Lyme Park, transformed into an Italianate palace by the Venetian architect Leoni for the Jacobite Piers Legh XII, ‘The Elder’ (1669–1744), was named after the great medieval forest and derives from the Saxon word for ‘elm’. Richard (1888–1960), 3rd Lord Newton, son of Thomas Wodehouse (1857–1942), 2nd Lord Newton and Evelyn Bromley-Davenport, who published ‘The House of Lyme’ (1917) and ‘Lyme Letters’ (1925), gave Lyme to the National Trust in 1946. It was originally a hunting lodge and many of the paintings reflect this: particularly a mid-seventeenth-century life-size depiction of ‘Keeper Bullock Gralloching a Buck’, John Slack’s portrait of ‘Joseph Watson (1648–1753), Keeper at Lyme’, and an early eighteenth-century picture illustrating the Lyme custom of driving stags through the Stag Pond in midsummer. The most unusual group of indigenous pictures, including the painting of 'A Grey Stallion and an Attendant', is by a shadowy artist who signs himself ‘J. H.’ (probably Jerome Hesketh), a Roman Catholic priest from Douai, who used his itinerant profession as painter to minister to the recusant families of the North of England. In addition, there is a copy of Velázquez’s ‘Las meninas’ by Raoul Millais, depicting a Lyme mastiff, a breed renowned for its size, now extinct. A number of the portraits have recently been left back to the house by the late Priscilla (1915–2010), Lady Newton.
National Trust, Lyme Park
Disley, Stockport, Cheshire SK12 2NR England
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