Somerset, England: Tudor House
Lytes Cary Manor House is a charming, small-scale manor house in deepest Somerset. It is a mixture of late medieval and Tudor building, with a Great Hall from 1453 at the centre, a private chapel and some Tudor bedchambers.
The house is owned by the National Trust, and retains a formal garden with topiary. It belonged to the Lyte family, who constructed the original Great Hall, and then gradually made additions to have a more comfortable living space. One of the family translated a Dutch book about herbal medicine, and dedicated it to Queen Elizabeth I, as a celebration of the victory over the Spanish Armada around 1588. A first edition of this book is on display in the house. There is also a connection to Henry VIII, as you can see from the royal coat of arms in one of the bedchambers - there's a picture of this below.
The Lyte family owned the house from the 13th to the18th century, that's about 500 years!
Lytes Cary manor House
Upstairs are a series of small bedchambers, and on the plasterwork ceiling of one of these rooms is the coat of arms of Henry VIII. Demonstrating allegiance in this way was a sensible insurance policy in the 1600s, although Henry was partial to confiscating any property he fancied anyway.
The Jenner family, who restored the house from a ruined state, gave the house to the National Trust with the stipulation that it should remain as they left it, as a family house. It is still very evocative of earlier times, much more so than the average country house.
As the west wing of the house is available for holiday rentals through the NT, you could actually stay here!
The gardens are quite bijoux, and very well managed. There is also a small shop and courtyard cafe. The house is very close to the main A303 road down to Cornwall, and would make a great place to stop for a break if you are driving down to the West Country.
In this area there is a concentration of National Trust properties, all within 30 mins drive.
- Barrington Court
- Montacute House
- Tintinhull Gardens
These are included in another hub, UK Travel - Somerset. If you are visiting the UK, it's well worth thinking about a subscription, as you could save the cost of joining (about £50) in just 5 visits to various properties. Personally, I think it's way too expensive, but at least it keeps out the poor. (joke)
There are also walks you can take around the estate, in addition to the formal gardens.
Lytes Cary is close to the Podmore roundabout on the A303, and it's signposted from there. You can visit the courtyard tearoom area without paying admission - so it might make a nice change from the services on the A303 if you are travelling to Cornwall. It's very quiet, and the wild birds are so tame they will almost feed from your hand. You could sing "Feed The Birds, tuppence a bag" from Mary Poppins as you do this.
Opening hours are 11-5 (closed Thursdays, and best to check) with the last admission to the house at 4.30.