Worthing National Trust Association

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Polesden Lacey and Hatchlands Park

It was a warm, sunny day for our outing to these two venues.  They are each only 40 miles or so from Worthing so it was not a long journey.

After arriving at Polesden Lacey we were welcomed by a National Trust guide and offered tickets for guided viewings of selected rooms at 11.15 and 11.45.  Being on the second tour, this gave us time to view the outside of the property, unfortunately hidden under scaffolding, so we relaxed on a bench to admire the spacious grounds.

The tour was of four rooms on the ground floor, led by a knowledgeable guide.  The story is that William McEwan, of brewery fame, had an illegitimate daughter in 1864 by a servant named Anderson.  The daughter, Margaret, was brought up with that name, although William did eventually marry the mother, and ensured that she moved in high society circles.  Margaret married an impoverished Ronald Greville, part of the Warwick Greville dynasty, she bringing family money to the marriage.

Polesden Lacey was bought in 1906.  Ronald died in 1908, and her father in 1918, leaving Margaret fabulously wealthy.  She indulged her tastes widely, making the property a magnet for house parties for royalty, politicians, the rich and the famous.  The house was furnished at enormous expense, and much of it can be seen today.  She died in 1942, leaving the property to the nation (having previously promised it to the Duke of York, but when he unexpectedly became king she re-thought this).

The four rooms visited were the entrance hall, dining room, library and Gold Saloon.  The entrance hall also served as the place for pre-dinner drinks, with Margaret processing down the staircase in her finery.  The dining room included a circular dining table, with access to the kitchens through a hidden door.  The walls are covered with valuable (priceless?) paintings, mainly by Scottish artists.

The corridors to the rest of the ground floor are in a quadrangle arrangement with barrel vaulted ceilings and of course many paintings.  The Gold Saloon is to gasp over, with 24 ct gold leaf everywhere, and entire wall decorations, frescos, corniches etc from a palace in Naples.  By comparison the library seems ordinary, but on further examination was as well-furnished as the rest of the rooms we saw.

The house was open for “free flow” visiting from 12.30 pm, allowing access to the upstairs rooms and to other rooms on the ground floor.  Time did not permit us to do this as we had to leave at 1.30 pm.

Hatchlands Park is an estate of some 400 acres in the Surrey countryside, offering many walks through fields and woods.  The house was built in the 1750s for Admiral Boscawen, with Robert Adam being given an early commission to design the interior.  This resulted in ornate ceilings and walls in all the rooms that we were able to view.

Boscawen did not live there long, with successive ownership by the Sumner and Rendel families.  There is a long history of the Cobbe family living there, and the house is still a family home, with the Cobbes as tenants.

The ground floor rooms are stuffed with furniture, books etc., with the obvious intention of displaying as much as possible in a limited space.  This made it a little difficult to appreciate the finer points of furniture hidden by other furniture.  There is a fine collection of historic keyboard instruments, many associated with famous composers.

The highlight to me was in the Museum Room, only open to visitors on the day as an alternative to the dining room, which was being used for a function.  In there is a portrait of William Shakespeare, painted by a Cobbe in 1610, six years before Shakespeare’s death.  

Our thanks to John Gray for a safe journey, to Joan Gray for arranging the outing and to Jean White for taking on the organisation following Joan’s accident.Our thanks to John Gray for a safe journey, to Joan Gray for arranging the outing and to Jean White for taking on the organisation following Joan’s accident.

Text and photographs by Tony Ede

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