Gunby Hall

Gunby Hall


Gunby Hall is a country house in Gunby, near Spilsby, in Lincolnshire, England, reached by a half mile long private drive. The Estate comprises the 42-room Gunby Hall, listed Grade I, a clocktower, listed Grade II* and a carriage house and stable block which are listed Grade II. In 1944 the trustees of the Gunby Hall Estate, Lady Montgomery-Massingberd, Major Norman Leith-Hay-Clarke and Field Marshal Sir Archibald Montgomery-Massingberd, gave the house to the National Trust together with its contents and some 1,500 acres of land. Gunby Hall is currently leased from the National Trust with a requirement to open the Hall's State Rooms and Gardens to the public.

Like a pretty doll's house, Gunby Hall looks like a town house in the style of Christopher Wren, unexpectedly stranded in the middle of the Lincolnshire countryside. The main part of the house was finished in 1700 for Sir William Massingberd, second Baronet, on the site of a small manor house that had once belonged to a family called Gunby.

People lived at Bratoft and Gunby long before the Massingberds arrived: deserted medieval villages are found in the archaeology of both Gunby and Bratoft parks. Recent archaeological investigation suggests that an early Iron Age site, which is thought to have been of some significance due to its scale and to the large amount of burnt deposits found, sits under the gardens of Gunby Hall and extends out into the Glebe Field to the east.The remains of the medieval village of Gunby (or 'Gunnebi') can be seen in the bumpy contours of the park around St Peter's Church.

Before they moved into Gunby Hall, the Massingberds lived at the medieval moated manor of nearby Bratoft. They acquired the Gunby Estate in the early seventeenth century. Their new house was of red brick, some brought from Holland in 1699 and the rest probably dug from the brickfield that is now the ice house pond in the grounds.

The original house is seven by four bays and three full storeys in height, plus a basement and a panelled parapet. The red brick is adorned with stone dressings in the form of broad string courses and moulded window surrounds; the effect is very formal. The only ornament on the outside is the front entrance, consisting of a doorway with an elaborately scrolled pediment around a cartouche of arms and a keystone with the date in Roman numerals: 1700.

A watercolour of 1810 shows the front with two low walls, each containing a doorway. These walls were removed later in the nineteenth century, though one of the arched doorways is still there today. The two-storey, five-bay extension to the side of the building was added in the late nineteenth century. Three bays in 1873 and another two in 1898.

The extension is remarkably sympathetic for that period, carefully maintaining the William and Mary character of the house. However the windows on the front are in fact plate glass (with mock glazing bars added later), while on the side of the house the late-Victorians could not resist a touch of Ruskin in the style of the windows.

The handsome range of coach houses in the stableyard was built in 1735 by William Meux-Massingberd (grandson of the builder of the house), probably at the same time as he installed the large Venetian stair window on the south front. Enjoy Gunby today by exploring three floors of the house full of interesting collection items that once belonged to the Massingberd family.

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With domestic sized rooms filled with furniture and art, you can easily imagine living at Gunby yourself. Chat to the room guides to find out more about Gunby's collection, the Massingberd family and the history of the house. The Massingberd family lived at Gunby Hall from 1700 until 1967, having previously lived at nearby Braftoft Manor. Gifted to National Trust in 1944, it was tenanted from 1967 until 2012, after which it became fully managed by the Trust. The main body of the house was built in 1700; an extension was added in 1873 which was completed in 1898 to become the building you see today.

  • The Music Room.
  • The first room you'll visit is the oak panelled music room. Running the full length of the west front of the 1873 wing, this room only came into existence in its current form in 1898. It was in this room that Gunby's Diana Massingberd coached her string ensembles and here that singers sang and choirs rehearsed. The Bluthner grand piano, specially strengthened against the rigours of intercontinental travel, went out to India with Diana and Archie on his postings there.

  • The Ante Room.
  • Entering the old house into what was formerly the housekeeper’s room, it became an ante room to the new dining room as part of the alterations of 1873. A watercolour of the house in Kensington Square where the young Massingberds lived in the 1890s hangs on the left and a study of a moss rose by the celebrated garden designer Alfred Parsons hangs on the right.

  • The Backstairs.
  • This staircase rises from the basement to top floor and connects the 1873 north wing to the old house. It is decorated for much of its height in the ‘Daisy’ pattern wallpaper designed by William Morris and printed for the first time in 1864 by Jeffrey and Co. The charcoal sketches of the three Lushington sisters are preparatory drawings for the painting ‘The Home Quartette’ that their father Vernon Lushington commissioned from Arthur Hughes. A modern print of the painting hangs above. The drawing of the head of Margaret Lushington is by William Holman Hunt. Both Hunt and Hughes are considered amongst the most talented painters of the Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood.

