September 16, 2010 Jennie Chancey

Thursday in Exeter

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!

The elegant dining room with portraits all over and table laid out for company…

Looking into the library from the dining room…

The library fireplace. Have a seat and read a while!

Late 1780s portrait in the drawing room

A beautiful portrait of a Regency Era mother and son…

The stunning drawing room (looking toward the fireplace)…

The marble columns in the drawing room are absolutely gorgeous…

Looking into the music room — the thrill is over the fireplace!

This is my favorite Regency portrait of all time–Lady Lydia Acland and her sons. Lady Lydia lived at Killerton, and the son at right inherited the estate.

Here’s a detail shot. I just absolutely love this portrait. I have tried to find a print for years without success. Someone snagged me a postcard today in the Killerton shop! And, yes, those are boys in the dresses. The short hair is the giveaway.

This organ at the far end of the music room was built by Lord Acland for Lady Lydia after their honeymoon. The docents allow anyone to play it who wishes to. It’s quite an amazing sight.

Miss Emily got to try her hand at playing Beethoven on the beautiful grand piano!

I love the stairway hall at the back of the house–doesn’t that couch look like a cozy spot? I could really live here!

This is the opening of the upstairs gallery, which houses the current display of costumes. There are over 17,000 objects (10,000 garments; 7,000 accessories) in the Killerton collection, but they can only display 30-40 at a time! I’m sorry I can’t show you any of the displays, but the National Trust doesn’t allow it. 🙁

This I can share! They had a lot of hands-on displays for children, including a dress-up area, which my daughter thoroughly enjoyed!

Here was the best surprise of this trip: Killerton’s costume department uses my patterns to create the try-on clothes! This is a Spencer made from my pattern. Curators Shelley and Charlotte both told me how much they enjoy my patterns. What a complete thrill!

A fashion plate on the wall — I love how you can see the back of the lady’s gown in the mirror.

We enjoyed luncheon in Killerton’s Tea Room after finishing in the house. Delicious, and the service was amazing.

This is the view out the side of the house. My girls are enjoying space to run!

The garden with the cows beyond the wall…

And now for the garden! This is a real treat…

I can never get enough hydrangeas, and they had masses of ’em!

The view from the top of the garden out to the fields beyond…

And looking back at the house (tea room is below that arched window)…

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!

Listening to Shelley describe the pieces (sorry I have to cut off the table — can’t show anything!)…

Rougemont Castle is directly opposite Rougemont House. 1068 next door!

This fascsimile portrait of lady archers by Frith stood next to the castle. Beautiful!

On the road again! The sun was out again as we headed toward our evening meal in Lacock Village. I snapped this church out the window as we flew past. Devon is so lovely and reminds me of my childhood haunts in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia….

The George Inn, Lacock Village. It is a charming spot and so cozy and inviting. Delicious food, too!

Here’s the room where we ate. Low ceilings, rock walls…the quintessential country pub!

These will be a bit blurry because of the low light, but a pub just doesn’t look right with a flash!

Waiting for our meals at table…

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!

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About the Author

Jennie Chancey I launched Sense & Sensibility Patterns in 1998 with my original Regency Gown pattern. I never dreamed I'd one day have over two dozen patterns on the market and would be leading tours yearly in the UK! Enjoy my blog, and let me know if you'd like to travel with us!

Comments (3)

  1. The American Museum is one of my favourite places although it will be fascinating to know whether it appeals to you as much as to English people! The quilts are amazing and the carrot cake isn’t to be missed.

  2. Tiffany Keller

    I would love to live at Killerton House as well! It does look like the house from the 1995 version of P&P. In fact I thought that was the house when I first saw the picture, before I read your caption. Enjoy your day tomorrow!

  3. What a dream come true!!

    I LOVE the fact that you’re sharing your experience with us. I have always wanted to travel in these very places, and I feel like I’m along for the ride with you! 🙂

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