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Things to see inside the house at Kingston Lacy

Chimneypiece in the Inner Hall, carved with William Bankes's coat of arms quartered with those of Wynne and Brune, at Kingston Lacy
The carved chimneypiece in the Inner Hall at Kingston Lacy | © National Trust Images / John Hammond

When Kingston Lacy was gifted to the National Trust in 1981, it was the largest ever bequest at the time. This ‘jewel box’ of a house, fashioned into a grand Italian palazzo in the 1830s, holds one of the UK’s finest private collections of paintings. Among other things to see are magnificent sculptures, bespoke furniture and Egyptian artefacts brought back by the intrepid traveller William John Bankes.

Hidden Treasures of the BBC

Interested in seeing behind the scenes at Kingston Lacy? The BBC's second series of Hidden Treasures of the National Trust features Kingston Lacy in episode one. You can watch the six-part series every Friday at 9pm on BBC Two, starting from Friday 10 May. You can also catch up on any episodes you miss on BBC iPlayer.

A curator shines a torch on a painting to examine it closely
One of Rubens' magnificent portraits came under the spotlight for the BBC series Hidden Treasures of the National Trust | © National Trust/Jay Williams

The Entrance Hall, Marble Staircase and Loggia

The hall, with its creamy stone and classical columns, is grand but surprisingly low-key despite the ornate detailing. The drama begins when you turn the corner and see the sweeping marble staircase, with its trompe l’oeil effect ceiling, modelled on the staircase of the Palazzo Ruspoli in Rome.

Pause on the half-landing to admire three massive bronze figures - the work of sculptor Marochetti (better known for the Trafalgar Square lions) - that showcase the Bankes family heroes.

The Library

This intimate, book and picture-lined room has barely changed since the 18th century. The painting on the ceiling was created for a palace in Bologna more than 400 years ago but snapped up by William John Bankes in 1840.

The Drawing Room

The pink and gold colour scheme was the work of Henrietta Bankes (c.1871-1953), and is typical of the Edwardian look. It was here that she entertained royalty and reigned as a society hostess under the watchful gaze of her husband’s great-grandmother, Frances Woodley, painted by George Romney; and a unique collection of 50 enamel miniatures painted by Henry Bone (1755-1834).

Visitors exploring the Spanish Room at Kingston Lacy, featuring a collection of framed Spanish paintings, a large wooden table and chairs, and a visitors relaxing on a couch
Visitors exploring the Spanish Room at Kingston Lacy | © National Trust Images / James Dobson

The Dining Room

Dominated by the magnificent but unfinished The Judgement of Solomon by Sebastiano del Piombo (1485-1547), the Dining Room is filled with intricate woodwork from the elaborate boxwood doors, carved in Venice, to the walnut shutters designed by William John Bankes himself.

The Spanish Room

This extravagant and glittering ‘Picture Room’ was William John’s proudest creation, the more remarkable for having been executed while he was in exile. He bought painted ceiling panels from Venetian palaces and lined the walls with finely tooled leather. He designed the 12 door panels himself, illustrating the months of the year, and gave detailed instructions for decorating the carved shutters. The walls are hung with pictures by Velazquez and Murillo.

The Saloon

Created from the original double-height hall, this neo-classical room was the scene of a ‘Grand Fete’ in 1791, when 140 guests danced from 9pm until 1am. It is now filled with some of Kingston Lacy’s finest masterpieces, including paintings by Titian, Rubens, Jan Brueghel the Younger and Sir Peter Lely.

The Saloon at Kingston Lacy with a high coved ceiling, fireplace, carved wood doors, framed paintings and furniture around the room
The Saloon at Kingston Lacy | © National Trust Images / Andreas von Einsiedel

The State Bedroom

The magnificent carved walnut and holly bed was once described as ‘a mistake in both design and taste’. It was commissioned by William John Bankes but not delivered until after his death (his brother tried to cancel the contract). The adjoining bathroom wasn’t plumbed in until the early 20th century.

The Upper Floors and Attics

Upstairs you'll find bedrooms both grand and not-so-grand. One favourite is the Tented Bedrooms: decorated to look like the inside of a striped campaign tent. These rooms would have been reserved for bachelor guests.

The White Bedroom was the private quarters of 26-year-old Henrietta Fraser when she married the 44-year-old sportsman Walter Bankes. It is a very feminine room, with French wallpaper and ornate white furniture.

The Servants’ Hall and Back Hall

Here you will find some of the ancient Egyptian artefacts William John acquired during his travels. These include papyrus drawings, scarabs and amulets.

Visitors exploring the Spanish Room at Kingston Lacy, featuring a collection of framed Spanish paintings, a large wooden table and chairs, and a visitors relaxing on a couch

Discover more at Kingston Lacy

Find out when Kingston Lacy is open, how to get here, the things to see and do and more.

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