  • The Squire’s Room.
  • Turning left on the landing down the little passage and, being sure to note the very striking portrait of the charismatic preacher Damian de Veuster, the innovative way in which bathrooms were introduced into the junction between the old and new wings becomes apparent. The Squire’s Room has wallpaper of an Asiatic pattern in the panels which dates from c1920.

  • The Grey Bedroom.
  • The utilitarian treatment of the fireplace in this bedroom must date from alterations in the late nineteenth century. The wallpaper however, dates from 1928. The commode, or night stool is a beautifully crafted piece of deceptive furniture, with a hinged dummy front that lifts to reveal the padded seat and back rest.

  • The Field Marshal’s Room.
  • This bedroom would have been the master bedroom with a large four poster bed. A large sepia photograph over the mantel is of Raphael’s Madonna and is typical of the taste of an artistically minded household of the late nineteenth century. To the right is a fine ‘seaweed’ marquetry bureau bookcase of the early eighteenth century.

  • The Cedar Bedroom.
  • On the south west corner of the house, this must have been the most favoured of the bedrooms. Its carved ‘Greek key’ overmantel panel is probably one of the improvements introduced by William Meux Massingberd in the 1730s.

  • The Bathrooms.
  • Across the landing is the blue bathroom, containing a curious ebonised and gilt cabinet mounted with two different sets of blue and white tiles, very much in the ‘Aesthetic’ taste of the 1890s. Outside the walls are covered with a rare Morris and Co. red pomegranate pattern paper. The National Trust had some of this re-printed to cover an area destroyed by earlier electrical work. The ‘Loo with a View’ is a great favourite.

  • The Oak Staircase.
  • The staircase, with its triple twisted slender balusters, is dated by Nikolaus Pevsner the architectural historian to c1730.Together with the Venetian window, plaster panelling and cornice, he attributes this space to William Meux-Massingberd. Lady Montgomery-Massingberd (b.1872) certainly believed in the antiquity – and the quality - of her staircase. If guests complained of the cold, to warm them up she advised a good spell on their hands and knees polishing it. There's a knight in shining armour on Gunby's oak staircase. The suit of armour features in Hugh Montgomery-Massingberd’s record in ‘Daydream Believer’ of a prank designed to ridicule a local news story of the haunted nature of Gunby. He and a group of friends in fancy dress (including the armour) went down to the gate and paraded round the roundabout on the main road, ‘gurning and grimacing’ until ‘the traffic was brought to a complete standstill’. His father was quite amused, but Rogers the caretaker at the time was not, barring the door and calling the police.

  • The Study.
  • Historically this was the morning room, catching the early sun from the east. Now it houses the considerable military library belonging to Field Marshal Sir Archibald Montgomery–Massingberd. The Field Marshal was an author of some repute on his own account, writing the history of the Fourth Army in the ‘Hundred Days’ of 1918 and publishing tracts on strategy and tactics aswell as a slim volume of autobiography. There are also reminders of his Indian postings in the lacquered bottles and jugs he brought back with him.

  • The Library.
  • This is considered to be - the remains of - one of the best examples of a squire’s library to survive. Largely collected between 1690 and 1730. " The books in their modest way...are a remarkable and vivid testament to the vibrancy of cultural life in a remote corner of Georgian England" - Peter Hoare, Library Report 2002.

    Above the bookcase on the wall opposite the fireplace is part of a Chinese porcelain dinner service, made for export to Europe in the late eighteenth century. It was re-assembled here in 1998 after the wall was re-built for, in 1926, the wall had been removed to create a large ‘sitting-hall’ and the books scattered about the house (and some of the more untidy ones burned). The odd proportions of the hybrid room that resulted, created to facilitate the taking of alcohol by guests in an otherwise teetotal house, are best appreciated next door.

  • The Entrance Hall.
  • Diana Montgomery-Massingberd’s new room ended its career in 1998 when the missing wall was re-built with the help of money from the sale of books belonging to James Lees-Milne. In the once-more symmetrical hall, the builder, Sir William Massingberd, dominates again from his portrait over the mantel.

