An Ipswich Society outing, 21 July 2018

Penshurst Place, one of England’s oldest family-owned estates, was granted to Sir William Sidney by Edward VI in 1552 as a reward to the King’s tutor and steward of his household. It has remained the home of the Sidneys ever since, the current owner being Philip Sidney, 2nd Viscount de L’Isle.

Sir John de Pulteney, a wealthy merchant and a Mayor of London, built the Baron’s hall in 1341 and added the Solar and Crypt. The Hall, the finest surviving example of medieval domestic architecture in the country, is sixty-two feet long, thirty-nine feet wide and sixty feet high. It has chestnut roof timbers, tall windows and a central, unique octagonal hearth (no fireplace). Despite the Hall’s great dimensions there are no supporting columns, the weight being borne by timber bracing and huge arched supports from the walls. Successive owners made their own additions to the house: the Buckingham building (15th century) contains the Queen Elizabeth Room and the Tapestry Room; the North Range is linked to the building; the Long Gallery, the final addition, was completed by Sir Robert Sidney in 1607.

In the State Rooms are many portraits, items of furniture and several large tapestries, all of 16th to 18th century. In the Nether Gallery – below the Long Gallery – a display of historic arms and armour includes Sir Philip’s funeral helm. He was, and still is, considered to be the model of a Renaissance gentleman: poet, courtier and soldier (1554-86).

The Grade I Listed garden is as old as the house; the Italian Garden (The Parterre) is intended to be viewed from the house. To the east of it are six individual ‘rooms’ divided by yew hedges, each featuring a variety of colour, form and foliage throughout the seasons. The whole garden covers eleven acres and there is extensive parkland. Many thanks to Barbara Barker for organising a marvellous outing.

Richard Worman