The longest survivor: the Long Gallery at Montacute House

A view along all 172 feet of Montacute's long gallery

Montacute’s gallery may have been one of the last examples built of this ‘must have’ feature of great Elizabethan houses, it is also the longest which survives.

A status symbol

Great houses were something to be marvelled at. The lofty top floor is the place to imagine how Montacute felt for a visitor in 1603. This is where Edward Phelips knew that his guests would be astonished and enraptured with his house. It’s where he would want us to be a little in awe of his grandeur and aware of his wealth and social position. But it’s also a space to have fun, relax and even to take some gentle exercise.

East Court at Montacute House, Somerset
East Court at Montacute House
East Court at Montacute House, Somerset

The windows on each side allow light to pour in. They capture sunshine on the darkest winter day. When it was too cold or wet to get outside, the gallery was the place to walk and play games. It stretches for over 52m (172 feet). Even today it’s impossible to stop yourself from wandering along it, gazing out of windows or chatting if you’re walking with someone else. If this is what you find yourself doing, then it’s just what the architect William Arnold intended.

 

Portraits to inspire conversation

Here you can still find yourself face to face with those who would have been familiar with the shelter of similar galleries on rainy days long ago. Through our partnership with the National Portrait Gallery, the side rooms are full of people of the time. The famous, occasionally the notorious and many of those less well known. Our exhibitions continue another original use of these spaces:a place to hang picture collections, each portrait a talking point or source of a story to share on a dull day.

Why so long and narrow?

It’s easy to see the original narrow width of the house in the gallery. Here you could look out on the landscape of farms, parkland and gardens. All owned by the Phelips family and all part of a single grand design. 

View from the Long Gallery over the garden and parkland
View from the Long Gallery over the garden and parkland
View from the Long Gallery over the garden and parkland

There was another reason why the narrowness of the building was important. Facing on to the main road (now lost within the parkland) the height would always have been imposing. At night, flickering like a lantern in the inky darkness of a country night, it must have looked astonishing.
 

The west front of Montacute House

Explore Montacute House

A glittering Elizabethan Renaissance masterpiece, its walls of glittering glass set in glowing ham-stone make this a place of beauty and wonder.

The house at is now closed. You may not be able to visit at the moment, but you can still explore the collection online and discover some of its stories.

Visiting Montacute House: what you need to know

We're looking forward to welcoming you. If you're booking a ticket for a visit to Montacute House, in this article you'll find everything you need to know about what's open and what to expect from your visit. We've made some changes to our usual offer, to help keep everyone safe.