WIMPOLE HALL IN Cambridgeshire is according to the architectural historian Nikolaus Pevsner:
“Without doubt the most spectacular country mansion in Cambridgeshire…”
Much of the mainly red brick building dates from the 17th century, although more was built in the 1740s. It contains many splendid rooms including a large library; a chapel decorated in 1724 by the painter James Thornhill (c1675-1734), who decorated the Painted Hall in Greenwich; and a large ‘salon’ created by Sir John Soane. These are a few of the wonders that can be viewed within the house, now maintained by the National Trust. The grounds of Wimpole are also superb and include a magnificent walled garden and a ‘Gothick’ folly.
Despite the visual attractions of Wimpole Hall, I was fascinated by its last owners: George and Elsie Bambridge. George Louis St Clair Bambridge (1892-1943) was a British diplomat and a soldier. In October 1924, he married Elsie Kipling (1896-1976), the second daughter of the famous writer Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936).
After living in several places outside the UK, George and Elsie came to London. Between 1933 and 1937, they lived in Hampstead. Their home in that lovely district of north London was the elegant Burgh House, which was built in 1704. In an epilogue to a biography of her father by Charles Carrington, Elsie wrote of Burgh House:
“In 1933 we returned to England, and our life in the delightful old house which we rented in Hampstead was a source of happiness to him to the end of his life.”
The person to which she was referring (i.e,, “him”) was her father, Rudyard Kipling.
On the 12th of January 1936, Rudyard and his wife (Carrie) visited George Bambridge, who was in bed at Burgh House, suffering from bronchitis. It was to be Rudyard’s last outing because on the following day he was admitted to Middlesex Hospital where he underwent hazardous surgery for a haemorrhage. He died in hospital on the 18th of January.
The Bambridges moved from Hampstead to Cambridgeshire in 1937. They rented Wimpole Hall between 1937 and 1942, when they purchased to property. George died in 1943, and his widow, Elsie, continued living in Wimpole Hall until her death. When they moved in, the place was empty of contents. They bought pictures and furniture, much of which can be seen today. After her husband’s death, Elsie used the substantial royalties from her father’s books to refurbish the house. On her death, she bequeathed the house and its vast estate to the National Trust. It is well worth visiting if you are anywhere near Royston or Cambridge and it is no more than one hour’s drive from central London.