Sat, 19 Sept 2020
Basildon Park NTI picture John Miller
On Monday (September 21) the state rooms on the first floor at Basildon Park will be open to the public daily, for the first time in five months.
Several new safety measures will be in place.
Basildon Park general manager Rob Hayes said: “We are delighted to welcome visitors back to Basildon Park.
"Recent weeks have seen visitors enjoying the garden, parkland and courtyard, but now we’re pleased to open the doors to the showrooms to share the treasures of Basildon Park again. Although the visit will be different than normal with a one-way visitor route, we hope visitors can enjoy experiencing the sumptuous interiors and Old Master paintings once again.”
Basildon Park was designed in the Palladian style in the late 18th century by York architect John Carr as a country manor close to London. It was a family home for many years before operating as a convalescent hospital for officers and soldiers in the First World War and then being requisitioned for the war effort in the Second World War.
It was abandoned after the wars, its fixtures and furnishings had already been sold off and the estate became derelict. "How sad, what a waste – it could still be saved," said Lady Iliffe to her friend about Basildon Park in 1952. He said: "Why don’t you?”
And what visitors see today at Basildon Park, is Lord and Lady Iliffe’s restoration of the house. They acquired the fine Georgian and Regency furnishings to bring the house back to life and collected Italian Old Master paintings by artists such as Batoni, de la Fosse and Pannini. They were also great patrons of the arts; The Sutherland Room houses the cartoons of Graham Sutherlands great tapestry in Coventry Cathedral.
The house was, above all, a home, combining comfort, elegance and Lady Iliffe’s sense of fun. Furniture, paintings, even doors and chimneypieces, have been rescued from less fortunate houses. Lady Iliffe did much of the work herself, saying "The whole household helped; the butler held the ladder, while the cook and I nailed the red felt of the Octagon Room to the wall."
The Green Drawing Room NTI James Dobson
The Octagon Room NTI James Dobson
• More National Trust houses are reopening
• The safety of visitors, volunteers and staff remains the priority
• Safety measures include one-way systems and managed numbers
• The opening of Basildon Park from Monday 21 September marks the latest in a series of phased steps
The National Trust is gradually reopening properties in England and Northern Ireland as part of a phased reopening of its 200 houses, which were closed as part of the national lockdown in March. One-way systems and limited numbers inside the buildings will ensure that social distancing is possible, while enhanced cleaning and hand sanitising stations will be made available.
Basildon Park is open daily from 11am to 3pm with last admission at 2.45pm (the parkland is open dawn to dusk and the car park from 10am to 5pm). Visitors will need to book their visit in advance through the online booking system.
Visits are limited to ensure social distancing and entry to the showrooms is not guaranteed on the day you visit unless you pre-book your ticket for the house. In line with government guidance, you're required to wear a face covering in the indoors areas. Please take one with you.
Regular visitors will also notice some changes to the displays and visitor route. Visitors will experience the magnificent Carr entrance hall and staircase, the Library, Dining Room, Octagon Room, Green Drawing Room and 50s kitchen. Entry and exit to the house is in and out of the loggia front door via 16 steps.
The latest round of properties to reopen have been specifically selected to operate within current government guidelines.
Since the pilot scheme in July, hundreds of people have visited National Trust houses nationwide with more than 5 million visiting its parks and gardens, which were reopened from June 3 in England and Northern Ireland and from July 6 in Wales.
John Orna-Ornstein, the National Trust’s Director of Culture and Engagement says: “We have received some fantastic feedback since we started to reopen our places in July and are incredibly grateful for the patience and understanding that visitors and members have demonstrated as we start to welcome people back to our houses.
“This latest reopening is part of a process to open all of our properties safely and we will announce more in the coming weeks and months.
“Being able to share these beautiful places and their histories is what the National Trust is here for and we are truly excited to be able to open these houses and welcome people back.”