Kelmarsh Hall, built in 1730 by architect James Gibbs and builder Francis Smith, to take the place of a Jacobean building, has been in the ownership of a number of families over the centuries. It reflects the Palladian style of architecture.
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The Osborne family first enclosed the land, making it into one estate. It is thought that they built the village church, St Dionysus/St Denys. Richard Christopher Naylor, a Liverpool banker, cotton trader and horse racing enthusiast purchased the estate in 1864, possibly for its fox-hunting potential. George Granville Lancaster bought the Estate at the start of the 20th century.
In 1760 architect Robert Adam updated the interior of Croome Court, including fireplaces, tapestries, and furniture as well as garden buildings. Much of this is now at Kelmarsh and is on display.
In the 1920s the interior décor was changed to be up to date with the times. On the Hall’s first floor a tour takes in the drawing room, dining room, gallery, bedrooms, and print room. Of special note is the stucco plasterwork and 18th century furniture. Walls of the great hall are terracotta coloured. Of particular note is the plasterwork. The saloon has chandeliers and polished oak floorboards. The Chinese Room has 300 year old hand-painted wallpaper. The formal Dining Room walls are decorated with portraits of women.
The Saloon has a secret door opening into the hall. An ornate cantilever staircase ascends leads upward. Nancy Lancaster’s yellow drawing room is on view. The ballroom is a Victorian extension complete with views over the west terrace and lake beyond.
A formal terrace and row of chestnuts leads to a lake. The Grade II gardens are in the “shabby chic” style. A sunken garden, herbaceous borders, a triangular walled kitchen garden, yew loggias, and a vinery are part of the picture. Society decorator Nancy Lancaster laid out the flower gardens with the help of designers Norah Lindsay and Geoffrey Jellicoe.
Tulips bloom in late March and early April. Cottage garden perennials are best in June and July while roses and the kitchen garden cut flowers also show off their colours. Late summer brings out the dahlias.
Kelmarsh, five miles south of Market Harborough
Northamptonshire, East Midlands
Tel. 0 1604 686 543
Open: house by guided tour; April-end Sep, hall open BH Mon, first Sun month, Tue, 2-5pm; gardens Tue, 11am-5pm, Tue, Wed, Thu, Sun and BH Mon; special garden events have extra opening times—check website
Historic Houses Association member; parking; tea-room; special floral garden events; shop; wedding venue
Web: Kelmarsh Hall
Text and photos © by Barbara Ballard