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Montacute House: Saving the Staircases

Chestnut tree and cedar lawn at Montacute House, Somerset
Chestnut tree and cedar lawn at Montacute House, Somerset | © Chris Davies, National Trust

‘Saving the Staircases’ is an essential project to address the urgent need to repair, conserve, strengthen, and protect the two staircases at Montacute House for the future.

Completed in 1601, Montacute House is a daring example of Elizabethan Renaissance architecture and design. Saving it from demolition, it became the second large mansion property to come under the care of the National Trust in 1931. It is filled with a decorative arts collection of internationally significant textiles, furniture and paintings dating from the from the 15th to the 19th century.

The Hamstone staircases at either end of the house connect it together and let visitors enjoy the collections, rooms, architecture, and views as they were intended. The stairs are built into the masonry walls, and within each staircase there are more flights of steps with landings seperating them than is common. The steps (treads) are made up of one, or two pieces, of stone with toggle joints. The landings are formed from multiple stone slabs - the outer slabs are also built into the surrounding walls, with the central ones supported on joggle joints.

Wear and tear over hundreds of years, particularly on the toggle and joggle joints, has made the soft and porous stone steps vulnerable. The South stairs were closed to visitors in 2018, followed by the closure of the North stairs in 2023.

The ambition of the project is twofold. Firstly, to deliver a structural solution to repair both staircases. Secondly, to ensure protections are in place to prevent future wear of the stone. Achieving these ambitions means the staircases can reopen to everyone.

key facts


the total number of treads for both staircases


the total length if each tread was laid side by side


is a coarse-grained limestone only extracted from quarries on nearby Ham Hill

Project updates

Aug 2023

Closure of the staircases

A project has been in the pipeline since 2018, when the South stairs was closed, to address the fact that both staircases have deteriorated due to hundreds of years of wear and tear. It was paused due to the Covid pandemic.

As a result of the closure of the South stairs, the additional two-way footfall on the North stairs was having a cumulative impact. Therefore, it was advised that access to these stairs is closely controlled.

National Trust conservation staff and agreed third parties continue to access the first and second floors, when necessary, whilst adhering to the strict guidance that has been issued.

The conservation team have been spending time ‘putting the upper floors to bed’. This involves deep cleaning the historic interiors from top to bottom and then checking and cleaning the furniture and furnishings.  Once this is done, the objects are covered up to protect them from dust accumulation and exposure to light.

Treads and landing of the North staircase at Montacute House
The North staircase at Montacute House | © National Trust Images/James Dobson
The west front of Montacute house as the sun begins to set behind it

History of Montacute House 

Step inside an Elizabethan Renaissance masterpiece at Montacute House, with its historic interiors, beautiful furniture and fantastic portraits.

Tournai Tapestry at Montacute House

Things to do in Montacute House 

Explore the ground floor of the house at Montacute in Somerset, home of the rare Tournai Tapestry.

Family looking at the fountain at Montacute House

Things to do in the garden at Montacute House 

Explore the garden of Montacute House throughout the seasons. See the yew trees, affectionately known as ‘wibbly wobbly’ hedges, or take a few moments of tranquillity in the Orangery.