Saturday, March 9, 2019

Lanhydrock--An Elegant Country Estate

I've just begun writing a new Regency romance, so I'm trying to immerse myself in the world of that era. Visiting Lanhydrock country house in Cornwall last summer certainly provided some inspiration. The house was built and furnished nearly a hundred years after the Regency period so it's more Downton Abbey than Pemberley, but it still offers an appreciation of what country life might be like for the more privileged of my early 18th century characters. The estate includes a fifty-room mansion and 900-acres of parkland with spectacular gardens.
To reach the house you follow an avenue lined with 300 beech trees. At the entrance is the gatehouse (above), a delightfully ornate structure that was originally built in 1651 as a hunting lodge. Some of the landscaping on the estate dates from the 1680's. The oldest trees in the bluebell wood are about 120 years old, although most of the ash, beech, oak and sycamore were planted in the 1950's and 60's. A variety of gardens surround the house, from formal designs to the wilderness garden. There is an adorable thatched cottage that used to be the gardener's home. And lovely landscaping around the church and cemetery, which both seem steeped in time.

Lanhyrock was the family home of Thomas Charles, 2nd Lord Robartes, his wife Mary and their ten children. The house was severely damaged by fire in 1881, but Lord Robartes had it rebuilt. The striking, life-size painting below is likely one of his ancestors.
What's exceptional about this estate is that all the rooms are furnished, authentically recreating what the house must have looked like when the family resided there.

There were eight kitchens for preparing game, fish, hot and cold food and baked goods. I also got a glimpse of the attic/storage areas and the servants' quarters, like the governess's bedroom below.
Alas, due to a memory card failure, many of my pictures didn't turn out, so this is just a sampling of the amazing furniture and decor. In true Victorian fashion, there was quite a number of taxidermy specimens, including a giant moose head, the leopard skin throw below and (horrifyingly) a real polar bear rug. 😞
But if you're going to go for all-out decadent luxury, there's nothing like this map room.
 And the gallery area was truly amazing. The immense room is almost large enough to almost play football in. Although since it is lined with bookshelves and features a stunning plaster ceiling with ornate classical figures, it was likely used in a much more formal fashion.

      It was impossible to absorb all the amazing details in a couple of hours. But the immersive experience definitely convinced me to put a lavish country house in one of the books in my new Regency series. 
      I am hard at work on the first one, Sweet Ruin, about a young woman who feels more at home in a library than a ballroom. Delphinia Fairfield is determined to have a more interesting life than being a nobleman's wife. And if being ruined is the only way to avoid that fate, then that's exactly what she will do.