We wended our way southward today to Devon, enjoying beautiful scenery all the way there and cheering the warming temperature. Arriving at Killerton House was like entering an enchanting dream. I’ve seen many fine manor houses in England, but I have to say that Killerton now ranks as my absolute favorite. The exterior slightly resembles Luckington Court, which was used as “Longbourne” in the 1995 version of “Pride and Prejudice.” But Killerton is much larger and has what has to be the most beautiful garden I’ve ever seen. We went there for the costume exhibit, but I have to say the house was every bit as satisfying to me. It also had one special highlight guaranteed to thrill me, but I’ll share that in a moment. For now, here is a photo tour!
Let me take a moment here to just strongly recommend that you get to Killerton if you ever have the chance. It isn’t just that the house and grounds are so very wonderful and the costume collection delightful–it is that every single staff member and volunteer who works here so obviously loves the estate and enjoys entertaining visitors. We were made to feel so welcome by every person we met, from the ticket seller in the welcome center to the manager of the tea room and everyone in between. I have never had such a feeling of good cheer and warmth and delight in any place I’ve toured. National Trust, you are doing a fabulous job with Killerton House! And all the hands-on things for children are simply icing on the cake. This is a great family outing if you can manage it. And we didn’t even get to try the children’s trail and play area!
After our lovely luncheon, we made our way back to the coach (through the shop, which was a complete trap, let me tell you!). We drove back to Exeter for our appointment with Shelley Tobin at Rougemont House, who was set to show us items from the collection stored there. The collection is used for displays at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter. The museum is undergoing a massive renovation and will reopen in December 2012. Until then, the costume stores are rather crammed into corners at Rougemont House. Conservation is done in tiny rooms by a dedicated group of volunteers who are obviously in love with what they do. We enjoyed seeing a mid-Victorian paisley shawl being meticulously patched and reinforced with tiny (tiny) surgical needle and thread. Shelley obviously regretted being unable to take out more things for our inspection, but the space was just too limited. She looks forward to having all new spaces with plenty of room to spare when the museum is complete. But we enjoyed what we were able to ogle! Included was a Worth opera wrap (silk, lace, gilt–ah!), a 1670s shoe, a dear pair of 1795 striped leather shoes with very pointy toes, and a stunner of an 1830s dinner bonnet with ostrich plume and plump bows. Then we climbed upstairs to see rare lace and racks upon racks of garments being readied for the move to the new, improved conservation center. Bliss!
So that was our day! I’ve rounded it out by sneaking a late-night dessert in the lounge of Rudloe Hall while looking through photos and blogging. Having realized I’ve killed the third camera battery, I’m Googling to see if I can find one in Bath tomorrow (wish me luck!). Tomorrow morning we head to the Jane Austen Centre for a tour and luncheon. After that, we motor over to The American Museum in Britain at Claverton Hall. Should be a fun day!