An impressive Elizabethan era mansion, Montacute House is one of the few surviving prodigy houses (especially grand houses often built to impress Queen Elizabeth I) to remain unchanged since construction. Completed around 1598, it is a landmark Somerset house built of the distinctive local Ham Hill stone.
The gardens are not particularly large, but were still pleasant and colourful, and offered a fine view of the striking front of the house. It’s towering glass windows took advantage of the latest technologies of the age, and would have have cost a fortune when originally installed.
The house remained with the descendants of its founder Edward Phelips (who was Speaker of the House in Parliament) until the start of the 20th century, but little of the fortune remained, and the contents of the house were sold. The interiors therefore are rather sparse, but still give an idea of the wealth that funded the house.
This bathroom in a cupboard was an interesting version of an en-suite.
On the second floor is the 52m Long Gallery, the longest surviving in the country.
Montacute House was the first regional partnership for the National Portrait Gallery, established in 1975. It’s a great use for the second floor rooms, with many masterpieces of the 16th and 17th century on display.