On our way back from Devon last month, we stopped off in Somerset to pay a visit to Barrington Court, a Tudor manor house near Ilminster.
As the first large property acquired by the National Trust, in 1907, Barrington Court was a bit of an embarrassment for them, since the repairs and maintenance costs were just a bit higher than anticipated (ie astronomical). It was only in the 1920s, when the property was leased to Colonel Lyle (of Tate & Lyle) that sufficient funds were provided to make the house watertight and visitable. Colonel Lyle also used the property to house his collection of wood panelling – much of it rescued from the many other large old estates being sold off at the time.
Unusually for a National Trust property, the house is devoid of furniture (and so also teasels and, largely, room attendants). It was surprisingly engrossing to walk through big empty rooms; instead of quickly becoming blasé about heaps of Chippendale chairs, tapestries, chaise longues, silver cutlery, Rembrandts, Staffordshire ceramics, crewel-worked curtains, four-poster beds, and family portraits, I followed my camera’s excited nose, focusing on the patterns of light created by the old wibbly-wobbly glass windows, and the impressive display of Delft tiles in every bathroom.
On the top floor, quiet wood-paneled galleries branch off symmetrically into light-filled vistas – like some kind of Tudor sci-fi film set, or how I imagine one to look anyway. A warm, woody minimalism.
I think the space reminded me of something futuristic because it felt oddly history-less. Without the curios and knickknacks of past inhabitants, Barrington Court gives visitors few chronological markers, letting them roam around with just their own ghosts for company.