Polesden Lacey, built to impress
A visit to Polesden Lacey in Surrey, transports the visitor to a more glamorous era. In the early 20th Century the house was remodelled for an enigmatic millionairess hostess, Margaret Greville with a brief that the house should impress. And Impress it does. Mrs Greville and her architects created a house in the country that was capable of entertaining royalty and outshining the country houses of her contemporaries. In this respect the house and her lavish hospitality were truly successful; Princes, Maharajas, politicians and Edwardian glitterati were all entertained in style at this magnificent Edwardian home.
Built at a time when planning had not been conceived, money to this fabulously wealthy owner was no object and there was a plentiful supply of talented artisans happy to fulfil a young woman’s dream, this country retreat was packed with every convenience, every luxury and every wish she could have.
The two storey house is cleverly arranged around a private inner garden, with a generous hallway that circles it whilst providing access to all main rooms. Rooms look out from tall sash windows to gardens and countryside of outstanding natural beauty beyond. The layout provides light and airy spaces like no other period country house. With the exception of the Gold Room which is decorated to excess and beyond, the house feels homely, relaxed and inviting. The Gold Room was designed to impress Mrs Greville’s guests many of whom were more familiar with palaces, as a result the room is a state room on a grand scale, generously proportioned and blatantly opulent by any stretch of the imagination. This room has old money bling in huge dollops.
What visiting the house has to offer
On a recent visit to the house which is owned and maintained by the National Trust, I was spoilt for choice to decide my favourite room. The Billiard room which is an old school Gentleman’s club, the Library, the Study or the magnificent two storey entrance which was simply designed to “make an entrance” as Mrs Greville or one of her VIP guests descended the stairs. Here the chosen few could relax in private, enjoy great hospitality and play.
This year for the first time visitors may ascend the same stairs to view Mrs Greville’s private quarters and one of the luxurious guest suites. Whilst she is no longer with us, her hospitality continues as visitors are encouraged to play the grand piano, have a game of billiards or choose a 78 to play on the gramophone.
A home unlikely to be ever repeated
Polesden Lacey may or may not be the most beautiful house and arguably was never intended to be a home, but simply a glamorous weekend getaway, a sort of private party pad for the rich and famous. However, one thing is for sure; given such wealth today, there would be a shortage of craftsmen to build it, even if the planners were to approve such a flamboyant house in the countryside.