. And while clearing the winter snow in 2013 we discovered a roof void – almost a room – that no one had ever recorded before.
There are seven acknowledged courtyards (Green Court and Stone Court, open to the public and Stable Court, Water Court, Pheasant Court, Men’s Court and Queen’s Court, which are part of the private section of the house) but we also have the Brewhouse Courtyard, which is divided into two, making at least nine courtyards.
Original building plans
The original Archbishop’s palace grew over a number of decades and under the hand of several owners, so it seems unlikely there would have been an intentional plan to create 365 rooms. We have no evidence to suggest that the vast remodelling undertaken by Thomas Sackville from 1604 was designed to create a calendar house. But who knows what else we'll uncover in 2014 as we begin to implement plans for a conservation studio in Stable Court?