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Kingston Lacy can be found in Wimborne Minster in the lovely county of Dorset on the South Coast of England. It was the private home of the Bankes family who previously were occupants of Corfe castle prior to it being destroyed by parliamentarians. Once the castle had been destroyed they set about looking for somewhere to build a new house. They chose this place to build the house which was on the Lacy estate. The house was designed by Sir Roger Pratt and building commenced in 1663. It was finally finished two years later in 1665. Inigo Jones designed the interior of the house which was seen to completion by his assistant John Webb. It had been thought that the house had totally been designed by Jones but after finding all the plans from Webb it was realised that he only played a part in the interior design.
The house was updated in the 1700's and many things added to the house from around Europe. One of the Bankes spent a long time travelling around Europe doing the grand tour as it was then known, buying up art works and shipping them back to Kingston Lacy where they can be found furnishing the rooms. William Bankes actually fled England after facing charges of Homosexuality and sodomy after being caught exposing himself in Green Park. In those days had he been convicted he could have received the death penalty. He was advised to flee the country but had he done so the treasury could have taken over all his properties so in order to prevent this happening he signed over Kingston Lacy to his brothers and fled to Italy. It was from here over a period of 14 years that he obtained many objects d'art and shipped them back to Kingston Lacy. Around the house there are beautiful paintings by Van dyke, Rubens and Titian collected during the grand tour of Europe.
The house is quite a large detached country house fashioned supposedly on an Italian Palace. It looks quite beautiful from any side as you approach it from the front at the main entrance, to the sides out towards the parterre or at the rear over the beautiful lawns and park. Standing in front of the house on the lawns looking directly towards the right are the stables which are now part of the toilet facilities and cafeteria. To the left of the house are the formal parterre and gardens.
Entering the house.
The main entrance of the house is a covered porch where the visitor could arrive in a carriage and alight without getting wet. You then mount a couple of steps into a grand hall. Around the room are some antique furniture and hunting memorabilia. It looks quite impressive but also homely. Off to the right the first room is a smallish living room which looks really nice and cosy with a large fire and hearth, comfortable sofas and chairs an old wireless and very old television. This room was used by the last member of the Bankes family as his sitting room up to before he died.
After this room you mount a flight of stairs. There is a small landing with three marble statues two either side of the stair way and one Large statue of Charles I Overlooking the parterre and lawns. Turning the corner you mount brilliant marble flight of stairs taking you up to the middle floors. There are very large paintings on either side of the stair case.
The library is quite a big room and contains many historical volumes of books. On a display frame on the walls are the massive keys to Corfe Castle given to Mary Bankes following the great siege at Corfe Castle which she was forced to leave. There are large portrait paintings on the top half of the room. The library looks quite cosy although there are many pieces of furniture here in front of a large marble fire place. There is a writing desk and armchairs and a couple of globes on the far side of the room. In the centre of the ceiling there is a mural painting and to either side two panels with a light blue colour which gives the impression of it being the sky.
The pink drawing room.
The room is crammed packed with lovely furniture and looks really quite homely too. The walls are covered in Pink damask paper and are adorned with many paintings all with gilt frames. The grand Piano has pictures of Edward the VII and Queen Alexandra who visited and stayed at the house. There are tasty little ornaments dotted around the room which makes it feel homely. In a small case there is the written receipt from King Charles II acknowledging the Bankes family for a loan of £500 in order for the king to buy horses. This was a substantial amount of money in those days which nearly saw the family bankrupt.
The dining room.
In the centre of the dining room there is a round dining table all set up ready for dinner. It looks really pretty with several glasses for wine, four sets of cutlery for different courses and flowers adorning the set table. At one end of the room there is an ingrained set of words stating that the great Duke of Ormond died on this spot in his death bed. Nice dinner conversation piece! The room is surrounded with wood panelling a long with tapestries. Over the white marble fireplace there is a large octagonal painting of people on their death beds. There is also a large pipe organ on one side of the room. There are side boards which held the silver plate and from where they would be served their food from. It is a nice formal but cosy dining room.
The yellow drawing room.
This room is quite pretty in that it has a lemon theme to it including a painted ceiling. The furniture is covered in lemon coverings and the curtains are crimson. There are many pieces of art on the walls most are portraits. There are some nice pieces of furniture including smaller tables sitting on a green coloured carpet. In the centre of the room there is a massive chandelier. It may have been here where people retired after dinner for card and board games.
The grand salon.
This room is absolutely magnificent. The walls are covered with leather measuring about 3 foot by 2 foot each piece. All around the room are gilt framed paintings again most of them are portrait pictures. The ceiling is also covered in paintings that are inlaid in the guilt ceiling works. There is so much going on in this room and you will spend quite a while in here admiring the beautiful art work and paintings. . In a small case there is the written receipt from King Charles II acknowledging the Bankes family for a loan of £500 in order for the king to buy horses. This was a substantial amount of money in those days which nearly saw the family bankrupt.
The masters bedroom.
In the Masters bedroom which is fairly small compared to the other rooms sits a massive carved wooden canopied bed it looks quite comfortable and quite alluring to have popped onto for half an hours snooze. To the side is the dressing room and bathroom. It is quite a manly room with dark paintings on the wall.
