REMS Visit to Loseley House and Gardens
22 June 2011
On 9 June a group of 25 retired members of the Institute and their companions, enjoyed a visit to the Surrey countryside when they visited Loseley Park.
Loseley House stands some three miles south-west of Guildford, surrounded by gardens and cultivation extending over 1400 acres. It is a splendid example of Tudor architecture, purchased by Sir Christopher More in 1508, and has been the home of the More-Molyneux family for over 500 years. Three generations of the family are still in residence.
The house has survived through many reigns: Queen Elizabeth I and her entourage stayed there on four occasions. It also survived the Civil War under Oliver Cromwell and there are family connections with Sir Thomas More and John Donne. It has thus become a treasure-house of historic memorabilia, elegant furniture, fine paintings, and works of art.
We arrived in the sunshine of a summer morning and were greeted with coffee in the tea-room. We were then invited to wander at will through the gardens and the park for a couple of hours. We strolled down to the lake-side, admiring the tall cedar which marked the way, and the flock of Canada geese leading their chicks down to the water.
Then back along the avenue of young chestnut trees into the formal walled gardens. The roses were in full bloom, tended by dedicated gardeners, and complemented by sculptures forming part of an exhibition of African sculpture by artists from Zimbabwe. Much of their work was of exceptional quality. Then on through flower gardens, vegetable and herb gardens, a “white” garden, water features and a vine pergola to walk along the bank of the moat, filled with water lilies.
We gathered for lunch in Chestnut Lodge, which had been set aside for our exclusive use. Lunches had been ordered earlier from a varied menu, ranging from poached salmon served with home-grown salad, quiche, ham or cheese ploughman’s, or a variety of sandwiches. Service was prompt and efficient. Most people chose summer pudding with cream as their sweet. Loseley ice cream is famous for its quality and we were tempted to sample this as well.
During lunch the weather turned to rain, so we lingered over coffee until it was time for our guided tour of Loseley House. The tour occupied us for nearly an hour, under the guidance of a most informative guide.
The family has enjoyed the patronage of kings and queens over four centuries and during that time has acquired priceless furniture, works of art, awards and decorations, many of which are on display.
As we enter the Great Hall a large 17th century painting of the family grabs our attention; in the musician’s gallery opposite hang a series of painted Italian panels which had once decorated Queen Elizabeth’s pavilion. The wall panelling was rescued from the demolition of Henry VIII’s Nonsuch Palace. The room where Queen Elizabeth slept was comparatively modest.
In the library the titles of the books made one wish to linger. On the stairs hangs a remarkable triptych of the Nativity, and in the corridors family portraits and pictures of great merit demand our attention.
At length our guide called a halt and we retired, to complete the afternoon with tea, greatly appreciated, served with warm scones, cream and jam - a convivial ending to a memorable day.
Much information regarding the history of Loseley House and the lives and works of the More-Molyneux family are deposited in the National Archives, especially at the Surrey History Centre in Woking, although some were sold to American Universities in the 1920s. For more information: The Loseley Manuscripts: Records of the More and More-Molyneux Family at Loseley Park