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

Mompesson House in 1980

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

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. 

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. 

Glasses in the Turnbull collection
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.