UNTIL THIS SEPTEMBER (2022), I had only visited Knole House (near Sevenoaks in Kent) once, and that was in about 1972.
I remember three things about that visit. First, it was a grey, drizzly day. Second, in those far-off days, visitors were taken on a guided tour of the house. Third, was the miserable guide. He was an elderly man who did his best to seem unenthusiastic about Knole House. He took us from room to room, stopping at various exhibits, saying things like:
“This is a Jacobean cupboard. Quite interesting if you like that kind of thing”
“Here is a Queen Anne clock. Quite interesting if you like that kind of thing.”
“This is a carved wooden staircase, if you like that kind of thing.”
He made similar comments, always lacking in enthusiasm, each time he pointed out an exhibit or feature. What with the dull weather and the depressing commentary provided by the guide, I believe that subconsciously I avoided revisiting the place.
It was only recently, when we were on our way to visit some friends who live in Kent, that my wife said that she had never visited Knole, and that we should see the place. I agreed, thinking that it would be a good idea to see Knole again: to give it another chance. We went on a sunny afternoon. We walked at our own pace from room to room in the building that was the country home of an archbishop of Canterbury in the 15th century, and later (for over 400 years) the home of the Sackville family, which still resides there. In each room, there were knowledgeable National Trust volunteers who answered our questions and, unlike the guide I met on my first visit, inspired us with enthusiasm for the fascinating place.
Whereas after my first visit to Knole and the poor impression it made on me, I used to be reluctant to recommend people to visit it, but having seen it again, I would put into my top 10 places to visit in Kent.