We then mounted more stairs to the other bedrooms these were quite beautiful and were for the ladies of the household. The prettiest bedroom was the wife's bedroom which was kitted out it white and very pale creams with green flower stems patterned on some of the materials. It was a nice comfortable bedroom with a sofa at the foot of the bed and dressing tables and sets of drawers. There was a nice cabinet which looked as if it had been covered in finely carved ivory.
The top floor contained three bedrooms for the children. They were decorated in such a way that the wall coverings were actually cloth that draped down from the ceiling giving the room the appearance that it was a big top at the circus. It looked really nice and a great place for a child to have as his bedroom. There was also one room which was packed up for the winter months. Every piece of furniture was covered and wrapped so much so that the whole room was white. It was quite fascinating to see. The most important part of the house was the lookout at the top of the house that looked similar to a light house. This let in tons of natural light on the top floor. The only problem was that it also let tons of heat in as the sun was high above.
AS we came down the stairs we made our way to the basement floor which has been turned into a mini museum with artefacts gathered from Egypt including items from some of the tombs of the Pharaohs. He sent back little oil lamps and other such ornaments and figurines of the great Egyptians like Rameses etc. In the grounds there is a pink obelisk from 150BC weighing a couple of tons which William Bankes had shipped back to England in 1815. It took seven years to transport it back to Kingston Lacy. While being moved near the river Nile it fell into the great river whilst being transferred onto the boat. ON the sides of the obelisk there is a mixture of Greek and hieroglyphics and part of this was used in deciphering the ancient language. He was able to make out the names of Ptolemy and Cleopatra.
Most recently the last person who lived in the house was Ralph Bankes who lived as a recluse in the house. He could not really afford to maintain it in its present form and it became a bit run down. He lived the last days of his life quite frugally and left the property to the National trust when he died in 1981 along with thousands of acres of land including farms and farm houses and Corfe Castle and the grounds there. It was one of the biggest bequest ever received by the National trust.
I thought the house was beautiful. From the outside it looks massive and while some of the drawing rooms were very large it was also very homely. It did not feel too big inside so that you felt los although apparently there are 29 bedrooms there. I thought it a lovely home, grand and ostentatious but small enough to feel homely.
Leaving the house you come to the stables and laundry area which is to the right of the house. Here you will find the small cafeteria selling snacks and light meals, tea, coffee cakes etc. The queue was quite ridiculous at the far end of the hall there was the freezer containing the ice-creams but the queue was so long by time you got to the till it would have completely melted. Then the cold drink cabinets and sandwiches in the fridge style stand. There was also the possibility of having hot food although I never actually saw anyone buying hot food. Much of the food is grown in the kitchen garden and the beef sold in the restaurant is from the estate. I wish they would have separate queues, one just for drinks and one for food it would make it so much faster to be served. I should imagine in the winter the food would be cold by time you sat down to eat it.
Seating is available inside and outside. It was quite quaint in the stables as each horse stable pen had been turned into a kiosk so you could sit in them to eat your meal. It was nice and cool in there and many people were taking respite from the heat. There were no tables free inside or outside. The priced of the drinks was quite reasonable and not overly expensive compared to other places.
The gardens and Parkland.
At the rear of the house there are some beautiful gardens stretching as far as the eye can see. There are some beautiful mature trees including oaks, cedars, maples and many other varieties. The parterre to the left side of the house is quite pretty all planted up with annuals. The lawns are quite extensive. There are several park walks you can take the walk we took was through the straight at the back of the house which passed the formal lawns which were well kept, past the Obelisk and down to the Japanese gardens which were really quite pretty. We continued to walk quite some distance until we came to the kitchen gardens which are quite extensive, growing all kinds of soft fruits, salad stuff, vegetables and lots of different types of flowers. Much of the produce is used in the estate restaurant. There is a small shop here where you can buy fruit and vegetables and also a second hand book shop.
It is quite a trek back to the house which was on a gradual incline. It was on one of the hottest days and even the wind blowing in your face was hot. We did find some respite under a great big cedar tree and had something to drink. It was so hot that we were on the verge of dropping off to sleep as there was a nice coolish breeze in the shade under the tree. The grounds are really quite spectacular and really well cared for. Part of the immediate estate is grazing land and we saw sheep and cattle so remember to lock gates and not to leave any rubbish lying around.
Admission and times of opening.
The house is closed on Mondays and Tuesday's and opening times vary from 10:30 to 18:00 weekends or 11:00 to 17:00 Wednesday to Friday.
Adults £ 11.70
Family ticket £29.25.
Members of the national trust are admitted free.
Free car park.
There is a very small shop at the entrance to the grounds and house.
Is it worth a visit?
Yes I think it is a really nice little place to visit which is set in beautifully kept grounds. The inside of the house has been nicely restored by the National trust but there are still areas I noticed where there were examples of paint peeling off the walls. The house contains some really interesting curios and some very historical items. I would definitely recommend a visit both to the house and to the grounds. In each of the rooms there is a small stand with A4 Laminated sheets pointing out the different things in the rooms. The guides on duty in each room were really friendly and full of useful information and added to the experience. They were very knowledgeable and knew lots of little bits and pieces not included on the sheets. I actually thought the guides here were some of the best and most helpful I have met in some of the NT properties.
It is about 8 or 9 miles from Poole just off the B3062.