    Below, between two watercolour portraits of the Revd. Algernon Massingberd and his sister Mary Neville, hangs a frame containing four lines of manuscript. This precious scrap is signed by the local poet Alfred Tennyson. The lines are from his epic poem ‘The Palace of Art’ and are believed to describe Gunby, which Tennyson knew well. In one of the family scrap books is a faint pencil sketch by his friend Algernon Massingberd showing the poet as a gangling young man, all quiff and cravat, smoking his long-shafted clay pipe. "and one an English home, gray twilight pour’d On dewy pastures, dewy trees Softer than sleep – all things in order stored, A haunt of ancient peace" - Alfred Lord Tennyson, 'The Palace of Art' 1832

  • The Dining Room.
  • The shape of this room has altered too. When Charles Langton-Massingberd added the north wing containing a dining room, this space was created out of the old dining room and butler’s pantry to act as a drawing room. A homely note is struck by the use of a couple of old bed posts to mark the former division. A few years later with the creation of the music room, this space reverted to its former use.

    Further round the room ‘Naughty’ Algernon, who brought the family finances to the brink of disaster, smirks on a rocky shore resplendent in his naval uniform. His be-whiskered Uncle Charles hangs nearby. The table is perfect for fine dining in style. The two sets of dining chairs are both good examples of the refined forms of early Regency taste, with sabre legs and caned seats. One set is painted with lions’ masks whilst the other exhibits the Eye of Horus carved on its cresting rails and is an example of Egyptian taste. The marquetry longcase clock is by Matthew Bunce, who probably died very shortly after making this clock in about 1700.

  • The Basement.
  • The basement runs under the entire house, mimicking the plan of the main apartments above, the old kitchen is under the dining room and the servants hall is under the music room. The addition of the north wing in 1873 greatly expanded the service areas below stairs and enabled the re-distribution of tasks to different areas; the larder was established under the stairs on the south front of the house with the still room, complete with its own range, to the east. Here tea was made for the household whilst the main kitchen was taken up with the preparation of dinner. In addition this was where the preserves, jams and chutneys were made in season from fruit and vegetables from the garden. The 'boot room' offered cellarage for beer, with wines housed under slightly greater security further along the corridor.

    Across the corridor in rooms that comprised the male servants’ sleeping accommodation, and latterly formed part of a flat, is an exhibition devoted to the military career of Field Marshal Sir Archibald Montgomery-Massingberd. Here are tiger skin rugs from India, drawings by Lockwood Kipling (Rudyard’s father) many photographs and watercolours of the campaigns with which Sir Archie was involved.

    * – The Family – *

    Gunby Hall was the home of the Massingberd family for more than 250 years from 1700 to the 1960's. Find out more about the Massingberds - from the builder of the house, to its most recent owners.

  • Early History.
  • The Massingberd family is long established in Lincolnshire, tracing its ancestry to Lambert Massingberd of Sutterton on the Wash who was convicted of grievous bodily harm in Boston in 1288. Through the marriage of Sir Thomas Massingberd to Joan de Bratoft in 1495 the lands of Bratoft and Gunby and the moated manor house at Bratoft came into the family, surrounded by fish ponds and an extensive park. An Elizabethan garden seems to have adorned Bratoft Manor, of which archaeological remains can be seen in the landscape today.

    During the Civil War the Massingberd brothers, Henry and Drayner, fought on the Parliamentary side. Both brothers prospered under the Commonwealth of Oliver Cromwell. Drayner went on to found the branch of the family seated at South Ormsby in Lincolnshire. Henry served as High Sheriff of the county and was rewarded with a baronetcy by Cromwell. This was probably because of Henry's generosity to the State in maintaining thirty foot soldiers in Ireland for three years keeping the peace after the bloody campaigns of 1649-51. For reasons that are not entirely clear, Sir Henry managed the unusual feat of having his Cromwellian baronetcy re-conferred by Charles II in 1660. It was Sir Henry’s son, Sir William, the second baronet, who decided to move the family home across the fields from Bratoft to Gunby.

  • Sir William Massingberd 1649-1719
  • From sources of the time it seems likely that Sir William was building on the site of an existing manor house, but nothing of it remains today. Some of the bricks used to build the house were quarried from the old manor house at Bratoft, which Sir William dismantled. The result is a four-square, no-nonsense brick house relieved by sparing use of stone for quoins and window surrounds and subtle raised brick panels in the parapet. " ..the Hall is…robust, unostentatious, dignified and a trifle prim.." - James Lees-Milne, ‘People and Places’ 1992.

    Sir William served as High Sheriff for Bedfordshire in 1694 and seems to have maintained his family’s eminence in Lincolnshire too. His namesake bachelor son, who succeeded him briefly from 1719-23, was MP for Lincolnshire. After that the family tradition of female succession began with Elizabeth, daughter of the builder and wife of Mr Meux, inheriting and joining her maiden name to that of her husband. Her son, William Meux Massingberd, held Gunby for a lengthy period (1738-1781) and built the stable yard to the north of the house. He married twice and had many children by his second marriage, but only one son, who predeceased him, by his first. His grandson Henry succeeded him, but lived away from Gunby which was let to a succession of tenants.

