Explore three floors of the house
With domestic sized rooms filled with furniture and art, you can easily imagine living at Gunby yourself. Chat to the room guides to find out more about Gunby's collection, the Massingberd family and the history of the house.
The Music Room
The first room you'll visit is the oak panelled music room. Running the full length of the west front of the 1873 wing, this room only came into existence in its current form in 1898.
It was in this room that Gunby's Diana Massingberd coached her string ensembles and here that singers sang and choirs rehearsed. The Bluthner grand piano, specially strengthened against the rigours of intercontinental travel, went out to India with Diana and Archie on his postings there.
The Ante Room
Entering the old house into what was formerly the housekeeper’s room, it became an ante room to the new dining room as part of the alterations of 1873.
A watercolour of the house in Kensington Square where the young Massingberds lived in the 1890s hangs on the left and a study of a moss rose by the celebrated garden designer Alfred Parsons hangs on the right.
This staircase rises from the basement to top floor and connects the 1873 north wing to the old house. It is decorated for much of its height in the ‘Daisy’ pattern wallpaper designed by William Morris and printed for the first time in 1864 by Jeffrey and Co.
The charcoal sketches of the three Lushington sisters are preparatory drawings for the painting ‘The Home Quartette’ that their father Vernon Lushington commissioned from Arthur Hughes. A modern print of the painting hangs above.
The drawing of the head of Margaret Lushington is by William Holman Hunt. Both Hunt and Hughes are considered amongst the most talented painters of the Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood.
The Squire’s Room
Turning left on the landing down the little passage and, being sure to note the very striking portrait of the charismatic preacher Damian de Veuster, the innovative way in which bathrooms were introduced into the junction between the old and new wings becomes apparent. The Squire’s Room has wallpaper of an Asiatic pattern in the panels which dates from c1920.
The Grey Bedroom
The utilitarian treatment of the fireplace in this bedroom must date from alterations in the late nineteenth century. The wallpaper however, dates from 1928.
The commode, or night stool is a beautifully crafted piece of deceptive furniture, with a hinged dummy front that lifts to reveal the padded seat and back rest.
The Field Marshal’s Room
This bedroom would have been the master bedroom with a large four poster bed. A large sepia photograph over the mantel is of Raphael’s Madonna and is typical of the taste of an artistically minded household of the late nineteenth century. To the right is a fine ‘seaweed’ marquetry bureau bookcase of the early eighteenth century.
The Cedar Bedroom
On the south west corner of the house, this must have been the most favoured of the bedrooms. Its carved ‘Greek key’ overmantel panel is probably one of the improvements introduced by William Meux Massingberd in the 1730s.
Across the landing is the blue bathroom, containing a curious ebonised and gilt cabinet mounted with two different sets of blue and white tiles, very much in the ‘Aesthetic’ taste of the 1890s. Outside the walls are covered with a rare Morris and Co. red pomegranate pattern paper. The National Trust had some of this re-printed to cover an area destroyed by earlier electrical work. The ‘Loo with a View’ is a great favourite.
The Oak Staircase
The staircase, with its triple twisted slender balusters, is dated by Nikolaus Pevsner the architectural historian to c1730.Together with the Venetian window, plaster panelling and cornice, he attributes this space to William Meux-Massingberd.
Lady Montgomery-Massingberd (b.1872) certainly believed in the antiquity – and the quality - of her staircase. If guests complained of the cold, to warm them up she advised a good spell on their hands and knees polishing it.
The suit of armour features in Hugh Montgomery-Massingberd’s record in ‘Daydream Believer’ of a prank designed to ridicule a local news story of the haunted nature of Gunby. He and a group of friends in fancy dress (including the armour) went down to the gate and paraded round the roundabout on the main road, ‘gurning and grimacing’ until ‘the traffic was brought to a complete standstill’. His father was quite amused, but Rogers the caretaker at the time was not, barring the door and calling the police.
Historically this was the morning room, catching the early sun from the east. Now it houses the considerable military library belonging to Field Marshal Sir Archibald Montgomery –Massingberd. The Field Marshal was an author of some repute on his own account, writing the history of the Fourth Army in the ‘Hundred Days’ of 1918 and publishing tracts on strategy and tactics aswell as a slim volume of autobiography. There are also reminders of his Indian postings in the lacquered bottles and jugs he brought back with him.
This is considered to be - the remains of - one of the best examples of a squire’s library to survive. Largely collected between 1690 and 1730.
" The books in their modest way...are a remarkable and vivid testament to the vibrancy of cultural life in a remote corner of Georgian England"
Above the bookcase on the wall opposite the fireplace is part of a Chinese porcelain dinner service, made for export to Europe in the late eighteenth century. It was re-assembled here in 1998 after the wall was re-built for, in 1926, the wall had been removed to create a large ‘sitting-hall’ and the books scattered about the house (and some of the more untidy ones burned). The odd proportions of the hybrid room that resulted, created to facilitate the taking of alcohol by guests in an otherwise teetotal house, are best appreciated next door.
The Entrance Hall
Diana Montgomery-Massingberd’s new room ended its career in 1998 when the missing wall was re-built with the help of money from the sale of books belonging to James Lees-Milne. In the once-more symmetrical hall, the builder, Sir William Massingberd, dominates again from his portrait over the mantel.
Below, between two watercolour portraits of the Revd. Algernon Massingberd and his sister Mary Neville, hangs a frame containing four lines of manuscript. This precious scrap is signed by the local poet Alfred Tennyson. The lines are from his epic poem ‘The Palace of Art’ and are believed to describe Gunby, which Tennyson knew well. In one of the family scrap books is a faint pencil sketch by his friend Algernon Massingberd showing the poet as a gangling young man, all quiff and cravat, smoking his long-shafted clay pipe.
" and one an English home, gray twilight pour’d On dewy pastures, dewy trees Softer than sleep – all things in order stored, A haunt of ancient peace "
The Dining Room
The shape of this room has altered too. When Charles Langton-Massingberd added the north wing containing a dining room, this space was created out of the old dining room and butler’s pantry to act as a drawing room. A homely note is struck by the use of a couple of old bed posts to mark the former division. A few years later with the creation of the music room, this space reverted to its former use.
Further round the room ‘Naughty’ Algernon, who brought the family finances to the brink of disaster, smirks on a rocky shore resplendent in his naval uniform. His be-whiskered Uncle Charles hangs nearby.
The two sets of dining chairs are both good examples of the refined forms of early Regency taste, with sabre legs and caned seats. One set is painted with lions’ masks whilst the other exhibits the Eye of Horus carved on its cresting rails and is an example of Egyptian taste. The marquetry longcase clock is by Matthew Bunce, who probably died very shortly after making this clock in about 1700.
The basement runs under the entire house, mimicking the plan of the main apartments above, the old kitchen is under the dining room and the servants hall is under the music room.
The addition of the north wing in 1873 greatly expanded the service areas below stairs and enabled the re-distribution of tasks to different areas; the larder was established under the stairs on the south front of the house with the still room, complete with its own range, to the east. Here tea was made for the household whilst the main kitchen was taken up with the preparation of dinner. In addition this was where the preserves, jams and chutneys were made in season from fruit and vegetables from the garden. The 'boot room' offered cellarage for beer, with wines housed under slightly greater security further along the corridor.
Across the corridor in rooms that comprised the male servants’ sleeping accommodation, and latterly formed part of a flat, is an exhibition devoted to the military career of Field Marshal Sir Archibald Montgomery-Massingberd. Here are tiger skin rugs from India, drawings by Lockwood Kipling (Rudyard’s father) many photographs and watercolours of the campaigns with which Sir Archie was involved.