Movers and shakers of Montacute House

Visitors on the drive to the west front at Montacute House, Somerset

Meet some of the movers and shakers who have lived at Montacute House over the centuries.

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.

Elinor’s Hollywood-style image, and fondness for fur, led to a popular verse of the time:
Would you like to sin with Elinor Glyn on a tiger skin?
Or would you prefer to err with her on some other fur?

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.

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.

The Gambling Squire

Sir William Phelips (1823-89) cuts a dashing and prosperous figure in his 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.