Polesden Lacey - History and Facts | History Hit

Polesden Lacey

Great Bookham, Surrey, England

Celeste Neill

19 May 2022
Image Credit: Matt Ellery https://www.flickr.com/photos/matt_ellery/, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

About Polesden Lacey

Polesden Lacey is an Edwardian house and estate, located on the North Downs at Great Bookham, near Dorking, Surrey, England. It is owned and run by the National Trust.

History of Polesden Lacey

The first house was built on the site in 1336, and the site has seen many new designs since then. The core house as it is today was originally built in 1821-1823 by Thomas Cubitt, and then transformed into an Edwardian dream house in 1906 by Mewès & Davis, the architects of the Ritz Hotel, under the instruction of socialite Dame Margaret Greville and her husband Captain Ronald Greville.

Margaret’s father, William McEwan (owner of McEwan’s brewery in Edinburgh), helped Margaret and her husband buy the house to use as a weekend retreat. Margaret displayed her collection of fine paintings, furniture, porcelain and silver in the reception rooms and galleries, and hosted her first party at Polesden in June 1909, with King Edward VII as the guest of honour. She continued to entertain lavishly at the house over the next 30 years, with guests including Winston Churchill, cementing her reputation as an Edwardian society hostess.

In 1923, Margaret invited the Duke and Duchess of York (the future King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother) to spend the first part of their honeymoon at Polesden Lacey. The royal couple subsequently spent a week there, with the entire estate to themselves.

Margaret died at the Dorchester Hotel on 15 September 1942, leaving Polesden Lacey to the National Trust ‘for the largest number of people to have enjoyment thereof’. The bequest included approximately 1,000 acres of land along with paintings and items of furniture, which she hoped would form the basis of a future art gallery. The house was first opened to the public by the Trust in August 1946, and the National Trust embarked on a programme of restoration and renovation in 1995.

Polesden Lacey today

Some areas of the house are not currently open to the public: in 1942 it was thought that the bedrooms and servants’ areas would not be of interest to visitors. Margaret Greville’s private apartment was opened to the public in March 2011, and by 2016 the Regional staff started moving out, allowing more rooms to be available for public viewing.

Getting to Polesden Lacey

There are several train stations all between 2-4 miles away, including Boxhill & Westhumble, Bookham, Dorking and Leatherhead. If arriving by car, use Junction 9 of the M25: follow the A243 (signed A24 Epsom, Dorking and Leatherhead), before picking up the A24 and then the A246. If arriving from Guildford, follow the A246, past East Clandon and East Horsley. Buses from Epsom, Guildford or Leatherhead go to Great Bookham near Polesden Lacey.

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