Montacute House is an Elizabethan manor house in Montacute, around 7km (4½ miles) northwest of Yeovil’s town centre. The mansion’s Long Gallery contains artworks from the National Portrait Gallery.
The house is an excellent example of the English Renaissance architectural style that emerged during the late Elizabethan period when architecture was transitioning from the medieval Gothic to the Renaissance Classical style. It is also one of the few grand mansions from this era to survive relatively unchanged.
Montacute House was built around 1598 by Sir Edward Phelips, a lawyer who had held roles as Speaker of the House, Master of the Rolls and Chancellor to Henry, Prince of Wales. He was the opening prosecutor during the trial of the Gunpowder Plot.
The house remained in the Phelips family until 1911 when it was sold to pay gambling debts incurred by Sir William Phelips (1846–1919) and it was later acquired by the National Trust in 1931 and opened to the public in 1932.
It has been used as a filming location for several films and television shows including Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility (1995), The Libertine (2004), a 2000 Canadian adaptation of The Hound of the Baskervilles and a 2014 BBC adaptation of Wolf Hall. Tottington Hall in the Wallace and Gromit film, The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, was based on Montacute House.
What to see at Montacute House
The three-storey house is Grade I listed building that has been furnished in a style reminiscent of the period when the house would have been used as a family home.
The ground floor contains the Great Hall, a large communal dining and living room that was where the servants originally dined, and which later became a grander entry room. The Drawing Room and Parlour lead off the Great Hall and these rooms and the ground floor is also home to the house’s buttery and pantry.
Montacute House’s grandest rooms are on the first floor and these include the Library, which was formerly called the Great Chamber. During the 16th century, the Great Chamber would have been the grandest and most important room for receiving guests, although this room was largely unused by the 18th century. Other rooms on the first floor include the anteroom and the main bedrooms, which include the Crimson Chamber and the Hall Chamber.
The highlight of the second floor is the 52m- (172 ft)-long Long Gallery, which is the longest surviving long gallery in England. During the 16th and 17th centuries, the Phelips children would ride their ponies in this room but nowadays it is used as an outpost of the National Portrait Gallery. There are several bedrooms leading off the Long Gallery and these also feature paintings from the National Portrait Gallery’s collection. The artwork on display at Montacute House is primarily from the 16th and 17th centuries.
Montacute House is also home to 4ha (9.9 acres) of carefully-tended gardens that lie to the north and east of the house and these gardens are surrounded by 106ha (260 acres) of parkland.
Visiting Montacute House
Montacute House is located in the lovely village of Montacute and it is around 7km (4½ miles) northwest of Yeovil’s town centre. Bus route 81 runs between Yeovil and Montacute around once per hour with a journey time of around 15 minutes.
Admission to Montacute House is rather pricey at £16, although it is free for National Trust members. Car parking is free of charge, even for non-members.
The house and grounds are open to the public between March and October.
There is an on-site cafe that serves light meals and drinks, although many people prefer to have a meal and a drink at the Phelips Arms, which is around a four-minute walk from the house.
There is quite a lot to see at Montacute House and one can easily spend 2–3 hours here.