We’ve just moved to a little flat with big windows in north Oxford, and I love it to pieces. But there’s something missing – dozens of rooms, glowing stone, something called a ‘pudding house’, the longest Long Gallery in England, and a molten-looking mile-long hedge. In short, it’s no Montacute House. You might think that it must be difficult to visit so many lovely country houses and not be jealous, and you’d be right, and I’m very bad at it. I want to live here very, very much.
See? I look right at home. This gorgeous Elizabethan house was completed in 1601 by Sir Edward Phelips. It is built out of local hamstone, and boasts a tremendous number of mullioned windows which would have been quite something at the time of its construction. It is also, deliciously, perfectly symmetrical.
The famous wobbly hedge was inspired by an unusually heavy snowfall in 1947, which weighed down and warped the hedge into fantastical undulations, preserved thereafter by very determined gardeners.
Also while we were up in the Long Gallery, this happened.
I never turn down a fancy dress opportunity and this was honestly the best heritage costume offering I have ever had the honour to parade around in. There was even a bumroll. The lady in charge of the dressing-up room said that we were the only adults ever to have asked about costumes, to which I say – shame on every adult who has visited Montacute House. (I was rather hoping that if I looked the part enough they’d ask me to move in on the spot, but no such luck.)
Golden stone, windows as far as the eye can see, eccentric topiary and true Elizabethan flamboyance – in short, it is my heaven.
p.s. they even have a resident puss, who can be seen on my Instagram stealing milk with a paw – the cat who got the cream in every sense.