Knole in Kent is notable for both its size and grandeur. The former Archbishop’s palace is a vast complex of rooms, staircases and courtyards and we’re constantly discovering new hidden spaces as we continue to conserve the building. The showrooms give a fascinating insight into a house which passed through royal hands to the Sackville family, who still live there today.
A three-year, £8 million conservation project involving over 200 volunteers has restored Mount Stewart in County Down to its early 20th-century glory when it was home to Edith, Lady Londonderry. Previously unopened rooms are now on show following extensive repairs and redecorating throughout the neo-classical house undertaken by a team of experts.
Many famous people have lived in the houses we care for. Chief among them is the wartime prime minister and great statesman Winston Churchill, who made his home at Chartwell in Kent for over forty years. The house is a testament to his many interests – he wrote prolifically in his study and built a studio in the grounds in which to pursue his love of painting.
Created by the Victorian inventor William Armstrong, Cragside in Northumberland has innovation at its heart. It was the first house in the world to be lit by hydroelectricity and boasted other modern conveniences including hot and cold running water. A modern hydro system completed in 2014 now produces enough energy to light all 350 light bulbs in the house.
Kings, queens and other royalty have visited and stayed at several places we look after. The Duke and Duchess of York, later King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (the Queen Mother), spent part of their honeymoon at Polesden Lacey in Surrey in 1923. The renowned hostess Mrs Greville also welcomed Edward VII and George V as visitors to her Edwardian country retreat.
Clouds Hill in Dorset was the rural retreat of T. E. Lawrence ('Lawrence of Arabia'), who described it as ‘a hut in a wood near camp wherein I spend my spare evenings’. He rented the tiny white-washed cottage when stationed at Bovington Camp before later buying it. He was fatally injured in a motorcycle accident nearby in 1935.
Nestled in the idyllic surroundings of Charnwood Forest, Stoneywell in Leicestershire is a charming stone cottage and a rare surviving example of an Arts and Crafts house with its original furnishings. Designed as a holiday home by the architect Ernest Gimson for his brother, it remained in the Gimson family for four generations until it came into our care in late 2012.
Snowshill Manor in Gloucestershire takes the prize for most unusual collection. It’s packed with extraordinary treasures collected by Charles Paget Wade, so many that he decamped to a cottage next door. The collection of 22,000 objects includes Samurai armour and whole rooms devoted to specific collections such as ‘Seventh Heaven’, which is full of toys.
Treasurer’s House in York has a history spanning 2,000 years. The Roman road in the cellar is the source of mysterious experiences – many people have reported seeing the ghosts of Roman soldiers there. Ghostly presences have also been felt in other rooms.
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Discover more of our houses and the fascinating stories of the people who lived in them
From Winston Churchill’s family home, to a view dedicated to Britain’s shortest-serving prime minister, and the location of hard-fought elections, several places we look after have links with prime ministers.