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Knole House

Knole House

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Knole is an English country house
English country house
The English country house is a large house or mansion in the English countryside. Such houses were often owned by individuals who also owned a London house. This allowed to them to spend time in the country and in the city—hence, for these people, the term distinguished between town and country...

 in the town of Sevenoaks
Sevenoaks is a commuter town situated on the London fringe of west Kent, England, some 20 miles south-east of Charing Cross, on one of the principal commuter rail lines from the capital...

 in west Kent
Kent is a county in southeast England, and is one of the home counties. It borders East Sussex, Surrey and Greater London and has a defined boundary with Essex in the middle of the Thames Estuary. The ceremonial county boundaries of Kent include the shire county of Kent and the unitary borough of...

, surrounded by a 1000 acres (4 km²) deer park. One of England's largest houses, it is reputed to be a calendar house
Calendar house
A Calendar House is a house that symbolically contains architectural elements in quantities that represent the respective numbers of days in a year, weeks in a year, months in a year and days in a week.- Examples :...

, having 365 rooms, 52 staircases, 12 entrances and 7 courtyards. It is known for the degree to which its early 17th-century appearance is preserved, particularly in the case of the state rooms: the exteriors and interiors of many houses of this period, such as Clandon Park
Clandon Park
Clandon Park is an 18th century Palladian mansion in West Clandon just outside Guildford, Surrey, in the United Kingdom. It has been a National Trust property since 1956....

 in Surrey, were dramatically altered later on. The surrounding deer park
Medieval deer park
A medieval deer park was an enclosed area containing deer. It was bounded by a ditch and bank with a wooden park pale on top of the bank. The ditch was typically on the inside, thus allowing deer to enter the park but preventing them from leaving.-History:...

 has also survived with little having changed over the past 400 years except for the loss of over 70% of its trees in the Great Storm of 1987
Great Storm of 1987
The Great Storm of 1987 occurred on the night of 15/16 October 1987, when an unusually strong weather system caused winds to hit much of southern England and northern France...


The house was built by Thomas Bourchier, Archbishop of Canterbury
Archbishop of Canterbury
The Archbishop of Canterbury is the senior bishop and principal leader of the Church of England, the symbolic head of the worldwide Anglican Communion, and the diocesan bishop of the Diocese of Canterbury. In his role as head of the Anglican Communion, the archbishop leads the third largest group...

, between 1456 and 1486, on the site of an earlier house belonging to James Fiennes
James Fiennes, 1st Baron Saye and Sele
James Fiennes, 1st Baron Saye and Sele was an English soldier and politician, son of Sir William Fiennes and wife Elizabeth Batisford ....

, the Lord Say and Sele
Baron Saye and Sele
Baron Saye and Sele is a title in the Peerage of England. It is thought to have been created by letters patent in 1447 for James Fiennes for his services in the Hundred Years' War. The patent creating the original barony was lost, so it was assumed that the barony was created by writ, meaning that...

 who was executed after the victory of Jack Cade
Jack Cade
Jack Cade was the leader of a popular revolt in the 1450 Kent rebellion during the reign of King Henry VI in England. He died on the 12th July 1450 near Lewes. In response to grievances, Cade led an army of as many as 5,000 against London, causing the King to flee to Warwickshire. After taking and...

's rebels at the Battle of Solefields. On Bourchier's death, the house was bequeathed to the See of Canterbury
Diocese of Canterbury
The Diocese of Canterbury is a Church of England diocese covering eastern Kent, founded by St. Augustine of Canterbury in 597. It is centred on Canterbury Cathedral, and is the oldest see of the Church of England....