  • Peregrine Langton Massingberd 1780-1856
  • On Henry’s death, which occurred in France in 1784, his baby daughter, Elizabeth Mary Anne, succeeded. Gunby continued to be let whilst she was brought up by various aunts and great aunts in and around Lincolnshire. In 1802 Elizabeth Mary Anne Massingberd married Peregrine Langton, second son of Bennet Langton of Langton in Lincolnshire. Peregrine left lots of letters, journals and, uniquely, a book in which he recorded all tree planting on the estate. The Gunby Tree Book, together with his journals and letters, give a glimpse of life at Gunby and abroad as Peregrine struggled with a tempestuous marriage (which eventually broke down) his children (all of whom either died or otherwise disappointed him) money (the lack of which forced him out of Gunby) and religion (which overtook him forcefully during a storm in the South Atlantic).

    Peregrine’s chief joy was in creating new plantations. In this he was greatly assisted by William Pontey. Pontey was a nurseryman who had an eye for landscape design. He published his theories in a series of books, culminating in ‘The Rural Improver’ of 1822. Expanding on the theories of ‘Capability’ Brown, Pontey advised Peregrine to plant belts of trees with breaks in them to focus views on distant features such as church towers. In a flat landscape such as Gunby’s this gives the impression of an extensive and generously wooded landscape, far greater than actually exists.

  • Algernon Massingberd 1828-1855
  • The Reverend Algernon Langton-Massingberd, eldest son of Peregrine and Elizabeth Mary Anne who inherited Gunby in 1835, had only one child, also named Algernon (and called ‘Naughty’ in the family annals for reasons that will become apparent). The little boy grew up mostly untutored and untamed and was given some boundaries when his parents bought him a commission as a midshipman in the Royal Navy. He served his teenage years on the China seas maintaining supplies, cleanliness and discipline on board.

    Unsurprisingly he took the opportunity offered by his father’s untimely death in 1844 to quit the Navy and take to travel (with his mother) witnessing the overthrow of Louis Philippe in France. By 1848 he had resumed a military career, this time as a junior officer in the Dragoons followed, at his twenty-first birthday in 1849, and amidst ox roasts and a massive dinner for all his Gunby tenants, by a move to the Royal Regiment of Horse Guards. In this role he began to enjoy life to the full, taking a house in fashionable Eaton Square and becoming involved in gambling rings and murky horse dealing. He also began to take an interest in radical politics.

    Algernon wrote ecstatically of his meeting with Louis Kossuth, the Hungarian revolutionary. They had met in Turkey after the failure of the short-lived Hungarian republic. So it was natural that Algernon should put his house in London at Kossuth’s disposal when the revolutionary visited England late in 1851. Kossuth travelled the country making speeches. The government remained quiet but, after Kossuth’s departure for America, took revenge on those who had helped him. Algernon was required to resign his commission and, with no position and hounded by creditors, he too departed for America early in 1852, never to return. His travels took him to Havana, Australia, New York and Lima in Peru where his last contact is recorded in 1854. " My Byron, Bible, and old scrap book I shall require at your hands.." - the last surviving message written by Algernon Massingberd before he disappeared without trace in 1854.

    During this time Gunby was tenanted once more by a solicitor and his family, the Hollways. Algernon’s career from 1852 until his death in 1855 is charted by the investigations of his formidable uncle Charles and a precious collection of three letters that survive in his hand.

  • Charles Langton Massingberd 1815-1887
  • Charles was the youngest son of Peregrine and Elizabeth Mary Anne Massingberd. Having served a spell in the Austrian army he married and settled to life as a gentleman, unconscious of the danger into which the irrepressible vigour of his nephew Algernon’s enthusiasm for adventure had placed the family’s fortunes.

    Charles was an astute businessman and had invested well, amongst other things in the development of the South American railway network. Having paid off all his nephew’s debts and confirmed his right to inherit Gunby, Charles was in a position to make the first major alterations to the hall since it was built. In 1873 he added a two storey wing to the north of the house, providing better service accommodation, secondary bedrooms and a new dining room. He installed plumbing bringing the luxury of running water and plumbed toilets to the house.

    Genial, musical and an accomplished artist, Charles was much in demand at parties for his fine tenor singing voice. To the end of his life he retained the engaging habit of slipping into German, sometimes in the middle of sentences; a relic of his youth spent on the continent. His poor health led him to spend much of his later life in the beneficial climate of Bournemouth where his daughter Emily built a house.

