My parents decided to come up for a visit this bank holiday weekend, so I thought it would be fun to try out another of the National Trust places in Lincolnshire. Last time my parents were here we visited The Workhouse in Nottingham, which was really interesting and definitely worth a visit! The weather wasn’t looking particularly good as we left Lincoln, but by the time we reached Spilsby the sun was shining and it was fairly warm outside 🙂
From Lincoln, Gunby Hall and gardens are very easy to get to, just get onto the A158 and follow it for around an hour until you reach Gunby, Spilsby, Lincolnshire, PE23 5SS. If you have been to Skegness before you will probably recognise this stretch of road, before turning off and following a long drive up to the hall. On our drive through the surrounding parkland we were lucky enough to see a woodpecker flying from tree to tree!
Gunby Hall is the family home of the Massingberd’s, originally built in 1700 by Sir William Massingberd (2nd baronet) who demolished the previous residence, Bratoft Manor. In 1750 William Meux Massingberd added the coach houses, through which you enter into the garden and grounds (When we visited they were covered in beautiful climbing roses!). The 8 acres of parkland were shaped in 1817 by Peregrine Langton Massingberd, who also planted many of the old trees seen throughout the grounds today.
The future of Gunby Hall was threatened in 1844 when the ‘black sheep of the family’, Algernon, inherited Gunby at only 16 years old bringing it to the brink of bankruptcy. He gambled away most of Gunby’s land and wealth, and had to flee to South America where he was assumed dead in 1855.
As his body was never found, nobody could inherit Gunby Hall until he was officially declared dead 7 years later. Therefore it wasn’t until 1863 when Gunby was finally inherited by Charles Langton Massingberd. The Victorian period brought about the building of a north extension by Charles in 1873, which can still be seen today when entering the house from the coach house courtyard. This wing was added to in 1898 by Stephen and Margaret Massingberd.
In 1936 Lady Diana and Field Marshal Archibald Montgomery Massingberd took up residency in the house. Archie was made Field Marshal in 1935, and many artifacts from Archie’s military career can be seen on display in the basement of the house. They saved Gunby Hall by donating it to the National Trust in 1944, when the War Ministry threatened to demolish the hall to make way for a runway.
Walled Gardens and St Peter’s Church
On arriving at Gunby we entered through the coach buildings into an open courtyard with the house on the right and garden entry on the left. There were beautiful roses growing up one of the back buildings, and seeing as the sun was shining we decided to explore the gardens first heading through a brick doorway.
We definitely chose to visit at a brilliant time, as most of the flowers in the walled gardens were blooming and many were covered with bees and butterflies! This first section of walled garden has a small lawn, with pathways leading off that are lined with beautiful irises and gladioli. Some of my other favourite flowers were the tall purple aliums which gently swayed on top of long green stems in the breeze, and brightly coloured foxgloves with speckles inside each flower. I also really loved the doomed blue temple seating where you could sit and enjoy the sun while looking out over this section of the walled garden.
We briefly left this part of the walled garden to look out across the manicured lawns and chat to one of the garden volunteers before heading back into the second part of the walled gardens, which is home to the vegetable section of the garden. I loved seeing the baby figs growing on top of the wall as we entered this garden, as well as ‘fried egg’ like flowers lining the graveled paths and an artichoke growing on top of spiky leaves! We also saw some more beautiful roses along the back wall before heading out of the walled gardens and following a stream towards St Peter’s church which is nestled at the back of Gunby’s grounds.
After exploring the quaint church we headed back round the left hand side of Gunby hall, which offers great views of the hall’s beautiful architecture especially it’s red brick exterior, dated lead pipes and large windows. We concluded our tour around the grounds and gardens at the front of the hall where you are able to look out across the surrounding pasture and woodland in the distance.
We headed back into the coach buildings courtyard through an ornate black iron gate before admiring the Victorian north extension which is dated near the roof. On entering the hall we were met by a volunteer who had the cutest long haired dachshund puppy, named snookie! (I have a tiny obsession with dachshunds…). After exploring the narrow hallway, which included a large grandfather clock and a panorama painting of Rome, we headed into the sitting room. We were greeted by the amazing sound of a gentleman playing the family’s piano and a lovely volunteer who informed us that many of the portraits covering the walls were members of the Messingberd family. I particularly enjoyed seeing portraits of two family members (Husband and wife) at a young age and then again later in life – it was really interesting to see the likenesses between the portraits. Continuing on upstairs, one of my favourite rooms was the grey room, which was decorated with beautiful oriental styled wallpaper covered in birds. A lot of the wallpaper in the house is actually William Morris and, as with most wall paper of the time, was originally made using lead, mercury and arsenic paint (However, we were informed that non toxic copies are now available!).
We visited several other bedrooms, one which had an old fashioned fire escape harness and another two which had a small sink positioned between the adjoining rooms! Following along the long hallway we ended up at the top of the formal staircase, made from beautiful dark wood. The walls are covered in portraits of the family, which one of the guides kindly went through for us. My favourite painting was of Peregrine Langton Massingberd, who helped create the parkland seen at Gunby today. I also liked the suit of armour which stood proudly on the stairs!
Back downstairs we explored a small library/reading room which we found out was once part of the room next door. I particularly liked the fireplace in the dining room, which was tiled in delicately painted blue and white tiles. This room would have originally been where the family would have entered the hall, as the double doors open out at the front of the property. From here we walked through to another room which was originally two, but was opened up and sectioned off using wood from an old bed headboard! This area actually became a stage for many of the Massingberd children, with a hook in the ceiling to hang a curtain and quotes from Shakespeare inscribed across the top. Another beautiful feature of this room is the Pre-Raphaelite painting of Margaret Lushington (Mrs Stephen Langton Massingberd) painted by Arthur Hughes in 1903. Margaret’s parents, Judge Vernon and Jane Lushington were generous patrons of Pre-Raphaelite English painters, poets, and critics, in particular Arthur Hughes.
The final parts of the house we explored were the servant’s rooms in the basement, including the kitchen, sewing, storage and cold rooms. I really enjoyed seeing the old food and medicine bottles on display in the storage/cold room, especially Seville marmalade from Oxford! We also looked around two other rooms which contained information, letters and photographs from the Massingberd family’s history, with one room dedicated to the family’s military history – in particular Field Marshal Archibald Montgomery Massingberd.
I really enjoyed my visit to Gunby Hall! As my parents are members of the National Trust we got to explore the gardens, grounds and hall for free, however to visit both the hall and grounds only costs £5.45 per adult, £2.70 per child and £12.65 for a family. Which I think is really good value for money based on how much there is to explore, as well as how friendly and informative the volunteers are. If you can I would definitely recommend visiting in the next few weeks while the walled garden is still in full bloom. I really hope I get the opportunity to visit Gunby again before I leave Lincoln this year!
A Day in the Life…