 — Sir Thomas More appeared in revels there at the court of John Morton — and in subsequent years it continued to be enlarged, with the addition of a new large courtyard, now known as Green Court, and a new entrance tower. In 1538 the house was taken from Archbishop Thomas Cranmer
Thomas Cranmer
Thomas Cranmer was a leader of the English Reformation and Archbishop of Canterbury during the reigns of Henry VIII, Edward VI and, for a short time, Mary I. He helped build a favourable case for Henry's divorce from Catherine of Aragon which resulted in the separation of the English Church from...

 by King Henry VIII
Henry VIII of England
Henry VIII was King of England from 21 April 1509 until his death. He was Lord, and later King, of Ireland, as well as continuing the nominal claim by the English monarchs to the Kingdom of France...

 along with Otford Palace
Otford Palace
The Archbishop's Palace is in Otford, a village and civil parish in the Sevenoaks District of Kent. The village is located on the River Darent, flowing north down its valley from its source on the North Downs...


In 1566, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I
Elizabeth I of England
Elizabeth I was queen regnant of England and Ireland from 17 November 1558 until her death. Sometimes called The Virgin Queen, Gloriana, or Good Queen Bess, Elizabeth was the fifth and last monarch of the Tudor dynasty...

, it came into the possession of her cousin Thomas Sackville
Thomas Sackville, 1st Earl of Dorset
Thomas Sackville, 1st Earl of Dorset was an English statesman, poet, dramatist and Freemason. He was the son of Richard Sackville, a cousin to Anne Boleyn. He was a Member of Parliament and Lord High Treasurer.-Biography:...

 whose descendants the Earls and Dukes of Dorset
Earl of Dorset
Earl of Dorset is a title that has been created at least four times in the Peerage of England. It was created in 1411 for Thomas Beaufort, who was later created Duke of Exeter. The peerages became extinct on his death....

 and Barons Sackville
Baron Sackville
Baron Sackville, of Knole in the County of Kent, is a title in the Peerage of the United Kingdom. It was created in 1876 for the Honourable Mortimer Sackville-West, with remainder, failing heirs male of his body, to his younger brothers the Hon. Lionel and the Hon. William Edward...

 have lived there since 1603 (the intervening years saw the house let to the Lennard family). Most notably, these include writer Vita Sackville-West
Vita Sackville-West
The Hon Victoria Mary Sackville-West, Lady Nicolson, CH , best known as Vita Sackville-West, was an English author, poet and gardener. She won the Hawthornden Prize in 1927 and 1933...

 (her Knole and the Sackvilles, published 1922, is regarded as a classic in the literature of English country houses); her friend and lover Virginia Woolf
Virginia Woolf
Adeline Virginia Woolf was an English author, essayist, publisher, and writer of short stories, regarded as one of the foremost modernist literary figures of the twentieth century....

 wrote the novel Orlando
Orlando: A Biography
Orlando: A Biography is an influential novel by Virginia Woolf, first published on 11 October 1928. A semi-biographical novel based in part on the life of Woolf's lover Vita Sackville-West, it is generally considered one of Woolf's most accessible novels...

drawing on the history of the house and Sackville-West's ancestors. The then laws of primogeniture prevented Sackville-West herself from inheriting Knole upon the death of her father Lionel (1867–1930), the 3rd Lord Sackville, and the estate and title passed to her uncle Charles (1870–1962).

The many state rooms open to the public contain a collection of 17th-century royal Stuart
House of Stuart
The House of Stuart is a European royal house. Founded by Robert II of Scotland, the Stewarts first became monarchs of the Kingdom of Scotland during the late 14th century, and subsequently held the position of the Kings of Great Britain and Ireland...

 furniture, perquisites from the 6th Earl's service as Lord Chamberlain to William III in the royal court, including three state beds, silver furniture (comprising a pair of torcheres, mirror and dressing table, being rare survivors of this type), outstanding tapestries and textile
A textile or cloth is a flexible woven material consisting of a network of natural or artificial fibres often referred to as thread or yarn. Yarn is produced by spinning raw fibres of wool, flax, cotton, or other material to produce long strands...

s and the original of the famous Knole Settee
Knole Settee
The original Knole Settee, a type of padded and upholstered lounge chair to seat two or three people was made between 1610 - 1620 for the great house of Knole in Kent...