  • Emily Langton Massingberd 1847-1897
  • Charles Langton-Massingberd's elder daughter, Emily Caroline, grew up to become one of the most distinctive characters in the Massingberd line. Emily was a tee-total political activist who campaigned for women’s rights. She was a keen amateur actor (preferring to take male parts) and played the violin. She had a passionate (if unconsummated) love affair with one cousin whilst she was married to another, Edmund. She had four children: Stephen, Mildred, Mary and Diana.

    Her ethical and political beliefs were united in the Pioneer Club, a pro-suffrage members’ club for the advancement and education of women, which she founded in 1892. Whilst the story of her lecturing her tenants on the evils of drink from a boat moored in ice house pond may be a myth, her lifelong hatred of alcohol had effects on Gunby that survive to this day. The Massingberd Arms farm started life as a pub, which Emily converted into a temperance house, whereupon it went bankrupt and became a farmhouse.

    The 1888 Local Government Reform Act left it vague who had the right stand for election and who did not. So in the elections of January 1889 Emily stood for the ward of Partney, in her right as a landowner, and lost by only twenty votes. She was one of the first women in the country to stand for public office.

    Emily, who had been widowed in 1875, succeeded her father at Gunby in 1887. She enjoyed the life of a country squire up to a point, but found the isolation of Lincolnshire trying and, after a couple of years, let Gunby once again, retiring to live in Bournemouth (where she produced amateur theatricals with her friend Agnes Mangles) and London. Here she preferred to live at the Pioneer Club in Bruton Street rather than with her teenaged children in the house she rented for them in Kensington Square. Emily died after an operation in 1897 aged only 49.

  • Major Stephen Massingberd 1869-1925
  • Stephen moved to Gunby in 1898 shortly after his mother’s death, starting a golden era that was to survive both World Wars and the transfer of Gunby to the National Trust in 1944. Stephen was newly married to a beautiful, artistic young wife. Together they were to transform the local musical scene introducing singing competitions throughout the county, training choirs and orchestras, performing concerts and operettas and bringing first class music to this remote corner of Lincolnshire.

    Margaret, Stephen’s wife, was one of three daughters of Vernon and Jane Lushington. After their mother’s early death, the three, Katherine (known as Kitty), Margaret and Susan looked after their father in 36 Kensington Square whilst the young Massingberds kept house at no. 42. A close friendship developed between the three Lushington girls and Stephen Massingberd's three sisters (Mildred, Mary and Diana), very largely centring on music - although Mildred could never see the point of it. It was a mutual love of the cello that drew Stephen and Margaret together.

    Margaret died of peritonitis in 1906. Whilst the musical traditions that had been laid down by her drive and energy were taken up and continued by her sister Susan with Stephen’s younger sister, Diana. Stephen never re-married and, although he survived the First World War on active service, he died, childless, at the relatively young age of 56 in 1925.

  • Diana Montgomery Massingberd 1872-1963
  • Stephen’s elder sister, Mildred, did not enjoy being a country landowner, preferring to live privately in the house she had built with her husband (and second cousin) Leonard Darwin in the New Forest. So, as her next sister Mary had married the heir to an estate in Northern Ireland, Gunby came to the youngest, Diana. She had married the younger brother of her sister Mary’s husband, Archibald Montgomery, known in the family as Archie. Obligingly he followed tradition and took his wife’s name when she inherited Gunby.

  • Field Marshal Sir Archibald Montgomery Massingberd 1871-1947
  • Archie was a successful career soldier. He had served in the Boer War, making friends with Rudyard Kipling. He started the First World War as a Major, rising to the rank of Major General by the Armistice. He was recognised as a brilliant strategist and wrote the history of the campaign ‘the Hundred Days’ that brought the war to a close. He was appointed Chief of the Imperial General Staff in 1933 and became Field Marshal in 1935.

    Diana was a strict tee-totaller and, like her mother, she was a fine musician. She had a clear, sweet soprano singing voice, and was a conductor as well as an accomplished violin and viola player.

    In 1943 Diana and Archie faced their greatest challenge. When the Field Marshal found men marking up trees for felling he was told that the Air Ministry had ordered it – and the demolition of the house – to facilitate heavily-laden bombers on the neighbouring airfield. Archie lobbied everyone (including the King) to prevent this ‘act of vandalism’. When criticised for being unpatriotic he pointed out that Hitler was destroying enough beautiful buildings already without needlessly adding more. Eventually the point was won and the house saved. In thanksgiving Archie and Diana decided to offer the entire estate to the National Trust. This act of great generosity was finally achieved in the following year.

