Visit to Knole (NT) - Tuesday 14th May 2019
After 5 years of painstaking preservation and £20 million, all of Knole’s showrooms are now open to the public
Knole and the Sackvilles
What we see today is a remarkably preserved and complete early Jacobean remodeling of a medieval archiepiscopal palace. From an even older manor house, it was built and extended by the Archbishops of Canterbury after 1456. It then became a royal possession during the Tudor dynasty when Henry VIII hunted here and Elizabeth I visited.
From 1603, Thomas Sackville made it the aristocratic treasure house for the Sackville family, who were prominent and influential in court circles. Knole's showrooms were designed to impress visitors and to display the Sackville family’s wealth and status.
Over more than 400 years, his descendants rebuilt and then furnished Knole in two further bursts of activity. First, at the end of the 17th century, when the 6th Earl acquired Stuart furniture and textiles from royal palaces, and again at the end of the 18th century, with the 3rd Duke's art collection.
The Sackvilles gradually withdrew into the heart of the house, leaving many rooms unused and treasures covered. This helps to explain the relative lack of modernisation at Knole (central heating was never installed in the showrooms, for example) and the survival of its collections.
There's a popular myth that Knole is a calendar house - with 365 rooms, 52 staircases, 12 entrances and 7 courtyards. While fascinating, the reality is that it all depends on how you count the rooms and Knole is such a large, rambling estate that it would be impossible to say for certain.
Discover the Gatehouse Tower at Knole
As you ascend the spiral staircase, explore two rooms belonging to a former resident in the Gatehouse Tower. The atmospheric bedroom and music room were once home to Edward Sackville-West, 5th Baron Sackville. On display are many of his personal belongings, including books and music records from his varied collection, as well as his gramophone and visitor book.
Known to his friends as Eddy, he was a novelist and music critic who lived in the Gatehouse Tower at Knole between 1926 and 1940. Eddy was passionate about art, music and literature and was regularly visited by artists and literary figures of the Bloomsbury Group, including novelist Virginia Woolf and the painter Duncan Grant, as well as his famous cousin Vita Sackville-West, the gardener and poet.
Lord Sackville’s private garden is a magical space featuring sprawling lawns, a walled garden, an untamed wilderness area and a medieval orchard.
Access is through the beautiful Orangery where doors open to reveal the secluded lawns and majestic walkways of the Sackville family’s private space.
The garden at Knole has existed since the early 15th century and has been extended over the years. The Kentish ragstone walls that surround the garden were added during the tenancy of the Lennard family, who leased the property from 1574. The walls run for almost one mile enclosing the entire 26-acre garden, interrupted only by a series of wrought iron gates providing far-reaching views over the surrounding parkland.
There is much to explore in the garden, from formal spaces with lawns and borders to the wilderness area with meandering mossy paths and hidden clearings. The peaceful walled garden and orchards provide the perfect place for a contemplative stroll.
Past to Present tour
For the perfect introduction to your visit, explore Knole's 600 year history with one of our expert guides. The tour starts in Green Court (outside the Visitor Centre) and continues to Stone Court. In these historic courtyards you will hear about Knole's occupants and their influence on the house as it has evolved over the centuries.
The tour then continues outside, down to the Conservation Studio where we head indoors and are brought back to the present day with a conservation expert explaining the painstaking work that is carried out on the Trust's collections.
The tour lasts approximately 50 minutes and costs £6 per person including National Trust members.
Please note the tour:
does not go into the showrooms
takes place mainly outdoors
requires visitors to stand and/or walk for around 50 minutes - visitors are welcome to bring their own walking seats.
The booking form for the Knole visit is available here