. The art collection includes portraits by Van Dyck, Gainsborough
Thomas Gainsborough
Thomas Gainsborough was an English portrait and landscape painter.-Suffolk:Thomas Gainsborough was born in Sudbury, Suffolk. He was the youngest son of John Gainsborough, a weaver and maker of woolen goods. At the age of thirteen he impressed his father with his penciling skills so that he let...

, Sir Peter Lely, Sir Godfrey Kneller and Sir Joshua Reynolds (the last being a personal friend of the 3rd Duke), and a copy of the Raphael Cartoons
Raphael Cartoons
The Raphael Cartoons are seven large cartoons for tapestries, now in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, painted by the High Renaissance painter Raphael in 1515-16 and showing scenes from the Gospels and Acts of the Apostles...

. The eye is especially drawn to some of Reynolds' portraits in the house: a self portrait and the depictions of Samuel Johnson
Samuel Johnson
Samuel Johnson , often referred to as Dr. Johnson, was an English author who made lasting contributions to English literature as a poet, essayist, moralist, literary critic, biographer, editor and lexicographer...

, Oliver Goldsmith
Oliver Goldsmith
Oliver Goldsmith was an Irish writer, poet and physician known for his novel The Vicar of Wakefield , his pastoral poem The Deserted Village , and his plays The Good-Natur'd Man and She Stoops to Conquer...

 and Wang-y-tong
Wang-y-tong was a Chinese youth who visited England in the late 18th century...

, a Chinese page boy
Page (servant)
A page or page boy is a traditionally young male servant, a messenger at the service of a nobleman or royal.-The medieval page:In medieval times, a page was an attendant to a knight; an apprentice squire...

 who was taken into the Sackville household have particular character and force. There are also survivals from the English Renaissance: an Italianate staircase of great delicacy and the vividly carved overmantel and fireplace in the Great Chamber. The 'Sackville leopards', holding heraldic shields in their paws and which form finials on the balusters of the principal stair (constructed 1605-8) of the house, are derived from the Sackville coat of arms.

Today, the house is in the care of the National Trust
National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty
The National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty, usually known as the National Trust, is a conservation organisation in England, Wales and Northern Ireland...

; however, the Trust only owns the house and about 43 acres (174,015 m²) of the park. Considerably more than half the house is still home to the Sackville-Wests. Lord Sackville and his family still own the gardens and the rest of the surrounding estate. As a walled garden, Knole's is very large, at 26 acres (30 including the 'footprint' of the house), and indeed is large enough to have the very unusual — and essentially mediaeval
Hortus conclusus
Hortus conclusus is a Latin term, meaning literally "enclosed garden". "The word 'garden' is at root the same as the word 'yard'. It means an enclosure", observed Derek Clifford, at the outset of a series of essays on garden design, in which he skirted the conventions of the hortus conclusus...

 — feature of a smaller walled garden inside itself. It contains many other features from earlier ages which have been wiped away in most country-house gardens: like the house, the garden has not been assiduously kept up-to-date with changing fashions over the centuries. These include clair-voies, a patte d'oie and even some bosquet
In the French formal garden, a bosquet is a formal plantation of trees, at least five of identical species planted as a quincunx, or set in strict regularity as to rank and file, so that the trunks line up as one passes along either face...


Knole Park, the park in which Knole House sits, is a Site of Special Scientific Interest
Site of Special Scientific Interest
A Site of Special Scientific Interest is a conservation designation denoting a protected area in the United Kingdom. SSSIs are the basic building block of site-based nature conservation legislation and most other legal nature/geological conservation designations in Great Britain are based upon...

