Grimsthorpe is a magnificent Tudor house set on the southern uplands of Lincolnshire.
There was a house on the site in the Middle Ages but only the thickly walled south-east tower remains from this.
In 1516 the estate was acquired by William, 10th Lord Willoughby de Eresby and the core of the present house was built by his daughter, Katherine, and her first husband Charles Bandon, Duke of Suffolk. They built a courtyard house using stone from the suppressed abbey of Vaudey.
The house was completed by her second husband, Richard Bertie or their son Peregrine. During the 1680s Robert Bertie, 3rd Earl of Lindsey rebuilt the north-facing hall range with a classical hipped-roofed facade.
When the 4th Earl married an heiress and was created Duke of Ancaster in 1715 he engaged his cousin, Sir John Vanbrugh, to draw up plans for the rebuilding of the whole house.
Vanbrugh's designs for the south, east and west ranges were abandoned but the north range and forecourt were begun in 1723 and were the architect's last major work.
On the death of the 4th Duke in 1779 the title passed to his sister and in 1811 her husband, Lord Gwydyr, engaged the London architect Samuel Page to remodel the east and west facades in neo-Tudor style.
Only the gabled south front remains from the original Tudor building. In the 1920s and 1950s careful restorations of the interiors were carried out.
Grimsthorpe has one of the finest approaches in England.
A long avenue leads to Vanbrugh's entrance front, considered to be one of his finest surviving works. The massive facade of local limestone is reached through a walled forecourt closed by an iron screen dated 1730.
The central portion of the facade is flanked by two pairs of huge banded Doric columns and at each corner there is a balustraded tower. The particularly large keystones add to the dramatic effect.
The visitor enters Vanbrugh's Entrance Hall (which is viewed again at the end of the tour) and climbs a staircase at the side to the state rooms above.
The first room viewed is the Dining Room on the first floor of the north-east tower. The painted ceiling is attributed to Francesco Sleter and the walls are hung with splendid late-17th century Brussels tapestries. There are many pieces of gilded 18th century furniture including three thrones, acquired through the hereditary post of Lord Great Chamberlain. The gilded wall-sconces by William Kent were originally in the House of Lords.
The remaining rooms in the east range are reached through an 'enfilade'.
The King James Drawing Room is the first room to be entered and is named after the portrait of King James I by van Somer above the fireplace. The wood panelling, with paired Corinthian pilasters, dates from the 1730s but the Rococo plasterwork above the doors dates from the 1760s and may be the work of William Perrit of York. The 18th French century furniture was introduced here and into the other rooms after the sale of the original furniture in 1839.
The State Drawing Room has more Rococo decoration and there are some splendid 18th century family portraits. These include full-length portraits of the 3rd Duke of Ancaster by Reynolds and his wife in by Thomas Hudson.
The Tapestry Room has a wonderful set of tapestries with arabesque designs made by Joshua Morris of Soho in the 1720s.
Running along the courtyard side of the Tudor south range is the Gallery, hung with family portraits including one of Charles Bandon, Duke of Suffolk, the builder of house.
The Chinese Room in the west range was designed as a Rococo style 'tea room' in the mid-18th century. The Chinese wallpaper was introduced in the early-19th century.
The Chapel is in Vanbrugh's north-west tower. The elaborately moulded plaster ceiling dates from 1680s but the remainder of the Chapel was created in the 1720s. After Vanbrugh's death in 1726 the work may have been completed by Nicholas Hawksmoor.
The vast Entrance Hall is screened from the west staircase by an arcade. Vanbrugh used arcades at two levels in the Entrance Hall to create the feeling of Roman grandeur. On the south wall the upper arcade contains monochrome depictions of the Bertie family's royal patrons painted by Sir James Thornhill.
Grimsthorpe is surrounded by 3,000 acres of landscaped park.
The Tudor stewponds and deer park were landscaped by 'Capability' Brown to create lakes and sweeping lawns with many fine trees.
Around the house are formal gardens with topiary, yew hedges, rose gardens and herbaceous borders. A geometric ornamental vegetable garden was created by the Countess of Ancaster and John Fowler in 1961. There are also ancient woods and woodland gardens. Two nature trails and a family cycle trail run through the grounds and there is a new woodland adventure playground. A herd of red deer graze in the park.
There are deer to feed by the Coach House, where refreshments are served. Landrover tours with the park ranger are also available.