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Knole Kent stately home

Knole unlocked

The hidden history of a country mansion lson


: Brian photo

Major new restoration work at Knole, one of England’s greatest mansions, has granted archaeologists access to previously hidden spaces, and uncovered a forgotten history. Nathalie C ohen takes us for a tour.

Virginia Woolf describes Knole in her novel Orlando (1928) as looking ‘like a town rather than a house… courts and buildings, grey, red, plum colour, lay orderly and symmetrical… here was a chapel, there a belfry; spaces of the greenest grass lay in between and clumps of cedar trees and beds of bright flowers’.

This vision of a house of multiple courtyards has eluded visitors until now, because at ground level you see little beyond the surrounding walls. Only from the rooftops and attics do you get a view that brings home the sheer scale of Knole. Set within 1,000 acres of rolling parkland in Sevenoaks, Kent, Knole was bought by Thomas Bourchier, Archbishop of above The stately home of Knole, in Sevenoaks, Kent.

Canterbury, in 1456, expanded by his successor archbishops, and acquired – as was his habit – by Henry VIII in 1538. In 1604, after 66 years as a royal palace, it was purchased by Thomas Sackville, Lord Treasurer under Elizabeth I and James I, and further developed to create a sumptuously decorated Jacobean great house.

Treasures to draw crowds

When one of Sackville’s successors, Charles, the 6th Earl of Dorset, was made Lord Chamberlain under William and Mary, he was able to help himself to unwanted and discarded furniture from the other royal palaces as one of the ‘perquisites’ of his job. Out from Hampton Court and Whitehall, and into Knole, went Stuart


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January 2014 |

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