New beginnings: The story of the National Trust at Mompesson House

Mompesson House in 1980

Our 2017 exhibition celebrates the 40th anniversary of the redecorating, furnishing and opening of Mompesson to visitors. In 1975 the National Trust inherited an empty house following the death of the last resident Denis Martineau. Over the next two years the National Trust refashioned the house as it might have been in its Georgian heyday; choosing appropriate colours to paint the walls and acquiring furniture, paintings and objects to fill the empty rooms.

Denis Martineau

Denis Martineau
Denis Martineau

Denis Martineau was a London architect who bought Mompesson House in 1952 to use as a weekend retreat, on the condition that he would give it to the National Trust on his death. He was responsible for the upkeep of the house as long as he lived there; he carried out important structural repairs and installed new plumbing and central heating. He also set about a complete redecoration in bright vivid colours and amassed pictures, furniture and objets d’art from all periods.


Denis died on 4 December 1975 at the age of 68 at his home in London. He had no immediate family and contrary to expectations he did not leave the contents of the house to the National Trust. However he did bequeath it the curtains, carpets, light fittings and garden ornaments. In the exhibition there are some of these on display, including some rather exotic curtains! We also share some wonderful photographs of the house from 1976 before any work was carried out. Here's a glimpse of the entrance hall and staircase.

Interior decoration in 1976
Interior decoration in 1976

Redecorating the house

In April 1976 the National Trust decided that the principle rooms of the house were to be redecorated, furnished and opened to visitors with National Trust staff in place in 1977. Paint scrapes were taken in the main rooms to try and discover evidence of previous colour schemes. It was decided to choose colours that would enhance the decorative plasterwork and that would have been used in the 18th-century.

Furnishing the house

The house was furnished with loans and bequests of furniture, paintings and objects from other National Trust properties, museums and individuals. The exhibition showcases some of the items which are still in the house today.

Glasses in the Turnbull collection
Glasses in the Turnbull collection

Mr O.G.N Turnbull gave us his father’s collection of 18th century drinking glasses. There are over 370 glasses in the collection, some of which are displayed in the dining room and small drawing room. In the exhibition you’ll be able to see glasses that are not usually on display. You’ll also have the chance to see rarely seen objects that were given to the house by Miss Dorothy Bushby. There's also photographs, guidebooks and other documents from the time that we found in Mompesson's archives.