“ Bolham / Tiverton / Devon / EX16 7RQ / Tel: 01884 254665. „
Knightshayes Court is a Victorian country house in Bolham, about 2 miles north of Tiverton, in Devon. We followed the signs from J27 of the M5.
The building was richly decorated by William Burges, who was known for his eccentricity. The style made me think it looked older than it actually is.
Visitors to this flamboyant National Trust run estate, are first asked to visit the old stable block to purchase a ticket, or show their membership card (which gains members entrance to most Trust properties without extra charges). A lot of the car parking spaces here are under the shelter of trees, which we were glad of, as we visited on a warm day.
The house is relatively modern by National Trust standards, but the thing that most struck me about the grandest and largest room, was how much it resembled the Great Hall of Tudor mansions I have visited. There is a gallery at each end, similar to the Tudors' Minstrel Galleries, and these balconies are reached from stairs outside of the grand room.
There are so many ornate things in the rooms, both built into the structure and in the moveable furniture, visitors will need to take their time to absorb it all. I am no art expert, but can tell you what most took my eye. I would expect individuals to have different tastes to mine, though, especially with the range of things on display.
There are hand mirrors in the rooms so visitors who have any trouble seeing the spectacularly ordinate ceilings, can use these as an aid.
High up on the walls of the Billiard Room were stone carvings of animals representing the seven deadly sins, as well as the wise owl, who according to the explanation displayed in the room, guarded against all of these failings.
The bedroom that was most memorable to me had pictures on all sorts of different birds on the wall covering, plus just one macaque (a type of monkey). According to the friendly steward in the room, this was simply because the artist liked monkeys, although it was birds that were commissioned. As most stewards in the Trust's buildings are volunteers who are genuinely interested in the places, all the ones I have come across are very pleased when visitors ask questions.
There is the usual display of animal heads, which are the trophies of the hunters of the household. Hopefully these weren't all caught on this estate as it includes big cats, as well as the usual deer.
Parts of the house aren't accessible to the public, as it is still a family home. Like the owners of other grand houses that have to let the public in to pay their way, the family must be very pleased when it is time for the public to leave the property.
It was built on the proceeds of their nearby lace making factory, which was set up during the Industrial Revolution. After the founder's Midland factory was vandalised by Luddites, they moved to Devon, and a lot of their workers chose to move with them. Various types of lace were on display in bedrooms, where the stewards were pleased to give visitors extra information.
It is no longer cost effective to make lace for the fashion industry there, which is now largely done in the Far East, but the factory still exists and makes netting for industrial uses.
More recent members of the family have been noted for their golfing ability and for being the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the late1950s, and visitors can see family memorabilia displayed.
In the formal gardens, I particularly enjoyed the topiary, including animals jumping around the top of the hedges, and the dogs guarding two entrances to an inner garden, which I found was a good quiet place to relax, watching the fishes in the pool.
The different shrubs planted in the woods near the house, made it pleasantly colourful, and I bought a cutting from a colourful foliage plant I saw here, at the plant shop next to the exit.
The Kitchen Garden, which is situated away from the house and formal gardens, contains vegetables, fruit, herbs and also some flowers. Seasonal produce can be bought by visitors here. Unfortunately the grapes that caught my eye weren't quite ready to be harvested. There is a project called "Secret Garden" being run for local primary schoolchildren here at the moment, so that they can learn about growing, and cooking this type of fresh produce.
I spent 4 hours here, but could have spent longer. If you think there will be a lot to interest you here, you will need to arrive soon after opening time to get the most from your day. This was my first visit and I hope to come again, especially in another season, when different plants will be at their best.
There are special facilities available to disabled visitors, but as this is a hilly estate, please phone before visiting, to make sure they will be available on the day you intend to visit, if this is important to you.
As with all National Trust properties, there is no photography allowed inside the building, but I hope you will enjoy my photos of the outside and grounds.
There is another good National Trust property nearby called Killerton, which I have already reviewed. I visited them on separate days, but they are close enough for visitors to go to both on the same day, if you start early and have lots of stamina.
Being a National Trust Member I just showed my annual ticket to get in.
For those that aren't members, the entrance fee to the garden and park for 2009 is adult £5.90, child £2.95, or the house and garden combined adult £7.45, child £3.70.
The Trust hopes that tax-paying visitors will add 10% to these prices so that they can claim even more back from the Government through the Gift Aid Scheme.
The house doesn't usually open in the winter, or any Fridays (except Good Friday). The gardens, shop, plant centre and restaurant are open every day in summer, and some days in winter.
Like all National Trust properties prices and times are subject to revision, which is usually done over the winter months, so I advise you check with their web site when planning a visit.
National Trust opening hours for their most visited buildings are usually approximately 11 am to 5 pm, as was the case for this one, when we visited.
I hope you too enjoy visiting this and/or other National Trust properties.
Cick on the map at http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/main/w-vh/w-visits/w-findaplace.htm to find a National Trust place near you to visit.
Bolham, Tiverton, Devon EX16 7RQ
Telephone: 01884 254665
Designed by the eccentric William Burges. Interior Romantic and Gothic-style splendour. Celebrated formal gardens with lily pools, floral borders and amusing topiary. Rare shrubs and specimen trees give vivid autumn colours. Play the pianos. Newly restored walled kitchen garden.