But 10 miles away from Montacute House, Barrington Court is another fine Somerset manor house. Older than Montacute, it survived until the mid 1700s before falling into disrepair. Gloriously restored and extended by two different families in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and benefiting from some extravagant and inspired garden work by Gertrude Jekyll, Barrington works as a fine foil to Montacute. Both deserve more than one visit each.
We visited Barrington on a day of near-ceaseless rain and this made for some difficult if atmospheric photography. It explains why most of the shots were taken indoors.
Sugar and wood
The sugar magnate Colonel A. Lyle, of Tate & Lyle fame, had a knack for salvaging wood and carpentry from tumble-down properties, including old ships. Squirreling this away over the years, he was able to carefully introduce all manner of exotic woodwork into Barrington. Although this makes the property far from an authentically period Tudor mansion, it certainly added to its character.
As is the case at Montacute, the stone mullioned windows are simply glorious. Although the rooms lack furniture and there are no portraits hanging on the walls, one’s imagination can run riot catching the right slant through various windows. (These photographs look as if I’ve applied an artistic filter in Photoshop, but it’s just light refraction caused by the old glazing.)
The contribution of Gertrude Jekyll
Gertrude Jekyll’s work as a horticulturist and gardener in the Arts and Crafts movement is celebrated for her painterly style of laying out the elements of a garden, notably herbaceous borders. This is certainly evident at Barrington for which Jekyll was commissioned to provide planting plans.
Even to a gardening novice like me, I think I understand what seems to be happening here. No matter where one turns, what meets the eye takes it away from the foreground to the middle distance with a changing palette of texture and colour that is endlessly satisfying. Wherever the eye rests, there is a delight that not even an overcast day can dispel. June in England helps, of course, but the principle is the same.
It’s worth noting that these photographs were literally ‘snapped’ at speed to beat an incoming downpour. We did not stray from the path once and that seemed to prove the point of the design: that the design was, at the least, made from the perspective of the path. There was also always ‘a corner’ to go round which would reveal yet another painterly scene. Whether one took that particular path depended upon fancy — or the weather!
Strode House, adjacent to Barrington Court, was originally the stable block to Barrington Court, but was later remodelled by the Lyle family and incorporated as part of their home. Although it lacks the charm of Barrington, it is a not insignificant building in its own right.