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The Gatehouse Tower at Knole

Portrait of Eddy Sackville-West in the Music Room, in the Gatehouse Tower at Knole, Kent, by Graham Sutherland
Portrait of Eddy Sackville-West by Graham Sutherland in the Music Room of the Gatehouse Tower | © National Trust/Ciaran McCrickard

Discover the life and loves of former resident Eddy Sackville-West. Explore Eddy’s rooms in the Gatehouse Tower and climb the spiral stairs to take in panoramic views at the top.

For centuries, visitors to Knole have been met by the imposing façade of the Gatehouse Tower. Passing through the huge wooden doors with the tower arching into the sky above, many have gazed in awe at the impressive entrance to this historic house. The commanding tower dominates Knole’s west front and was possibly built by Thomas Bourchier, Archbishop of Canterbury, between 1472 and 1474.

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.

Further up, as you walk out onto the roof of the tower, you're rewarded with fabulous views across Knole’s parkland.

Explore Eddy's rooms

Known to his friends as Eddy, Edward Sackville-West was a novelist and music critic who lived in the Gatehouse Tower at Knole between 1926 and 1940. Eddy was passionate about art, music and literature and was regularly visited by artists and literary figures of the Bloomsbury Group. These included the novelist Virginia Woolf and the painter Duncan Grant, as well as his famous cousin Vita Sackville-West, the gardener and poet who lived close by at Sissinghurst.

Surviving snippets of information suggest that the decoration of the Gatehouse Tower apartment was overseen by one of his friends, the surrealist artist John Banting. Eddy’s life mask can also be found on the wall at the entrance to his bedroom and is estimated to date from 1926.

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

Take in the view from the top of the tower

If you climb the 77 steps of the steep spiral staircase to the top of the tower, you're rewarded with panoramic views of Knole Park. The breath-taking sight is worth the steps as it takes in the vast parkland with its wild deer herd, 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’s emblem).

It's here that Virginia Woolf’s claim in Orlando (first published in 1928), comes to life - that Knole is ‘more like a town than a house’. From this viewpoint, you can certainly experience Knole’s setting in this beautiful, historic landscape.

An insight into Eddy's life at Knole

Eddy was a prodigiously talented musician, whose ear for all things musical defined much of his personal life and professional career. Prevented by ill health from pursuing life as a professional musician, he became a respected music journalist, literary critic and novelist. He wrote much of his work residing in the Gatehouse Tower, including publishing five novels.

His life mask (c1929) hangs in the Tower outside his bedroom – the attributed artist is Paul Hamann who was renowned for his life masks of famous men and women of politics and the arts. Eddy’s portrait by renowned artist Graham Sutherland hangs in the Music Room, one of Eddy’s favourite portraits.

Eddy’s visitor book at Knole contains records of visits by LP Hartley, Aldous and Julian Huxley, EM Forster, Raymond Mortimer, Lytton Strachey, Duncan Grant and others – many of whom made up the backbone of the British literary and artistic establishment in the 1920s and 30s.

Exploring LGBTQ history at Knole

Back in 2017, Knole celebrated its rich LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer) connections as part of the National Trust’s Prejudice and Pride programme, marking 50 years since the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality.

There are permanent displays in the Gatehouse Tower that focus on Eddy’s experiences as a gay man in the early 20th century. They shine a light on Eddy’s time in Germany during the inter-war and Second World War period and his friendships, relationships and experiences during this time.

Virtual tour of the Gatehouse Tower

Take a look inside the Gatehouse Tower at Knole - Virtually climb the spiral staircase and gain an insight into the life of Edward Sackville-West, the 5th Baron Sackville. See the view from the top of the tower.

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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