Whilst Pat was seeing a friend who lived in the area, I got to go to Lanhydrock House and it was very very impressive. My overall impression of the house was of a house frozen in Victorian times although parts of the house (the north wing with a long gallery) date back to the 1620s as does the gatehouse. The rest of the house was significantly damaged by fire in 1881. When it was rebuilt, Thomas Charles (the then owner) specified that he wanted “an unpretentious family home”, I am not sure he succeeded with the unpretentious part.
The Lanhydroch Journals provide a detailed history of the house and its owners - so detailed that only the dedicated will read them all.
Much of the house is presented as the Victorian / Edwardian Country House used by the Robartes Family as their Summer House - they also owned Wimpole Hall (another National Trust property) in Cambridgeshire from 1740 to 1938.
Passing through the 17th Century Gatehouse, here seen from the inside,
you walk up a long drive leading to the original front porch
and just inside, as a taster to the clever way the National Trust have laid out the house are pictures of those people who lived in the house around whom the house is now presented.
They include owners of the house and servants.
This is the hall and it is furnished in a rather welcoming style and it is easy to imagine one has just arrived for a weekend stay.
The adjacent Dining Room is laid out for a formal meal
and close by are the kitchens
a cold room for cheese and other dairy products and anything else which needed to be kept cool plus many other service rooms. When it was rebuilt, many of the latest modern inventions were installed including a hot steam method of cleaning greasy pans.
When I left “below stairs” (or more exactly, the back of the house) I was in a corridor leading to The Honourable Thomas Agar-Ronbartes room - the eldest son and heir whose determination to go to the Front in WW1 saw him killed at the age of 35.
His valet has obviously just popped out for a moment because his
rooms are laid out just as if the valet had been unpacking.
Over 50 rooms are open for visiting and it is impossible to record or comment on them all but I was taken by
the Children’s Nursery / Play Room,
His Lordship’s Bedroom which was separated from
her Ladyship’s Room by a bathroom and two lockable doors (nothing so vulgar as always sleeping in the same bed !)
and her adjacent sitting room
where she and her closest friends could meet for tea and cakes.
If I was allowed only one favourite room, it would the the Long Library and its ceiling - a room which survived the fire of 1881.
To describe the Library Ceiling as magnificent, is to do it an injustice. Not only is it magnificent, it is also an astonishing piece of craftsmanship with the whole of the Book of Genesis being portrayed in the ceiling.
One side has one story per picture - and in order they are:
Adam naming the animals
Adam and Eve in the Garden
Eve giving Adam the apple
Adam and Eve driven out of the garden
Adam and Eve tilling the ground
Offering of Cain and Abel
Cain killing Abel
Noah Building the Ark
The entry into the Ark
Noah giving thanks
Abraham offering up Isaac
David and Goliath
and then, perhaps when they realised that Genesis was longer than the ceiling space, the other side has two stories per picture frame
Rebekah speaking to Jacob and Jacob brings the kids to Rebekah
Esau Hunting and Isaac blessing Jacob
Rebekah talking to Isaac and Isaac talking to Jacob
Jacob Praying and Jacob’s Dream
Jacob pouring oil upon the stone and Jacob meeting Rachel
Jacob and Laban and Jacob serving seven years for Rachel
Jacob with Leah and Rachel and Jacob setting his wives upon camels
Laban in Jacob’s tent and Jacob’s covenant with Laban
Jacob wrestling with the angel and The Man of God and Jacob
The meeting of Jacob and Esau and Amor and Jacob
Dinah going and Jacob setting out for Bethel
Jacob pouring oil upon the altar and The Burial of Isaac.
History does not stop here however. In a case to one side it the book which was used by Henry VIII to justify the annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon and his marriage to (the pregnant) Anne Boleyn.
The book was written by William of Ockham who (and I now partially quote from the explanation given inside the case) was an English Franciscan friar, scholastic philosopher and theologian. It is known that the book was owned by King Henry VIII because in the top right hand corner of the flyleaf is written the number 282. This corresponds to its place in an inventory of the Upper Library at Westminster Palace taken in 1542.
After many years of marriage to Catherine of Aragon, Henry VIII had no male heir. Having set his sights on Anne Boleyn, he unsuccessfully appealed to the Pope to annul the marriage.
Ockham had argued against the supremacy of the Pope. He maintained that in the case of a heretical pope (as he branded Pope John XXII, a view which might have been influenced by the fact that the Pope had excommunicated him) that a General Council could determine the outcome of King’s request.
Without going into a detailed explanation, because Pope Clement VII would not grant an annulment, the result was that in 1534, King Henry VIII and subsequent monarchs became the supreme head of the Church of England instead of the Roman Catholic Pope - essentially the formal beginning of the English Reformation.
It really is a superb house and well worth far more time than I could spend there.