Montacute is one of the loveliest houses belonging to the National Trust. It was built in the last years of the sixteenth century by Sir Edward Phelips (c.1560–1614), Speaker of the House of Commons. The family continued to own Montacute until 1931. Its last tenant was Lord Curzon, between 1915 and 1925, and in the first year, with his mistress, the novelist Elinor Glyn. It was saved from demolition thanks to Ernest Cook (1865–1955), grandson of Thomas Cook, who gave it to the National Trust, empty, via the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings. But he bequeathed it one of Daniel Gardner’s most ambitious oils: 'Sir William Heathcote (1746–1819), 3rd Bt, the Reverend William Heathcote and Major Vincent Hawkins Gilbert out Hunting'. In 1960, the death of the widow of the industrialist Sir Malcolm Stewart (1872–1951) brought his bequest of fine portraits by Reynolds, Gainsborough, Hoppner, and Lawrence. Since then, other portraits of the Phelips family members have been bought, and in 2011 the John de Critz the elder studio portrait of James VI & I, reputedly given by the monarch to Sir Edward, was recovered at auction. The whole of the top floor is given over to a representation of Tudor and early Stuart portraits from the National Portrait Gallery.
National Trust, Montacute House
Montacute, Somerset TA15 6XP England
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