Polesden’s hidden interiors

Lots of people visit the house at Polesden Lacey and ask us why we only have a few upstairs rooms on display. When Mrs Greville left the house to the National trust in 1943 she left it for the express purpose “to be held and preserved for ever by the National Trust….For the use and benefit of the public”. To this end in 1943 The National Trust decided to review all the furniture and artwork within the collections to decide what to keep as museum or exhibition pieces and what to sell at auction. James Lees Milne, the secretary of the country houses committee for the National Trust, believed that out of the collections from Mrs Greville’s London home (Charles Street) and Polesden Lacey that only 3 or 4 roomfuls of furniture were good enough for exhibition. The report from James Lees Milne at the time states:

“I still favor the idea of keeping the exhibition rooms to the ground floor and making use of the first floor as suites of flats. These bedrooms are not suitable as museum rooms but they are lavishly equipped with up to date bathrooms which are eminently usable”

Polesden was thus divided up into flats. One of these was used by Mrs Greville’s maid and companion Madame Liron until her death, the others were occupied by the curator and commercial tenants. We still see evidence of some of these flats in the current architecture of the building and it is an important part of the buildings history.

The display and presentation of country houses has changed significantly since 1943 and today we are keen to open up more of the house and tell its full story. It was only in 2008 that we opened some of the upstairs rooms at Polesden Lacey for the first time. But even now we only have one furnished bedroom open as well as  Mrs Greville’s apartment, currently unfurnished, but offers visitors an insight into her bedroom and boudoir while they take in the views.

In total Polesden Lacey had 14 guest bedrooms as well as bathrooms, dressing rooms and sitting rooms,  if  have you read my previous post you will know that we have been busy looking into the original names and uses of each of the rooms. Now that our regional colleagues have moved out of their offices we are starting to look at which rooms we could open to the public in the future and how we will present each of them.

First floor electrical plan of Polesden Lacey, 1935, showing original room names.

First floor electrical plan of Polesden Lacey, 1935, showing original room names.

A closer view showing the Kings bedroom and other guest bedrooms in the south ans west sides of the house.

A closer view showing the Kings bedroom and other guest bedrooms in the south ans west sides of the house.

Of course this is an ongoing and long process which will involve lots of planning, research and hard graft from all of the team here. We are opening new areas all the time, we now have the linen room open and hope we can open more of the servant areas for Christmas this year. We hope that we will be able to open new bedrooms and other areas to the public for the first time in 2017.  In the mean time I wanted to show you all some of the hidden gems that have been hiding behind office furniture all these years and the rooms we hope will one day become showrooms . In the gallery below you will find lots of little photographs of some of the hidden interiors as well as the few images we have of the upstairs bedrooms as they once were, simply click on an image to see the description and a larger view.

We are only at the start of this exciting project so stay tuned for more updates as the plans and research progresses.


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