An exquisite estate is usually described as having intricate architecture, a thorough background in historical events, and many highly sought after collectibles contained within the house. An estate that is very much categorized as such is Lyme Park, located south of Disley, in the county of Cheshire. It is now managed by the National Trust and is surrounded by beautiful gardens, as well as a deer park.
Key Facts about Lyme Park
- The largest house in Cheshire
- Designated as a Grade I listed building according to English Heritage, meaning that it has the highest architectural characteristics
- The Lyme Caxton Missal is on display in the house library.
A Brief History of Lyme Park
The first owner of the estate was Sir Thomas Danyers in 1346. It was gifted to him by Edward III as a thank you for his service to the Black Prince in the Battle of Crécy. When Sir Thomas died, the estate was passed on to his daughter, Margaret. She married Piers Legh I which started the Leghs of Lyme dynasty in 1388. Richard II is said to have taken favor in Piers and in 1397 granted his family a coat of arms. Unfortunately, two years later, Piers was executed by Richard’s rival, Henry Bolingbroke.
The house that was inherited by Margaret was demolished by Piers Legh VII and new construction began during the mid-16th century. The designer of the house is unknown. According to original documents, it was an L-shaped house, with east and north ranges. During the 1720s, Giacomo Leoni was commissioned to make specific modifications to the house, including the addition of Elizabethan characteristics such as the courtyard, and south range. It is somewhat difficult to distinguish which work was Leoni’s, due to the fact that it contained both Baroque and Palladian styles. The furniture that is presently in the house today was purchased in the 18th century by Piers Legh XIII.
By the early 19th century, the house had begun to deteriorate. During this time, Thomas Legh was the estate owner. He commissioned Lewis Wyatt to help restore and modernize the house between 1816 and 1822. Most of Wyatt’s improvements were on the inside of the house, in which he redesigned every room. Additional improvements made by Wyatt included a tower structure that provided bedrooms for the servants. He also added an extra wing to the east side of the house that made way for a dining room. Years later, the inheritant William Legh, 1st Baron Newton, added other buildings such as stables and he also created the Dutch Garden. There were extra improvements made to the garden during the early 20th century by the 2nd Baron Newton and his wife. It was the 3rd Baron Newton who gave Lyme Park to the National Trust in 1946.
The house measures at 190 feet by 130 feet surrounding a courtyard and is recorded as the largest house in Cheshire. The older part of the house is built with coarse sandstone, while the newer construction was completed with ashlar sandstone. The entire roof of the house is covered in Welsh slates. When standing in front of the north side, the viewer is shown an arched doorway that has Doric columns on each side. As normal with many stately houses, the ground floor is more rustic, while the upper flooring is smooth to the touch.
In the Entrance Hall of the estate, visitors can get a first-hand look at valuable tapestries that were woven between 1623 and 1636. They were moved to Lyme in 1903 from the Legh’s London home. To help accommodate for the placement of the tapestries, the interior decorator at the time, Amadee Joubert, was forced to make alterations, which included removing a tabernacle and demolishing four pilasters. To the east of the Entrance Hall is Wyatt’s Dining Room, which is prominent with a stucco ceiling suitable for the time period in which it was created. The overall decoration of the room is reportedly that of an early appearance of the Renaissance Style.
North of the Entrance Hall are two rooms that are elaborately decorated in Elizabethan style: the Drawing Room and the Stag Parlour. Over the fireplace mantel, in the Drawing Room, is a pair of atlantes and caryatids that frame the arms of Elizabeth I. The stained glass windows in this particular room were removed from Lyme Hall and then placed in Disley Church. They were then returned back to Lyme in 1835. In the Stag Parlour, a chimney piece is prominent over the fireplace which depicts an Elizabethan house, as well as a hunting scene and the arms of James I. Other rooms of the house that possess an Elizabethan flair include the Stone Parlour which is located on the ground floor, and the Long Gallery, located on the top floor of the east wing.
The gardens at Lyme Park have been etched out of the land over the course of 600 years. They are situated 270m above sea level, and measure up to 17 acres. There are also ponds that surround the gardens, as well as a central fountain, orangery, and exquisite rose gardens. One structure that stands out from the rest, with the exception of the house, is a large tower called the Cage. It stands proudly on a hill to the east of the road visitors utilize for entry to the house. At one time, it was used as a hunting lodge, and was later converted to a groundskeeper’s cottage. In early centuries, it was also used to lock up prisoners. There was a structure built on the site of the Cage prior to the now standing structure but it was taken down around 1580. The new structure was built in 1737. Other structures built on the grounds include Paddock Cottage and Lantern Wood.
What Makes This House Famous
Lyme Park is most commonly known for housing the Lyme Caxton Missal. This is an early printed book that contains the liturgy of the mass, published in 1487 by William Caxton. The copy that is on display in the Library at Lyme Park is the only surviving copy in almost complete condition of that particular edition. To help guests interact with this ancient book, the park has established an interactive audio-visual program that utilizes a touch screen prompt. Through this system, visitors can make the pages of the book “turn”, and hear chants from the missal as they would have been sung 500 years ago.
TV & Film Appearances
The Lyme Park grounds and the house have been used in several different film and TV productions. In the 1995 BBC adaptation of ‘Pride and Prejudice’, the exterior was utilized as Pemberley, which was Mr. Darcy’s home. It was also utilized as a location for an episode of ‘Red Dwarf’, and as a center stage for the 2011 film ‘The Awakening’.
Lyme Park hosts many events each year to connect with their visitors and to bring more families to the park. With a 1,400 acre deer park, there are many outdoor areas to be appreciated. The park currently hosts a jogging group that meets on Thursdays and Wednesdays. They also have fun activities for kids to enjoy that helps them connect with nature. Dogs are also welcome on the second weekend of each month from June to October. Other fun attractions include a cellar restaurant and a coffee shop that creates mince pies.
Lyme Park is open at various times throughout the year. They have special discounted rates for groups and families. It is recommended that you refer to their website for a detailed list of opening and closing times, as well as the cost for admission. Visit the Lyme Park website at: www.nationaltrust.org.uk/lyme-park.