On my recent Northern Progress I visited Chatsworth and, on the following day, Calke Abbey. As I have blogged on both it seemed only fair to blog on the third stately pile I visited, Lyme Park near Stockport, not far from Manchester.
Most people seem to know it from the famous Colin-Firth-in-a-wet-shirt scene from the BBC 1995 mini-series of Pride & Prejudice (although that was actually filmed in a water-tank using a body-double). The exterior scenes of the fictional Pemberley were filmed at Lyme, and it is quite interesting to see how shots have been ‘cut and pasted’ to make vistas seem adjacent to each other.
Lyme was originally of Tudor origin, although rather less of this remains because of the Palladian and Baroque overlays. The house, the largest in Derbyshire, was redesigned by Giacomo Leoni as an Italian palace, around a courtyard, in the 1720s, and thus two of the facades are rather impressive and satisfying. The other two, to my mind, betray their attempted modernisation in the Victorian era and seem far less pleasing.
The garden and lakeside setting is lovely and I found much of interest in the interior of the building – the views of distant follies, the grand reception rooms, the elaborate ceilings, as well as the displays of items collected on foreign travels.
One room even contains not one but four clocks by the great clock maker Thomas Tompion
In the Library visitors can see the Lyme Caxton Missal – one of the most complete versions of a book of the liturgy of the Mass, printed by William Caxton in 1487 and bought by the National Trust, with Heritage and Lottery funding, for the best part of half a million pounds nearly ten years ago.
I particularly liked some of the Elizabethan rooms – the long gallery, the stag room and the drawing room.
Surprise, surprise, I was slightly less taken with the Victorian bastardisations introduced by the architect Lewis Wyatt, but you can’t have everything.
There are fine wood carvings, attributed to Grinling Gibbons, and there are a feast of goodies to look at.
What was nice, on a warm August day and notwithstanding full car parks, was that the fellow tourists appeared to be spread quite thinly around the rooms – often you could find yourself alone, and able to explore at leisure. I suspect that everyone else was out looking for Colin Firth….
The staff were particularly knowledgeable and helpful, so well done to the National Trust and their happy band of volunteers.