    " They are such dear people…I would walk to the ends of the earth to help them.." - James Lees-Milne, Diary entry for Thursday 25 March 1943.

    Archie died in 1947 but Diana lived on into extreme old age, a tall, erect figure still graceful enough to attract wolf-whistles from soldiers (to the officer of men in the park after the war she remarked; ‘… will you kindly inform your men that I may look 18 from the back, but I am 80 at the front!’). Gunby was tenanted from 1967 until 2012 when National Trust took on full management of the property.

    * – Gunby Gardens – *

    From sheltered walled corners, wildflower areas and sweeping lawns, the Gunby gardens offer something of interest whatever the season.

    There is no prescribed ‘tour’ of Gunby’s gardens, but you may like to start through the white gate at the north east corner of the house. Arriving onto the lawn under the ancient cedar of Lebanon, you'll come to the the pergola garden, where you'll see a pair of lead urns filled with pelargoniums. These lead to a brick arch which takes you to the pergola beyond. This is in a series of simple supports over which apple trees are tightly pruned. Some of the many varieties are ‘James Grieve’ and ‘Kings Acre Pippin’ dating back to a list compiled in 1944.

    The walled compartment surrounding the pergolas, contains the cutting border, a rose garden, the yellow border and a herb garden. To the left the herbs (over 80 of them) have been re-arranged around a central stone trough. Both culinary and medicinal varieties would have been used in a country house of the scale of Gunby. The roses to the right include yellows and oranges Chinatown, Arthur Bell and Graham Stuart Thomas with reds Frensham, Wilhelm and Orange Triumph.

    The little box edged lawn with its central sundial was probably laid out around 1900 by Margaret Massingberd, who also brought the little blue domed seat from elsewhere in the gardens as part of her re-planning of this area. Honeysuckle is planted on either side of the seat and frames the view of the mixed herbaceous border on the other side of the lawn.

    Continue to the cutting borders that run down to the greenhouses either side of the pergola. Here the flowers are grown that are used for many of the flower arrangements in the house. The square brick building nearby is the dovecote. This is as old as the house (possibly older) and houses its resident flock of white doves, see if you can spot htem flying overhead. The gardening team can often be found near the Gunby greenhouse and potting shed, preparing and propagating plants for the season ahead. Gunby's garden cats are likely to be snoozing nearby, enjoying a catnap in the sun. See if you can spot Gunby's resident cats Craig and Committee. They love to welcome visitors to their gardens.

    The Yellow Border is a double herbaceous border featuring unusual plants such as Buphthalmum speciosum, a large-headed yellow daisy, Achillea ‘Cloth of Gold’ and Ligularia clivorum ‘Desdemona’, another daisy, but orange this time with leaves tinted with purple. At the end, the arched gateway on the left leads past Kipling’s couplet, immortalised in stone, into the kitchen garden. " Our England is a garden, and such gardens are not made by singing, ‘O! How beautiful!' and sitting in the shade". - Rudyard Kipling, ‘The Glory of the Garden’.

    It appears that of all the areas of the gardens at Gunby, the kitchen garden has altered least in appearance and usage over time. Paths divide the garden in four main compartments and the linking perimeter path are all recorded in Peregrine Massingberd’s plan of 1806. In the heyday of the gardens then and ever since the four compartments and wall beds have been in vegetable production. A list, dated 1806, recorded fruit trees on the garden walls, which included: White Magdalen peach, brown fig, Chaumontelle pear, Temple Nectrine, Nutmeg Peach and Breda Apricot.

    Today pears, plums, gages and figs cover the walls with apples and more pears forming patterns down the central double herbaceous border. Flowers change from blues to oranges and red and back to blues and whites with the seasons. Roses, a gift to Lady Montgomery-Massingberd in 1962, form the centre path. These include the Pemberton hybrid musk roses ‘Penelope’, ‘Cornelia’ and ‘Prosperity’ famous for their heavy scent, at its best in the cool of a summer’s evening. Seasonal produce from the kitchen gardens is for sale in the tea-room.

    Instead of a wall on the south side, a yew hedge divides the kitchen garden from the canal. Irish juniper trees are dotted along the formal line of the walk, which is known as the 'Ghost Walk'. A young woman of the Massingberd family died after the murder of her stable lad lover by her infuriated father. Her ghost is said to walk here. The dying boy’s curse is supposed to be responsible for the remarkably few occasions in the history of Gunby that the succession has passed directly from father to son. " It is this profuse combination of seasonable fruits and flowers…that invests Gunby with the air of a still living English country home" - James Lees-Milne, Gunby Guidebook, 1946.

