The history of Killerton House
The house at Killerton lies at the heart of a great estate and was the home of one family, the Aclands, from the late seventeenth century until it was gifted to the National Trust by the 15th Baronet in 1944.
Whilst the house is widely known as a Georgian house, hidden within are elements of earlier houses going back to Elizabethan times. Essentially there were three major alterations.
In 1778/9, Sir Thomas, 7th Baronet, expanded the seventeenth century mansion.
During the nineteenth century, Sir Thomas, 10th Baronet, and his wife Lady Lydia had the house altered to suit the needs of their growing family. A bay window was added to what is now the music room. By 1819 many of the room uses within the house had been changed.
The final major alteration was undertaken by Sir Charles, 12th Baronet, and his wife Lady Gertrude at the turn of the twentieth century. These renovations, largely undertaken in 1898, included combining rooms and changing the layout of the staircase.
The current house reflects the 1920s and the time of Sir Francis, 14th Baronet.
The Entrance Hall
The entrance hall is the newest part of the building. It was designed in an Arts and Crafts style by the architect Randall Wells, following a fire in 1924 which had started in the servants’ area. It became a welcoming open space suited to this large, hospitable family.
" Never stayed tidy for long: the large central table, neatly arranged every morning with folded newspapers and two fresh buttonholes for Sir Francis, was usually littered with mackintoshes, fishing rods, maps and torn envelopes by the end of the day."
During the nineteenth century, this room had been the dining room and in 1819, Sir Thomas, 10th Baronet, had the bay window added to enlarge the room. As part of the 1898 remodelling, the use of the room changed to provide a spacious entrance hall with a new porch added onto the bay window. The chamber organ was moved here at the start of the twentieth century and the room later became known as the music room. In the 1920s and 1930s this room was the centre of family life.
" The family would gather in this room before breakfast and after dinner. There was often an unfinished jigsaw puzzle and despite vain efforts by Sir Francis to dislodge them, a dog or two on the sofa."
The present drawing room had originally been the entrance hall, the breakfast room and the strong room in the 1779 house. In the nineteenth century, the breakfast room became a morning room but the other uses remained the same.
During the 1898 alterations, Sir Charles, 12th Baronet, had the entrance to the house moved to just outside the music room. The change meant that the former entrance hall, morning room and strong room were combined into one large open room becoming the new drawing room you see today.
The current library was the little parlour in the 1779 house. During the nineteenth century, it had been turned into the drawing room. The plans and photographs show that intriguingly, by 1898 the two south windows had been blocked up. After the renovations in 1898, this room became the library.
" It was a haven of peace where it was always possible to read or write letters, away from the hustle and bustle in the rest of the house."
In the 1779 house, the dining room had been known as the great parlour, decorated elaborately. The nineteenth century saw the room becoming a library, complete with an additional hidden room which sadly has long been dismantled. The secret room is mentioned in a work in a contemporary account which records ‘connected with this room [the current dining room] is a private library and sitting-room, the entrance to which is through a bookcase, forming a hidden entrance.’
The 1898 changes saw the Aclands turning this room into their dining room. The ceiling was re-plastered for Sir Charles Acland, 12th Baronet, with scenes of the four seasons in agriculture added to each corner. Cameos of Sir Charles and his wife, Lady Gertrude, can also be seen above the fireplace and above the window.
The study was built during the 1898 changes. Originally designed to be used as a billiard room it quickly became the study for Sir Charles,12th Baronet with tenants able to enter through the side door without disturbing the rest of the house.
The plaster ceiling, created by Messrs Jackson of London, is based upon moulds used by the Adam brothers.