Montacute House is a fine example of English architecture during a period that was moving from the medieval Gothic to the Renaissance Classical and one of the few prodigy houses to survive almost unchanged from the Elizabethan era. Designed by an unknown architect, possibly the mason William Arnold, the three-storey mansion, constructed of the local Ham Hill stone, was built in about 1598 by Sir Edward Phelips, Master of the Rolls and the prosecutor during the trial of the Gunpowder Plotters. Our exclusive pre-public tour will consist of two parts; the first covering the history, family and architecture and the second covering the huge conservation challenge of the currently closed south staircase, the implications for a structure not designed to handle visitor numbers and how it can be future-proofed. There will be time to explore the gardens before lunch in the village. 

North Cadbury Court is a country house built around 1580-1610 by Sir Francis Hastings who bought the land from his older brother Henry Hastings, 3rd Earl of Huntingdon. He had lived on the estate for several years previously while he managed his brother's estates in the Southwest. After Francis's wife Magdalene died in 1596, Hastings sold the court with the rest of the manor to Matthew Ewens, one of the Barons of the Exchequer. Around 1800 the courtyard was turned into a ballroom and the south façade rebuilt in Georgian style.

©National Trust Images/John Miller

Tickets £45 including two-course gastro-pub lunch and tea/coffee and biscuits at North Cadbury Court
Note: non-NT members pay £12.10 for entry to Montacute House

Bookings open on 2 December at 9.00 am