Scandalous stories from our places

Gossip. It’s been the vice of duplicitous courtiers, simpering socialites and snooping servants for centuries. We all love a good story, even when it isn’t so good for the protagonists. Our places have borne witness to many a sordid tale in their time. Sometimes the scandal got out of control - spiralling into headlines, court cases and even suicides. But in other cases the only remaining evidence of any unusual happenings are handwritten letters, penned by moonlight. Intrigued? Read on…

The Octagon Temple at Cliveden, Buckinghamshire

Sleeping with the enemy at Cliveden 

At a party at Cliveden in the 1960s was where the Secretary of State for War, John Profumo, met showgirl, Christine Keeler and a love affair ensued. Little did Profumo know, this affair was not only about to cause a scandal, but a twist in the tale meant it posed a huge security risk. It would go on to end his career, trigger a suicide and bring down the government that he served.

The Saloon at Hatchlands Park, Surrey

The woman who shocked society at Hatchlands Park 

Beatie Holme-Sumner, who was born in 1862 at Hatchlands Park in Surrey, was at the centre of a scandal because of her relationship with a married man, Charles Hoare. He was twice her age and married with five children. In the kafuffle that followed Beatie’s parents fled to Malta, one uncle lost his reputation and another lost his job. For Beatie, however, the only way was up.

View of the North Front of Ickworth, Suffolk, framed by autumn leaves

Death by tea at Ickworth

Controversial relationships filled his life, but it was tea that was blamed for the early death of Lord Hervey, the second Earl of Ickworth. He was notorious for his outspoken memoirs of the court of George II, his effeminate style, sharing a mistress with the Prince of Wales and having a 10 year relationship with another man. Despite this he never separated from his wife and the couple had eight children together. When he died at 41 his father blamed the early demise on his son’s fondness for ‘that detestable and poisonous plant, tea.’

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

Movers and shakers of Montacute House 

Elinor Glyn fell in love with George Nathaniel Curzon, owner of Montacute House and he entrusted her with the task of redecorating the house. She couldn’t abide the cold, but in the name of love she endured freezing conditions. When the couple’s affair eventually cooled – and Curzon married another woman – Elinor destroyed over five hundred of his letters. Read this and more stories of occupants who have lived at Montacute.

Mussenden Temple in, County Londonderry, Northern Ireland

A temple built on scandal at Mussenden Temple 

Rumours surrounded the Bishop of Derry’s relationship with his niece, Frideswide. The Bishop appears to have been extremely fond of his young relation and when a journal suggested that the pair had improper relations the gossip spread fast. The Bishop’s plan was that when Frideswide visited, she could go to the temple to retire. However, tragedy struck and the place which was to be Frideswide’s refuge became her memorial.

Visitors having tea outside Nostell Priory, West Yorkshire

Shopaholics and secrets at Nostell Priory 

Edith Winn was engaged to the grandson of the Earl of Shaftesbury, but secretly accepted a proposal from another man. Edith's mother, Mabel Susan Winn, was an incurable shopaholic, who blew the equivalent of £650 on hairbrushes in one London shop, £5000 on gloves in another and a staggering £14,689 on two dresses. Uncover Nostell Priory's past.