    Passing through the double iron gates, the path to the church runs straight on and two walks wind round to the right. One leads back up the south side of the canal whilst the other, left-hand one leads into a cherry walk, planted first in 1939. Only one of the original trees survives, a ‘Pyrus malus’. Re-planting has included a Great White, prunus serrulata ‘Tai haku’ which, in 1987, marked the sixtieth anniversary of The National Gardens Scheme, of which Gunby was an original supporter. The surprise view of the east front of the house leads you onto the east lawn.

    The uninterrupted view of the east front of the house is framed by some fine specimen trees, a black mulberry, a robinia and a liquidambar aswell as a couple of cedars, all planted in the last couple of decades to provide succession to trees that have been lost during the twentieth century. In the shrubbery to the left Rosa cantabrigiensis makes a show, with ‘Wedding Day’ clambering through the holly behind.

    Behind this shrubbery take the a wildflower walk snaking along the park boundary. In season it's bright with winter aconites, snowdrops, crocuses and primroses. The carpet of wood anemones is particularly beautiful in March and April. In 1904 a tennis lawn was created here due south of the house. On the East Lawn, a pair of box-edged beds holds hybrid tea roses ‘Mrs Oakley Fisher’ and the heavily scented ‘Etoile de Hollande’. The planting of the great cedar of Lebanon was in 1812. " …and enable me to make pleasant shady walks for the summer all around the mansion. Nothing can be more charming and delightful than the prospect of so many pretty rising plantations…" - Peregrine Massingberd, Journal entry 1812.

    The current formal planting of a pair of parallel yew allees dates from 1902 with a stoned walk centrally leading to a sundial formed of a baluster from old Kew Bridge. Last year the Gunby front gardens were planted with onions to replicate a photo from the 1940s.

    On the walls of the house ‘Sylvia’ and ‘Madame Butterfly’ fight for attention, whilst back in the courtyard the vigorous ‘Mermaid’ (a single yellow rose) climbs up by the little gate in the corner and ‘Breeze Hill’ climbs happily on the clock tower opposite in big cabbage roses of pinkish apricot.

    Apple pergolas

    apple pergolas

    Gunby roses

    Gunby Roses

    * – Walks at Gunby Estate – *

    * Gunby ice house pond walk *

    A dog friendly walk, this is classified as 'Easy', takes about 30 minutes and covers one mile. On your way back from the ice house pond, look out for the remains of the former Gunby village, which was once a thriving settlement with 15 households in 1563, but had disappeared by the time the Hall was built in 1700.

    Start at Gunby Hall.

  • 1. From the courtyard, go through the white picket gate and follow the garden path towards the church, past the carp pond.
  • 2. Leave the gardens and go through the gate on your left before the church.
  • St. Peter's Church. Although not National Trust, St. Peter's church is open every day and visitors are welcome to take a look inside and discover its history. It was rebuilt entirely by Charles Langton-Massingberd in 1870, and contains a stained glass window commemorating the life of Margaret Massingberd.
  • 3. Go past the church and bear right following the fenceline of the gardens. From time to time, the field will be home to our tenant farmer's herd of Lincoln Red cattle. Do take care when walking through the field, and keep your dogs on a short lead. Look to your left and you will see the remains of the deserted medieval village.
  • Medieval village. Explore the lumps and bumps of the once thriving village of Gunby, which was originally known as 'Gunnebi' and is first recorded in the Domesday Survey when the lands had been granted to Eudo Fitz Spirewic, a Norman baron. All that remains today are the earthworks of hollow-ways, tracks and housing platforms. When walking across the parkland, look out for brown hare, green woodpecker and mistle thrush.
  • 4. When you reach the fence which divides the fields, turn left and head towards the clump of trees.
  • 5. Go through the gate and you have arrived at the ice house pond.
  • Ice house pond. Hidden beneath the overgrowth on the eastern side of the pond is the former ice house. During the winter, ice would have been collected from the pond and stored in the ice house where it could have been used as a source of ice during the summer, pre-refrigeration. The pond is surrounded by wildflowers, including snowdrops, winter aconites and early purple orchids, marsh marigold and yellow flag iris. These provide a haven for nectaring bees, hoverflies and butterflies including small tortoiseshell and speckled wood.
  • 6. Walk around the pond and enter the field through the gate.
  • 7. Pass through the wrought iron kissing gate, and return to the gardens back the way you came.
  • End: Gunby Hall and Gardens.

