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Explore the showrooms at Knole

A lavishly decorated bedroom with a four poster bed hung with embroidered hangings and tapestry hung walls at Knole in Kent
Lady Betty Germain's bedroom at Knole in Kent | © National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

Knole is home to one of the rarest collections in the world of Stuart-era furniture, paintings and textiles, on show to visitors since the 1600s. Hidden above the grandeur of the showrooms, the attics give a glimpse into the evolution of grand country houses. On a visit to Knole you'll also uncover a simpler side to the grandeur, with the modest rooms in the Gatehouse Tower that Eddy Sackville-West called home.

A historic show house

Knole has been a show house ever since Thomas Sackville first acquired it in 1605, and the incredibly rare collection survives for visitors to explore today. Visitors to Knole have followed the same route around the house for at least the last 400 years.

There's a popular myth (heavily promoted by Vita Sackville-West) that Knole is a calendar house – with 365 rooms, 52 staircases, 12 entrances and seven courtyards. While a fascinating idea, sadly this isn't the case.

The reality is the house was not designed and built in a single phase but is the accumulation of several stages of construction. The house itself encompasses seven acres of roofs and contains around 400 rooms; some are privately occupied while the showrooms continue to be open to visitors.

For the last 400 years, the showrooms have been open to visitors rather than inhabited regularly as family rooms. Discover fascinating portraits, textiles, furniture and objects including Stuart-era beds, chairs and tapestries. You are welcome to take photos but please don't use flash, tripods or commercial filming equipment.

What to look out for

  • Visit the Great Hall, dominated by the immense ornamented oak screen dating from 1605, then journey up the highly decorative Great Staircase which will take you to the showrooms.
  • The Spangle Bedroom with its state bed and magnificent textiles embellished with hundreds of silver gilt sequins is a highlight, rivalled only by the James II bed in the Venetian Bedroom.
  • Rare silver furniture can be found in the King's Room. Look out for the story behind the 17th-century Kussenkast (the Dutch word for cushion wardrobe, so named because of its shape), discovered in pieces in the attics.
  • The famous 17th-century Knole Sofa with its distinctive high back and sides has been conserved by the studio and is displayed in the Leicester Gallery, protected by a glass box.
  • The life-size portrait of John Frederick Sackville, 3rd Duke of Dorset (1745-1799) in the Reynolds Room. Painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792) in 1769, the masterpiece was conserved in the onsite Royal Oak Foundation conservation studio. Watch the video below to find out more.

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Conserving an 18th century masterpiece

It took expert conservators, including those working in the Royal Oak Foundation Conservation Studio at Knole, over 500 hours to transform a Reynolds' masterpiece back to glory. Click the video to find out more.

Discover Knole’s attics

The attics at Knole are very different from the rooms you see in the house. Hidden above the grandeur of the showrooms, they give a glimpse into the evolution of grand houses like Knole, reflecting how they were first and foremost family homes as well as show houses.

What's been left behind can tell us as much about the lives of the inhabitants and people who passed through the house as the furniture and portraits displayed downstairs.

Ever-changing spaces

The scale of the attics at Knole might be slightly larger than average and the contents a little older than most. Divided into three large areas, the often-forgotten domestic attics – sometimes lived in but more often used as storage areas – have evolved over the centuries with each generation adapting them to their needs.

Visitor looking through the door way into the attic space at Knole, Kent
Visitor exploring the attic space at Knole, Kent | © National Trust Images/John Millar

Surprise discoveries

While conservation work was taking place in the attics as part of the Inspired by Knole project, some exciting discoveries were made.

Part of an ebony cupboard showing ornate carving
Knole's rare, ebony Kussenkast was discovered in pieces in the attics | © National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

Knole’s Kussenkast

Various pieces of wood were discovered that were initially thought to be unimportant, but actually proved to be quite the opposite. On further examination and with the help of a conservator, it was discovered to be a Dutch cupboard called a Kussenkast. After considerable research and conservation work, it has been reassembled and is back on display in the Spangle Bedroom. Find out more about conserving Knole's Kussenkast by listening to interview snippets with Conservator Jan Cutajar.

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Tour the attics at Knole

Visitors can join knowledgeable volunteer guides on a 45-minute tour of the attic spaces to see these fascinating rooms and hear more stories of the people who used them and the objects that have been found here.

Book your space on an attic tour

The Gatehouse Tower on the West Front at Knole, Kent
The Gatehouse Tower on the West Front at Knole | © National Trust/Robert Morris

The Gatehouse Tower

For centuries, visitors to Knole have been met by the imposing façade of the Gatehouse Tower. The commanding tower dominates Knole’s west front and was possibly built by Henry VIII between 1543 and 1548.

Within the tower are two rooms belonging to Edward Sackville-West, 5th Baron Sackville. The atmospheric bedroom and music room contain many of his personal belongings, including books and music records from his varied collection, as well as his gramophone and visitor book.

A rooftop view

If you climb the 77 steps of the steep spiral staircase to the top of the tower, you'll be rewarded with panoramic views of Knole Park. The sight is worth the steps as it takes in the vast parkland with its wild deer herd, and giving visitors the chance to appreciate the scale of Knole’s complex 17th-century roofline, with its many chimneys and carved stone leopards – the Sackville family emblem.

Eddy Sackville-West's bedroom in the Gatehouse Tower at Knole, Kent
Eddy's bedroom in the Gatehouse Tower at Knole | © National Trust Images/John Hammond
A family of four walking across the grass parkland at Knole in Kent looking for clues on a family trail activity

Book your visit

We recommend that you book tickets to visit Knole. You can book tickets up to an hour before your visit (subject to availability). Every Thursday time slots will be available for the next four weeks.

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