My visit to Lyme Park while visiting Manchester UK this October was for the purpose of taking my book, Blythe Court, and standing in front of the estate and snapping a picture. Lyme Park is on the cover, as well as “The Cage” on a hill in the background. Of course, most of my readers are probably more interested in the fact that Lyme Park was Mr. Darcy’s Pemberley in Pride & Prejudice with Colin Firth.
Getting to Lyme Park is fairly easy coming from Manchester. I took a train from Piccadilly Station to Disley, which took approximately 36 minutes. When I exited, there is a steep climb up to the roadway. The directions I received from the National Trust was to turn left and walk a half-mile. There is a sidewalk the entire way but the road is extremely busy with cars and trucks whizzing by your side only a few feet away. When I came to the entrance, it turned into a 200 yard downhill walk to the gatehouse. There is no fee to enter the park itself, and if you’re on foot, like me, they have a shuttle who will drive you the mile walk to the manor house.
Like anything else, you usually have preconceived ideas of what you are going to see. When I arrived, I pictured one grand entrance door into the house itself. There is an archway you walk through that enters into a courtyard. This is the North Entrance. The house is a huge rectangular shape but the center is an open courtyard instead of the interior of the home. There are a few steps off to the left that lead to the entrance itself. There is a ticket office and gift shop off to the right of the courtyard. If you walk to the other side and exit the courtyard, it brings you to the gardens.
The house is managed by the National Trust so I took a few minutes to understand how these estates, which the families cannot afford to keep any longer, end up in the National Trust and are preserved. The guide told me the history of how the estate came into the hands of the Trust. It was an interesting education, but I won’t go into detail here. You can visit the website and learn more about the process. Richard II in 1398 granted Lyme to Piers Legh and his wife, Margaret, as a reward for heroic deeds in battle. The main home began in the late 16th century but was rebuilt and updated by subsequent generations. (As a tidbit of information, during the 1700’s they were Jacobites and loyal to the “rightful” occupants of the throne, holding meetings in the house.)
Once you get your ticket, the amazing tour begins. I climbed the stairs and entered into the grand entrance. There is no large foyer of any type. Instead, you step into the entrance way and face what they call the Entrance Hall, which is a huge room that takes your breath away. It was used for in the Edwardian period for daily reading of prayers, after-dinner games, and conversation, and for the Servants’ Ball on New Year’s Eve. You can take pictures, but here it’s the no touch – no sit rules because much of the interior is filled with the original furniture. In each room stands a volunteer guide, who can give you information. Also, on nearby tables are booklets with extensive history regarding the room should you wish to learn more. These stay in the rooms are to be read as you pass through them.
There are many stunning rooms in the manor house, but this one is my favorite – The Drawing Room. The Elizabethan and Jacobean room is very different than the Entrance Hall. Dark paneling and the rich interior is accented by a beautiful stained glass window. I spoke with the guide who stated that this was the room that the ladies retired to after dinner for tea, while the gentleman stayed behind for cigars and drinks to discuss their mistresses. Let your imaginations wander!
As you step through the door, you enter into The Stag Parlor. It’s a small room with a beautiful tapestry hanging on the wall. Here is this room where the gentlemen plotted the return of the Stuarts to the throne. They retired from the dining room here to have port and plot.
The next room is the Dining Room, and again you are stunned by its beauty and stately silver settings. The Edwardian Chippendale-style chairs are from the early 19th century. The fully set table is adorned with silver cutlery, fine china, and crystal. It is one of those rooms that you stare at for some time, imagining the dinners and the guests. Just outside the dining room is the Ante-Room, where the family and guests proceeded to the Dining Room from the Library.
The next room is the Library, which contains medieval manuscripts and 15th-17th-century books. Look, but don’t touch. The room itself is beautiful.
The next room is the Salon, which is a room for receiving guests. It leads out to the grand staircase, which is impressive and grand indeed. The woodwork is dark, the carpeting red-toned, and it leads upstairs to the Long Gallery.
The Long Gallery is an impressive room that goes from one end of the house to the other, with a fireplace in the center. Unfortunately, my shaky hand didn’t take a very clear picture for which I apologize, but you will get the enormous length regardless. The brochure states that it was used for, “gentle exercise in bad weather and to display family portraits, but it has also been the setting for the family’s theatricals.” It’s been redecorated over the centuries.
Beyond this point, there were a few bedrooms but not many to see. Frankly, they were much smaller and less impressive, except for one gorgeous mahogany poster canopy bed. Quite a few rooms upstairs are closed to the public.
I also toured the downstairs, where the servants ate and the butler and housekeeper ran the household. There is a list of the household staff and how many it took to run the household before the Great War.
Afterward, the garden grounds were perfectly manicured. The day, however, was cold and windy with a few raindrops, so I didn’t take an extensive walk among the grounds. Below are pictures from the South Entrance.
This concludes my tour of Lyme Park, and yes I have a picture of myself holding my book Blythe Court. If you happen to visit by train, I only have one word of caution. If the volunteers tell you to take Red Lane back to the station rather than the main road, I can only say – BEWARE. It has a few strenuous uphill climbs and a rather frightening steep decline down the hill through the woods to bring you to the train platform. If you are young and in shape, no problem. If you’re older, take care.
I hope you enjoyed this long post as much as I enjoyed visiting Lyme Park.