Diary of a Curious House Guest

Monday last, a visit to Goodwood and am blown away by the autumn colours, then am in the office rest of week seeing through the architecture and restoration number, which has come together well in my opinion (they stir up such interesting people these special issues).

At the end of the week I take a train to Dorchester to deliver a talk at the Dorset County Museum, on ‘The Country House Today’ (with some special reference to Dorset houses) to the Art Fund of Dorset, a very well-informed audience full of architects, Country Life readers and country house owners, even specialist furniture makers come up to chat. Its a charming museum, with a long 19th century hall, like a mission church, with a balcony and fancy ironwork, and numerous objects, Romneys and ship models, dolls houses and Roman mosaics in a pleasing mix.

Afterwards I am invited to a splendidly hospitable dinner party in one of Dorset most Romantic manor houses, Wolfteon, home of Capt Nigel and Mrs Thimbleby, huge roaring fires and candlelight make for a great atmosphere. Everyone seems to be on a committee for something, historic churches, gardens and so on, or an expert on china or military history, so the conversation ranges widely from swimming at Ringstead Bay in November to the tragedy of the old Shaftesbury family home in Dorset.

I stay the night at Bellamont with the Sykeses and read a memoir of the late Lord Egremont in bed, which describes a great scene between his young bride-to-be and the grumpy uncle from whom he inherited; his bride-to-be admired the view of the lake from the windows of Petworth House, to which the old curmudgeon replied along the lines of: ‘Young lady when one day your future husband inherits all this, he will also become the owner of half of Derwentwater and all of Bassenthwaite. They are lakes, what you are looking at is a pond!” Old grump.