Visit to Polesden Lacey July 15th 2015
Twenty-five members set off on a disappointingly grey day to the National Trust property of Polesden Lacey, Great Bookham, near Dorking, Surrey. On arrival we were split in to two groups for our tour of the house which does not open to the public until 12.30. After a welcome cup of coffee our guide showed us a selection of rooms in the “party house” owned by society hostess Margaret Grenville, daughter of William McEwan, the brewer.
Margaret “I would rather be a Beeress than a Peeress” Grenville and her husband, Ronald, bought the house in 1906 and although he died in 1908, she continued to run the house until her death in 1942. She wanted a house that would be fit for kings and maharajas so she commissioned the architects of the Ritz, Mewes and Davis, to design it to be the epitome of the latest in luxury and comfort and, as such, was equipped with all the latest innovations such as en suite bathrooms and central heating. The highlights of our tour were the Central Hall with its priceless collection of Majolica ceramics; the Dining Room where distinguished guests like King Edward VII and Winston Churchill were entertained; the Library with its collection of photographs of Margaret Greville’s friends such as the Aga Khan, the future King and Queen as well as members of the family. We also visited the Saloon which is sumptuously decorated in rich reds and 18th century Italian gold panelling with fabulous chandeliers reflected in its infinity mirrors and the Picture Corridor with its many Dutch old masters.
The rest of the day was spent exploring the grounds, fortunately now bathed in warm sunshine. There was ample opportunity to admire the wonderful vistas across the estate from the deckchairs on the South Terrace where the famous photograph of the future King George VI and Queen Elizabeth on their honeymoon at Polesden Lacey was taken in 1923. A guided garden tour took place during the afternoon but it was also most enjoyable to walk around the various formal gardens and pleasure grounds looking at the roses, herbaceous borders and cut flower gardens. Some members revisited the house to see other rooms such as the Chippendale bedroom and Mrs. Greville’s bedroom, bathroom and boudoir. It was also possible to visit the study and Billiard room.
Before returning home we also enjoyed lunch in the restaurant or café and there was an opportunity to shop for souvenirs or gifts and even to browse in the second-hand bookshop. An excellent day out for all.