Honey coloured masterpiece
Built from the locally quarried Ham Hill stone, Montacute House was intended to make a powerful impression.
Sir Edward Phelips made his fortune as a lawyer, enjoying a successful political career entering Parliament in 1584 and becoming speaker of the House of Commons from 1601 to 1611. Edward played a key role in one of the trials of the century, making the opening statement for the prosecution against the notorious Guy Fawkes and his fellow gunpowder plotters.
Designed to be magnificent by local builder and architect, William Arnold, the house was a symbol of Sir Edward’s power and wealth.
The architecture is a mix of two styles, the traditional Gothic and the new fashionable Renaissance, with ideas and influences coming from the continent. The house was built on a grand scale with turrets, obelisks, shell niches, pavilions and its walls of glass. On the east front stand the Nine Worthies, statues of biblical, classical and medieval figures, including Julius Caesar and King Arthur.
In 1787 the house was occupied by a later Edward Phelips, who gave it a face lift. Remarkably he took an ornamental façade from another local 16th century house, Clifton Maybank, and added it to the west front. It meant the layout of the house could be changed. On the ground floor, rooms were enlarged and fireplaces added. The first floor was transformed, family and visitors could have privacy and their own door, as a corridor was created. Before this, family and visitors would have to go through each other’s rooms to get from one side of the house to the other.
The house is open everyday from 11am till 4.30pm. Last entry is at 4.00pm.