Treasures in the South West

With more than one million objects at over 200 historic places, we care for one of the world’s most significant collections of heritage objects and fine art – a treasure chest of history. A new book – 125 Treasures from the Collections of the National Trust – shares the stories behind some of these remarkable objects.

The book takes readers on a journey through time, starting with Roman sculpture and ending with 20th-century design. In the South West we're home to a number of these treasures, some of which you can see by reading on.

Book cover of 125 Treasures

125 Treasures book 

This beautifully illustrated book showcases 125 fascinating objects from the vast and astonishing collections held in the historic houses cared for by the National Trust. It's a starting point for exploring these collections. By buying the book, you're helping us to raise funds to conserve, research and share these collections for everyone to enjoy.

Dyrham Park, Gloucestershire

Dyrham Park is home to three of the 125 treasures, including a perspective painting by Samuel van Hoogstraten, considered this artist’s masterpiece. Hoogstraten was famed for his ‘trompe-l’oeil’ pictures, meaning ‘deceives the eye’. 

Video

Take a closer peek

Tarnya Cooper takes us up close to Samuel van Hoogstraten's illusionistic masterpiece at Dyrham Park in this video.

Kingston Lacy, Dorset

Kingston Lacy is home to seven of the 125 treasures. It's no suprise that this treasure house of extraordinary art with interiors inspired by Venetian palaces features so often in the book, as Kingston Lacy is home to one of the National Trust’s most important art collections. Rubens, Titian and Sebastiano are among the great Western artists whose works decorate the walls.

 

 

Jean de Planche binding, 1565

The binding of this book is one of the most remarkable to be executed in England in the 16th century. It's the work of Jean de Planche, a Huguenot immigrant binder from Dijon who worked in London from 1567 until at least 1575. Eight bindings by de Planche are known, but this is perhaps his masterpiece.

The elaborate armorial binding by Jean de Planche from the library at Kingston Lacy, Dorset
The elaborate armorial binding by Jean de Planche
The elaborate armorial binding by Jean de Planche from the library at Kingston Lacy, Dorset

The binding was probably made for Sir Nicholas Bacon, Lord Keeper of the Great Seal under Elizabeth I, for it is his armorial device that adorns the front cover. Bacon’s family motto ‘Mediocra firma’ ('the middle ground is safe') appears on the back cover.

The book itself is the encyclopaedic ‘Theatrum vitae humanae’ by the Swiss physician and humanist scholar Theodor Zwinger. An enormous volume of 1,400 pages, it's perhaps the most comprehensive gathering of sources to be compiled by a single individual in the early modern period.

Buckland Abbey, Devon

A self-portrait, previously doubted as being a genuine Rembrandt, was scientifically verified as being from the Dutch Old Master’s own hand in 2014. One of the most famous artists of all time, Rembrandt van Rijn (1606–69) repeatedly used his own face to practise and demonstrate his craft. This one was painted in 1635, when he had recently moved from Leiden to Amsterdam and begun a successful career.

Stourhead, Wiltshire

This jewel in the South West is home to three treasures from the book 125 Tresures from the Collections of the National Trust. A leaming gilt-bronze bust of King Charles I, a marble statue of Hercules, and the most significant example of Italian pietre dure cabinet-making in Britain.

The Cabinet Room at Stourhead, Wiltshire

The Sixtus Cabinet, or the Pope's Cabinet 

This cabinet was once owned by Felice Peretti, Pope Sixtus V (b.1521; r.1585–90). Inside are 153 separate drawers for keeping secret items and precious personal collections, such as miniatures. It was designed to amaze and impress, made with a range of rich materials, including gilt bronze, ebony, alabaster and semi-precious materials and jewels.

Saltram, Devon

Two treasures featured in the book are from Saltram, including one of the most important carpets owned by the National Trust. This fine Axminster was designed by the celebrated architect Robert Adam (1728–92) to reflect the plasterwork celling, creating an elegant and harmonious effect.

View of Saltram's Robert Adam Saloon with chandeliers

The Robert Adam Saloon 

A ‘Great Room’ designed to host the most extravagant of parties. Saltram’s saloon is one of the finest surviving Robert Adam interiors in the country.

Japanese samurai armour

Samurai armour at Snowshill Manor

Discover why this 19th-century Samurai armour – beautifully decorated with a dragon, crickets and dragonflies – was designed for show rather than practicality.

Where else will you find treasures in the South West?

Eight other special places in the South West feature in 125 Tresures from the Collections of the National Trust:

  • Bath Assembly Rooms
  • Cotehele
  • Godolphin
  • Greenway
  • Knightshayes
  • Lacock Abbey
  • Montacute House
  • Snowshill