Polesden Lacey was originally built in the 1820s in the Regency style. It was remodelled by the Hon Mrs. Ronald Greville around 1906. She was a well known society figure who played hostess to the rich and famous; among them was Edward VII. She was noted for her fine food. King George VI and the late Queen Mother spent part of their honeymoon at the house (1923). A famous resident was the playwright Richard Sheridan.
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An earlier house, built by the Rous family, was built on the site in the early 17th century and added to by William Moore between 1735-48. The house became ruinous by 1814 and was mostly demolished by Richard Sheridan. It was purchased in 1818 by Joseph Bonsor, a bookseller, and a neo-classical house was built on the site. Bonsor renovated the estate and park, planting thousands of trees.
This house was enlarged in 1853-70 by its new owner Sir Walter Farquhar. In 1903-05 Ambrose Poynter rebuilt it for Sir Clinton Dawkins, a financier and civil servant. It was purchased in 1906 by Captain and Mrs. Greville who converted it into a country home of grandeur. When she died in 1942 the house was left to the National Trust.
There are 1400 acres of grounds that include a 30-acre Edwardian garden with roses, lawns, and landscaped walks. There are views across the north downs. In the grounds is a dog cemetery.
A Tour of the House
The rooms on view and some of their contents are:
Entrance Hall: built in 1903-05; contains Victorian and Edwardian furniture and five portraits.
Central Hall: dates from 1903-05; late 17th century carved woodwork on fireplace wall, carvings from St Matthew’s Friday St, a Sir Christopher Wren church; 16th and 17th century tapestries, French walnut seat furniture; collection of 16th century Italian majolica.
Dining Room: survives mostly as designed by Poynter in 1903-05; hung with British portraits, two Sir Henry Raeburn portraits on fireplace wall; collect of English 17th and 18th century silver.
Picture corridor: built around three sides of the central courtyard and lined with oak panelling, plaster ceiling; important collection of Old Master pictures; antique Roman sarcophagus dating from AD 3rd century; four Chinese mandarin vases and covers of c1750; 16th and 17th century French and Franco-Flemish furniture.
Library: reflects its early 18th century French neo-classical style; 17th and 18th century Chinese porcelain; French, Italian, Flemish, and English chairs.
Study: 18th and 19th century English mezzotints; 18th century Meissen and Fürstenberg porcelain.
Saloon: gilded panelling and ceiling from c1700 Italian palazzo; inset ceiling paintings; mostly French furniture, some of 18th century; showcases with 17th and 18th century Chinese porcelain, European 18th century porcelain.
Tea room: designed c.1906-09 in a style similar to the Louis XVI style of c1785; panels with late 18th century Flemish or Dutch pastoral landscapes; French 18th century furniture; small four-leaf screen with panels of c1780 Aubusson tapestry; English silver from 1690-1750.
Billiard room: designed in 1903-05 by Poynter; billiard table, easy chairs, writing desks; Scottish 19th century paintings of hunting and racing scenes.
Smoking room: visitors’ book from 1907
Gun room: Flemish tapestry c1750.
Great Bookham near Dorking
Note: The house is 22 miles from London.
Tel. 01372 452048
Open: grounds all year daily from 11am-5pm except 4pm Nov-Feb; house mid April-end Oct, Wed-Sun, 11am-5pm.
Owned by the National Trust; car park; shop; tea-room.
Note: The National Trust did not allow interior photographs when we visited.