, and hosts the annual Knole Run, a schools cross-country race. It was also used in the filming in January 1967 of the Beatles' videos that accompanied the release of Penny Lane
Penny Lane
"Penny Lane" is a song by The Beatles, written by Paul McCartney. It was credited to Lennon–McCartney.Recorded during the Sgt. Pepper sessions, "Penny Lane" was released in February 1967 as one side of a double A-sided single, along with "Strawberry Fields Forever". Both songs were later included...

 and Strawberry Fields Forever
Strawberry Fields Forever
"Strawberry Fields Forever" is a song by The Beatles, written by John Lennon and attributed to the Lennon–McCartney songwriting partnership. It was inspired by Lennon's memories of playing in the garden of a Salvation Army house named "Strawberry Field" near his childhood home."Strawberry Fields...

. The stone archway through which the four Beatles rode on horses can still be seen on the southeastern side of the Bird House, which is itself found on the southeastern side of Knole House. The same visit to Knole Park inspired another Beatles song, Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!
Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!
"Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!" is a song from the 1967 album by The Beatles, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. It was composed by John Lennon...

 which is based on an 1843 poster advertising Pablo Fanque
Pablo Fanque
Pablo Fanque was the first black circus proprietor in Britain. His circus, in which he himself was a performer, was the most popular circus in Victorian Britain for 30 years, a period that is regarded as the golden age of the circus...

's Circus Royal, which John Lennon
John Lennon
John Winston Lennon, MBE was an English musician and singer-songwriter who rose to worldwide fame as one of the founding members of The Beatles, one of the most commercially successful and critically acclaimed acts in the history of popular music...

 bought in a nearby Sevenoaks
Sevenoaks is a commuter town situated on the London fringe of west Kent, England, some 20 miles south-east of Charing Cross, on one of the principal commuter rail lines from the capital...

 antiques shop.

Knole House also appears in the 2008 film, The Other Boleyn Girl, along with nearby Penshurst Place
Penshurst Place
Penshurst Place is a historic building near Tonbridge, Kent, south east of London, England. It is the ancestral home of the Sidney family, and was the birthplace of the great Elizabethan poet, courtier and soldier, Sir Philip Sidney. The original medieval house is one of the most complete examples...

 and Dover Castle
Dover Castle
Dover Castle is a medieval castle in the town of the same name in the English county of Kent. It was founded in the 12th century and has been described as the "Key to England" due to its defensive significance throughout history...

, and more recently in the 2010 film Burke and Hare
Burke and Hare (film)
Burke and Hare is a British black comedy film, loosely based on the Burke and Hare murders. Directed by John Landis, the film stars Simon Pegg and Andy Serkis as William Burke and William Hare respectively. It was Landis's first feature film release in twelve years, the last being 1998's Susan's...


The organ
Pipe organ
The pipe organ is a musical instrument that produces sound by driving pressurized air through pipes selected via a keyboard. Because each organ pipe produces a single pitch, the pipes are provided in sets called ranks, each of which has a common timbre and volume throughout the keyboard compass...

, in the late medieval private chapel at Knole, is arguably the oldest playable organ in England. The organ has four ranks of oak pipes (Stopped Diapason 8, Principal 4, Twelfth 22/3 and Fifteenth 2) contained in a rectangular ornamented chest with the keyboard at the top. Its date of construction is not known, but an early guidebook refers to a marked date of 1623 (although no such date mark is still apparent) - a date in the 1620s has been suggested. The pitch of the organ is sharp (A460 Hz) and the foot-pumped belows remain in working order.

See also

  • John Frederick Sackville, 3rd Duke of Dorset
  • Lionel Bertrand Sackville-West, 6th Baron Sackville
  • Sackville-West, Robert. Inheritance. London : Bloomsbury, 2010. ISBN 978-1-40880-338-7
  • Calendar house
    Calendar house
    A Calendar House is a house that symbolically contains architectural elements in quantities that represent the respective numbers of days in a year, weeks in a year, months in a year and days in a week.- Examples :...

  • Riverhill House
    Riverhill House
    Riverhill House is a Grade II listed rag-stone Queen Anne manor house located on the southern edge of Sevenoaks in Kent, England. The house and estate, of , are located directly to the south of Knole Park, near to the villages of Sevenoaks Weald and Underriver...

External links