The present Marquess is trying to restore the rooms to their appearance in Walpole's time. So you get the impression of stepping back in time and feel like a guest in the 18th century. Many of the interiors are the work of William Kent and there is an extensive collection of Sevres China. Two paintings that we saw early in the tour are the three daughters of the Earl of Waldergrave by George James. They are lovely in pink and cream dresses. There is also a portrait of the First Marchioness by Hopner. Most of the paintings in the house were sold to Catherine the Great to pay debt. There are 3 pastels though, of the brothers Walpole.
Luckily, the state rooms went unused most of the 1800's, this way they were not ruined by a lot of Victorian detail.
The State Bedchamber has a green velvet bed and a shell headboard. It has a custom set of Brussel tapestries made for the room. It is the story of Venus, Vulcan and Adonis. She looks very unhappy with her husband and happy with her lover...a commentary perhaps. This is also the room with the ghost. She is the brown lady and is believed to be Robert Walpole's sister Dorothy. The Prince Regent refused to sleep in this room after doing it once.
You need to check out the ceilings throughout, they are by Robert Kent. After Walpole asked him to tone down the skin color he made all the skin look like porcelain, very pale.
In the Dressing Room there is a set of Morlake Tapestries.
Prince Albert's throne is at Houghton. It was brought here in 1936 so that Wallis Simpson would not be able to sit in it if King Edward VIII tried to marry her. Now every year it is brought down to London for Prince Philip to sit in at the State Opening of Parliment.
On truly fabulous painting is John Singer Sargent's portrait of the late Marchioness Sybil.
The Saloon has a portrait of one of my favorites, The Duchess of St Albans and her son. You might know her better as Nell Gwynn the mistress of Charles II.
We finished up our visit with the gift shop and the stables. There is also a model soldier collection that is one of the best in the world.
Open April 15-September 30, Thursdays and Sundays 2-5:30pm.
Entrance is 6 pounds.
October 7, 2001
From journal Visits to the Treasure Houses of England