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Places to Go: Kingston Lacy

Places to Go: Kingston Lacy

This beautiful house is now owned by the National Trust. It’s just outside the historic market town of Wimborne, in Dorset. The family who used to own it are local legends – the Bankes family once lived in the famous Corfe Castle, until it was demolished by order of Parliament in the English Civil War. After the Civil War, the family regained their land, so one of them set about building Kingston Lacy. The house you see today is the product of generations of Bankes family living. You can reach the house very easily by car, and if you get a bus to Wimborne then a taxi from there won’t be too expensive. A child’s ticket is only £6.25 for the house, gardens and the rest of the land!


The house is styled on a former London mansion, where the owner used to visit quite often. The house has a lot of marble on the inside, and is very, very grand. It’s supposed to be designed like an Italian mansion, and you can tell this by the grand paintings on the walls and in the staircases. There are famous artworks by painters like Rubens. The house also contains something a little bit unusual – tent bedrooms. These were styled on the tents Napoleon would use in his military campaigns, but obviously they’re indoors so they have all the comforts of home. They are some of the last remaining in Europe, so make sure to have a peek at those!


Close by the house are a few acres of formal gardens, and around that there are over 100 acres of parkland to explore. The gardens have lots and lots of wonderful things. The most noticeable one is a 6.5 metre high obelisk just across from the main house. It comes from ancient Egypt, as one of the Bankes family sons had a real interest in these treasures of the past. This obelisk was actually helpful in translating the Rosetta Stone, as it also has some inscriptions in Ancient Greek. There’s also a very fine Japanese tea garden, which was created in the early 1900s. You’ll find a tranquil pool and a Japanese-style tea house. Some of the gardens are wild, and make great places to play hide and seek. The Kitchen Garden is interesting in its own right, as it’s where the servants used to grow fresh fruit and veg for the house to eat.


William John Bankes was the one who picked up that huge obelisk that now stands in the garden. He travelled a lot in the Middle and Far East, and was a friend to Lord Byron, the famous poet. Sometimes they went together on tours of Europe. He also changed the face of the house, because he encased the original red brick building in the beautiful white stone we see today. Though he was exiled from Kingston Lacy in 1841, it is rumoured that he secretly went back to have a look at the treasures he had collected and sent to the house. He was exiled because he was gay, an incredibly serious crime at the time.


Though times have changed, the house is still just as beautiful as it ever was, and its collection has only become more valuable. Learn about the adventurers of the past, perhaps you’ll become one yourself in the future.


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