Thursday, 16 February 2012

Kingston Lacy

A few weeks back, I posted a bit about our visit to Corfe Castle, and told a little bit about the place. Well, in a sort of moving on from there sort of way, I would now like to share a bit about Kingston Lacy House, but first 'the link' between the two. The castles last owner/occupiers were the Bankes family, who purchased the castle in l634. At the time of the castles demise, in around 1646, the castle was surrounded by Cromwells men, who had been ordered to take this last stronghold of the royalists, and at the time, it was Lady Bankes who was in the castle and from the records, fought off two seiges of the castle bravely, before one of her own guard basically went behind her back and allowed Cromwells men in. As she had acted so bravely, she was treated with respect and allowed to leave with some of her possessions, wealth and a little status, but the castle was looted completely, and later turned into the ruins that we see today.

On not being able to return to the castle, the Bankes family built their house at Kingston Lacy, and through the determined work of one of the sons, even tracked down and bought back some of their furniture that had been in Corfe Castle, and even now, these furnishings and the original key to Corfe Castle can be seen in the house. So, having been given membership to the National Trust by Amandas very kind mum, we set off to have a look at what the grounds look like in winter. The house itself doesn't open until March, and so two or more visits are likely this year I think, as the NT membership allows free entry to pretty much all or their properties. Yey!!

It was a bitterly cold day, and a wind made it even colder, and so we went into the coffee shop for a quick warm up before heading in further. The picture above is of the side of the house.

It was quite interesting from a gardeners point of view to see the pruning of the roses, which could tell a tale in itself. When I was at Compton Acres Gardens, and responsible for the three thousand or so roses there, I needed at times to teach others from the local horticultural college how to prune them.

Kingston Lacy clearly has some very skilled staff, and comfortingly it would appear, some still learning the necessary skills. In the quite large rose beds dotted about, could clearly be seen the areas pruned by knowledgable gardeners, and others by those learning, who had perhaps got a little tired after their first hundred or so, and had rushed things too much, leaving cuts too far from the bud or facing towards the bud etc. I take great pleasure in seeing young people willing to take up such an occupation, because unless you own your own company or go into garden design etc, there is very little in the way of reward other than that which all true gardeners feel.

Upon walking out to the front of the house, the view opens out to one beautifully classic vista.

In this case, large lawns fan out to the left and right, and an obelisk provides a focal point in the distant centre.. Most of the statuary has been covered for the winter with protective boxing.

Next to the house were a cluster of old yews, all appeared to have been cut back very hard in an informal and abstract way, and judging by a closer inspection of the cut surface, had been very overgrown indeed before the trimming. I love the look that has now been obtained, and is totally in keeping with the surroundings.

Following the path away from the house, and next stop is the first real  show of their famous snowdrop display, in a sort of rockery, intersected with gravel paths.

It was nice and sheltered from the wind here, and the sun warmed our faces nicely.

The path then took us back out by the main lawns, and we continued on.


The estate suffered catastrophic damage to it's famous tree collection during the hurricane of 1987, losing around half of it's mature trees. There were however a few spared, and this cedar was one of them. Planted back in 1827, the imagination wanders, as one thinks of who else has stood where Amanda is.


A little further along, and another look back towards the house..........


.......before entering the lime tree walk. Bare now, but they will glow bright green when in leaf later.

After leaving the lime tree walk, the next area of note is the newly planted winter garden. Here can be found newly planted Acer Griseum, Prunus serrula, Acer Senkaki and Tilia cordata Winter Orange, all underplanted with varieties of Cornus. Not much to look at now, but in two or three years, correct pruning, and the anti-deer protective mesh that you can see, it will look absolutely stunning at this time of year.

The Tilia cordata was a beautiful orange, but the picture doesn't really show it well.


I'm not a great bamboo fan, and find them generally unattractive, and usually far too invasive for my taste. There are a few that I love though, and this one, Phyllostachys Aurea, is one of them.


If planted in an open position where the sun can catch it, it's stunning, and not too invasive. We are thinking of building a water feature on our patio this year, and a large pot of this will accompany it.


Japanese gardens outside of Japan leave me cold I have to admit. Especially western 'takes' on them. Even the one at my much loved Compton Acres, which was built by Japanese craftsmen, and upon completion was authentic and unique in every way, has over the last twenty years or so been basterdised by various additions such as a bronze flamingo or inappropriate planting. The one at Kingston Lacy is ok I suppose, but overall there is just too much going on, and I think that the designer was trying too hard. I did however, have to take a picture of the fabulously dark pool, and the way that the blue sky reflected in it.

More I am undecided about the patio choice!


And finally, after a very pleasant two or three hours, some tea and cake before we leave.


The drive home only takes about twenty or so minutes, and so we took the longer route back via the ancient beech lined avenue near Badbury Rings (need another post just to talk about that place!). The impressive mile-long avenue of beech trees was planted in 1835 as an anniversary gift for Lady Bankes, and led as the main driveway to their manor house Kingston Lacy. There are hundreds of them, and among many other folk stories is one which tells of a solid gold sovereign being under each one.

And that was our day out at Kingston Lacy House. The rest of the week has been spent working, and more about that next post. Today is our tenth wedding anniversary, and as soon as Amanda is ready, it's time to head of for a nice lunch.........Thanks for taking a look!


  1. You two are so brave to get out in all that frigid weather. I love the picture of Amanda in purple under the big tree. I would have been promptly thrown out of the grounds because I would have gone around an uncovered all the statues to get a good ' feel ' of the place, and take pictures, and to SEE them !Glad you and Amanda are better behaved. HAPPY ANNIVERSARY !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. Gary,
    “Inspiring !!!” While I am taken with all the gardens, I found the winter garden most interesting and have reviewed your photograph closely and would be interested to see its progress (hint, hint, lol). – gary