In a first, Himself has located his inner house elf well before I have. He’s busy in a frenzy of activity, washing the motorhome. Meanwhile, I think my elf is in denial of the work that’s yet to come. “Plenty of time” inner Dobby says, as he cheerfully ignores the ever growing list in my head.
Of course the moment he finishes, it rains. Just as we’re about to leave for Killerton. “Can’t go now”, I hear, in wonder. “I’ll get mud on the motorhome”. He gets away with it for about an hour before I crack. With rain forecast as far as the eye can see, unless Himself has worked out a way to make the motorhome fly from here to Cornwall, it’s going to get mud on it at some point, I reason. And off we go.
Killerton is enormous – at almost 26 square kilometres, it’s one of Devon’s largest estates. Whilst the property was purchased by Sir John Acland in the 1600s, the Georgian house that stands today was built in the 1700s. It was gifted to the National Trust in 2015.
The Acland’s fortune lay in timber. They also were instrumental in addressing the national timber shortage after WWI: having been invited to sit on a Parlimentary Sub Committee to review the issue in 1916, Francis Acland recommended that a national authority be established to manage English forestry. In 1919 the Forestry Act was passed setting up the Forestry Commission. He also inherited Killerton that year and went on to establish a commercial timber forest on its grounds.
Following in the timber theme, upstairs, Killerton houses a fashion display, showcasing how trees provide materials for clothing and shoes.
Check out those amazing platforms!
It’s the National Trust’s largest costume collection.
There’s also a students’ display of assessment pieces featuring designs inspired by woodlands.
If anyone needs proof that it’s a small world, we have a local connection between Melbourne and Killerton. In 1834, Sir Thomas Acland purchased and refurbished a schooner, originally built to bring fruit from the Mediterranean to London. Turning the ship into a yacht, he named her “The Lady of St Kilda” for a trip his wife had taken to St Kilda in the Outer Hebrides in 1810. The yacht must have been enormous – our guide informs us that the grand piano (showcased downstairs) was onboarded for travels.
The ship’s Master, one Lieutenant James Ross Lawerence, stayed on as Captain when The Lady of St Kilda was sold in 1840 and was once again turned into a trading vessel, sailing to Melbourne’s Port Phillip bay. The ship was there so frequently, that from 1841 the area became known as the “St Kilda foreshore”. The name St Kilda was later adopted as the municipality’s formal name by Superintendent Latrobe, at a naming picnic hosted by J B Were. Lawrence went on to buy the first parcel of crown land released in St Kilda. The land (later subdivided) was bound by three unmade roads, one of which Lawrence named “Acland Street”, in a nod to his former employer. The other two became Fitzroy Street and the Esplanade. Part of Acland Street is now one of St Kilda’s tourist attractions, full of restaurants, cafes and European cake shops. And to top it off, Himself’s paternal great grandfather owned a house in the residential part of Acland Street, in the late 1800s, a magnificent property called Waratah. Himself’s grandfather lived there as a child. See, it’s a small world.
The Lady of St Kilda’s figurehead was retained by Sir Acland: she’s shown below:
We explore the gardens very breifly – the rain sets in, driving us home.
I’m very taken by the enormous 400 year old chestnut tree, groaning with nuts.
Hampered by the rain, we only saw only a fraction of Killerton.
Yet to explore in its extensive grounds is a chapel, a deer park, a series of woods with walking paths, 50 acres of orchards, open plains, an ice house, a folly and the footprint of the original 1600s house that stood here once.
I find out later that there’s a Bear’s Hut, once home to a black bear called Tom. Your own bear hugs – imagine! 🐻 I’ll need to find out more about him.
Looks like we’ll just have to come back again, hopefully on a bright summer’s day.