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Polesden Lacey, Surrey

Polesden Lacey by Barbara Ballard 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.

Polesden Lacey grounds by Barbara Ballard 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.

Polesden Lacey dog cemetary by Barbara Ballard 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.

Polesden Lacey building detail by Barbara Ballard 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.

Polesden Lacey door detail by Barbara Ballard 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.

Visitor Information

Polesden Lacey
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.

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