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Somerset Map

Montacute House must be the archetypal stately home. It was built around 1600 by Sir Edward Phelips (c1560 - 1614) whose great-grandfather (Thomas Phelips d.1501) had made his money from the Dissolution of the Monasteries. His offspring then proceeded to marry their cousins and other close relatives, and became progressively more and more imbecilic.

Eventually the estate was inherited by a compulsive gambler (William Phelips 1823 - 1889), who lost the lot.

Over the succeeding years, the house was stripped bare of its contents, was rented out in 1911, and finally sold in 1931 for £5,882.

It was bought by Earnest Cook (grandson of Thomas Cook, the travel agent) who passed it to the National Trust (without an endowment), and they've been trying to figure out what to do with it ever since.

Seen from across the Cedar Lawn what struck me was the sheer size of the place; it would make an impressive corporate headquarters even in this day and age. What the Elizabethans made of it one can barely guess.

I was also fascinated by how in 1786 that newfangled invention, the corridor, was grafted on to what is now the Entrance Front of the house. This was done using stone from the nearby Clifton Maybank House which was being demolished at the time. Looking at it now, it is difficult to believe that this was not part of the original design

Check the National Trust's website for opening times etc.