Polesden Lacey

Polesden Lacey
General information
Location Great Bookham, Surrey, England
Coordinates 51°15′27″N 0°22′25″W / 51.257638°N 0.373728°W / 51.257638; -0.373728Coordinates: 51°15′27″N 0°22′25″W / 51.257638°N 0.373728°W / 51.257638; -0.373728
Owner National Trust

Polesden Lacey is an Edwardian house (expanded from an earlier building) and estate. It is located on the North Downs at Great Bookham, near Dorking, Surrey, England. It is owned and run by the National Trust and is one of the Trust's most popular properties.

This Regency house was extensively remodelled in 1906 by Margaret Greville, a well-known Edwardian hostess. Her collection of fine paintings, furniture, porcelain and silver is displayed in the reception rooms and galleries, as it was at the time of her celebrated house parties.

It also refers to its grounds of 1,400 acres (5.6 square kilometres) including a walled rose garden, lawns, ancient woodland and landscape walks.

The future George VI and Queen Elizabeth spent part of their honeymoon here in 1923.

Previous houses

The name 'Polesden' is thought to be Old English. The first house was built here by 1336. Anthony Rous bought the estate in 1630 and rebuilt the medieval house. Richard Brinsley Sheridan, the poet and playwright, bought the house in 1804.[1]

The house at one time belonged to Sir Francis Geary but his Polesden Lacey was demolished when Joseph Bonsor bought the estate and commissioned Thomas Cubitt to build an entirely new house in 1824, creating the core of the house seen today. Bonsor died in 1835, and the house passed to his son who, in 1853, sold the estate to Sir Walter Rockcliff Farquhar, who held it until his death in 1902. The estate was then purchased by Sir Clinton Edward Dawkins, a career civil servant, who commissioned Ambrose Poynter, architect son of Sir Edward Poynter P.R.A., in 1906 to significantly extend Cubitt's work to create the present house. Sir Clinton, however died shortly after its completion. The estate was then bought in 1906 by William McEwan for his daughter, the former Margaret Anderson, and her husband Captain the Honourable Ronald Greville.

Remodelling of the house

Ronald and Margaret Greville, c. 1900

Architects Charles Mewès and Arthur Davis, who were responsible for the Ritz Hotel in London, remodelled the house for Ronald and Margaret Greville. The couple filled the house with collections of fine furniture, porcelain, silver and art.

Ronald Greville died in 1908 only two years after they had moved to Polesden Lacey. He was aged 46.[2] Margaret continued to entertain lavishly at the house. She also owned a home in London in which she held expensive parties. Over the next 30 years her reputation as an Edwardian society hostess became established.

Royal honeymoon at Polesden Lacey in 1923

In 1923 Margaret invited the Duke and Duchess of York to spend their honeymoon at Polesden Lacey and the royal couple subsequently spent two weeks there. Shortly before their arrival a London newspaper took photographs of the house and published a large feature article about the proposed honeymoon venue.[3]

Polesden Lacey today

Polesden Lacey was left to the National Trust by Mrs Greville in 1942 in memory of her father, William McEwan (she was his illegitimate daughter and sole heir). There was a serious fire in 1960, which caused damage but not serious loss. In 1995 the National Trust embarked on a programme of restoration and renovation.[1] In 2008/9 the visitor facilities were fairly extensively re-furbished, with a new car park, cafe, shop and farm shop. It received 289,889 visitors in 2012–2013 and 297,325 in 2011–2012, placing it in the Trust's top ten most-visited properties.[4]

Some areas of the house are not currently open to the public. This is because in 1942 it was thought that the bedrooms and servant's areas would not be of interest to visitors. The first floor of the mansion is used by the National Trust Regional Office for London and the South East. The old servants' areas (on the ground floor) are used by the Polesden Lacey staff as offices. In the future, it is hoped that more of the mansion will be open to the public. This began in March 2011 with the opening of Mrs Greville's private apartment which had been occupied by the House Manager. The house is open to the public seven days a week from March to October. On weekday mornings admission is via a short themed tour. By March 2016 the Regional staff were beginning to move out, allowing more rooms to be available for public viewing. Plans are being made to have the house open for 363 days in the year.

There are a number of walks around the Polesden Lacey estate, especially in the valley that the main house overlooks. The estate includes a Youth Hostel, Tanners Hatch.

The re-modelling of the facilities in 2008–2009 means that the cafe and shop (as well as the walks) can now be accessed without paying for admission.

Polesden Lacey also has open-air performing facilities, which are used during the summer to host various musical and theatrical events. In 2009 there was the Polesden Lacey Festival.[5]



  1. 1 2 "History of Polesden Lacey". National Trust. Retrieved 27 February 2010.
  2. The Times (London) 6 April 1908; pg. 6
  3. Illustrated London News(London, England),Saturday, 28 April 1923
  4. "Annual Report 2012/13". National Trust. Retrieved 3 June 2014.
  5. National Trust – Polesden Lacey Festival 2009
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