Kingston Lacy was the home from 1633 of the Bankes family and it is now in the care of the National Trust.
The Restoration mansion was designed by Sir Roger Pratt for Sir Ralph Bankes to replace the earlier seat of Corfe Castle, which was ruined in the Civil War.
In the 19th century the house was altered by Sir Charles Barry, architect of the Houses of Parliament. He worked for the eccentric William John Bankes (1786 - 1855), a friend of Lord Byron. Sir Charles Barry transformed the house into a Italianate palazzo to house the paintings and works of art collected by Bankes on his extensive travels in the Mediterranean. In 1841 following a scandal involving a guardsman William John Bankes fled to Italy where he spent the rest of his life.
The house still retains the shape of the original Restoration building. It is a symmetrical three-storey oblong with a balustrade and central cupola above the hipped roof. The grand south front has a broad Italianate terrace with central steps.
Inside the magnificent marble staircase, also of Italian inspiration, rises to the principal rooms on the first floor. There are no traces of Sir Roger Pratts' interior but some rooms retain the remodelling carried out by Henry Bankes in the 1780s.
In the elegant grand Saloon paintings hang two or three deep and include works by Rubens.
The Spanish Room is the glory of the house and works of art procured in Spain during the Peninsular War by William John Bankes are displayed against gilded leather hangings beneath a magnificent coffered ceiling. The paintings include Velazquez's portrait of Cardinal Massami.
The dining room is dominated by Sebastiano del Piombo's unfinished masterpiece, 'The Judgment of Soloman'. Other works of art in the house include paintings by Titian and Van Dyck and a fine collection of Eygptian artefacts from 3000 BC.
Kingston Lacy is surrounded by 250 acres of park, landscaped in the late 18th century and now grazed by a herd of Red Devon cattle.
The National Trust are restoring the Edwardian garden, which includes a brightly coloured parterre to the west of the house, and a Victorian fernery to the east.
A cedar walk with trees planted by notable visitors, including the Duke of Wellington, leads to the lime avenue and the Nursery Wood arboretum.
The garden has four pink obelisks brought back from a temple on the Nile by William John Bankes.