09 April, 2006

Sevenoaks and Knole

Sevenoaks is a wealthy town in Kent that can be reached in about half an hour from London, that is, about 24 miles. It is quite poshly suburban - in fact I had to pay £5 for a film that would normally cost me £2.25.

The church was locked up when I called but I could see through the plate glass doors that it has been considerably reordered with a carpet for the congregation to warm their feet on and modern seating. These comforts must be welcome to worshippers.

The major attraction of Sevenoaks is Knole.

Knole courtyard Posted by Picasa

Once home to the Archbishops of Canterbury it is now home to the Sackvilles, Earls of Dorset who gave it to the National Trust when they decided they didn’t want to maintain it any more, but wanted to continue living there. Must be very nice for them.
Knole is approached by car or on foot over the park which is filled with miniature deer, hardly monarchs of the glen. I took the way past Sevenoaks Ecology Park (this usually seems to mean that the ground is not maintained and this park was no exception). The Ecology seemed to consist of a dried up pond and a load of brambles spreading over the ground. This led me through the park on foot tracks as people must have approached in 1454. The west front is the first thing the visitor from this direction sees.

See Picture

knole west front Posted by Picasa

It looks like a row of terraced houses in the Dutch style but is actually rather like an Oxbridge college inside. The first room you enter is the great hall with official portrait of George IV (why?) hanging above the dais. After this room is the staircase of virtues with a sculpture of a naked woman who was one of the Sackville’s mistresses. I detect a pleasing sense of irony here. The galleries were interesting as were the bedrooms and state rooms. The house has grown organically and from the north looks like a medieval town with gables and chimneys. It is not a formal house of the 18th Century type.
One of the Sackvilles didn’t just fill sacks, he filled carts and wagons with furniture from Whitehall Palace where he was Kings Chamberlain. Hence Knole has one of the greatest collections of Stuart furniture in the country. It looks like it would upholster well too. This was in the galleries and bedrooms. There was also some silver furniture in the Kings Bedroom.
On Friday I went to see the Gothic Nightmares exhibition at Tate Britain, which contained a cartoon of Count Ugolino realising that he has to eat his children to survive. The oil painting of this picture is in Knole – synchronicity!
Unusually for the National Trust (which likes to remind the peasants of their lot) there was no kitchen in Knole and he tour only included the state rooms. 13 out of 365 for £7.50. However the park was free and I walked around the perimeter wall, and photographed this miniature deer for you to look at.

Deer in Knole Park Posted by Picasa

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