    * Monksthorpe Chapel walk *

    A far more vigorous walk, this is classified as 'Moderate' and is dog-friendly. It is 6 to 8 miles long and will take at least two and a half hours. If you want to explore the inside of Monksthorpe Chapel, the key is available daily between February and October from Gunby Hall & Gardens for a fully refundable £20 cash deposit. In addition to those at Gunby Hall, there are toilets at Monksthorpe Chapel

    Start: Gunby Hall and Gardens

  • 1. From the courtyard, go through the white picket gate and follow the garden path towards the church, past the carp pond. Leave the gardens and go through the gate on your left before the church.
  • 2. Go past St. Peter's church and bear right following the fenceline of the gardens. From time to time, the field will be home to the tenant farmer's herd of Lincoln Red cattle. Do take care when walking through the field and keep your dogs on a short lead. Look to your left and you will see the remains of the deserted medieval village. Go through the wrought iron kissing gate and continue across the field to the stile.
  • Medieval village of Gunby. Explore the lumps and bumps of the once thriving village of Gunby, which was originally known as 'Gunnebi' and is first recorded in the Domesday Survey when the land was granted to Eudo Fitz Spirewic, a Norman baron. All that remains today are the earthworks of hollow-ways, tracks and housing platforms. When walking across the parkland, look out for brown hare, green woodpecker and mistle thrush.
  • 3. Cross Gunby Lane and continue straight on along the edge of the fields towards Candlesby. The path bears slightly to the right. Climb over the stile and you will come out behind Candlesby church.
  • 4. From Candlesby church, turn left and head down the hill towards the corral. Please close the gate carefully behind you. The path continues along the edges of the fields bearing slightly to the left. The footpath is well marked with yellow arrows, until you come out at the concrete bridleway.
  • 5. When you reach the bridleway, turn right and continue straight on until you reach the road.
  • 6. At the road, walk straight on and follow the road as it bears left. Turn left at the T junction. You will see a poultry farm on your right, and a farm track sign posted 'Monksthorpe' straight ahead. Follow the track until you arrive at Monksthorpe Chapel on your right.
  • 7. You have reached Monksthorpe Chapel. To return, retrace your steps to the bridleway.
  • Monksthorpe Chapel. The chapel was used regularly up until the 1970s when it fell into disrepair. The East Midland Baptist Association began restoration before the chapel came to the National Trust in 2001. Originally, the chapel would have had a thatched roof, looking like a barn from the outside to avoid detection. The present interior is typical of the 1840s when it was refurbished. The field adjacent to the chapel belonged to Spilsby airfield in World War II, the extension of which threatened the existence of Gunby Hall in 1944.
  • 8. At the bridleway, you may return to Gunby the way you came, or, to make the route circular, walk straight on and continue as the bridleway turns into a green lane, until you reach Gunby Lane. Along the green lane look out for tree sparrows and, in summer, turtle doves. In summer, look over the field gate into Hunger Hill Meadow for spectacular wildflowers and butterflies.
  • 9. Turn right onto Gunby Lane and follow the road as it bears left towards Bratoft.
  • 10. Turn left at the next T junction.
  • 11. After you have passed a couple of cottages on your right, you will see the entrance to the old railway line on your left. Follow the old railway line for just under 1km, until it is crossed by the footpath. Along the railway you may see bullfinches, yellowhammers, long-tailed tits and, in summer, whitethroats.
  • The East Lincolnshire Line. The East Lincolnshire Line was constructed in 1848, linking Grimsby and Boston. The 'Navvies' who constructed the railways were synonymous with antisocial behaviour. Drink was seen as a particular evil, to the extent that Emily Massingberd, a leader of the Temperance Movement, bought the railway inn at Burgh-le-Marsh station and turned it into a temperance inn. The line was closed in 1971 as part of the Beeching Review. Thanks to the limestone, this area of the parkland is particularly rich in wildflowers.
  • 12. Turn left off the old railway line back onto the foot path and follow the green lanes, highlighted with yellow arrows, back up to Gunby Hall and Gardens. The footpath bears right and you enter the parkland over a stile, where St. Peter's church is visible.
  • End: Gunby Hall and Gardens.

    * Gunby Hall to Bratoft Manor walk *

    Cross the former East Lincolnshire Line and discover the Medieval moated manor site, the former home of the Massingberds of Gunby. This walk is classified as 'Easy', covers about four miles and will take a little over an hour and a half. It is dog friendly.

    Start: Gunby Hall and Gardens.

  • 1. From the courtyard, go through the white picket gate and follow the garden path towards the church, past the carp pond. Leave the gardens and go through the gate on your left before the church.
  • Gunby's St Peter's Church. Just outside the Gunby gardens you can find St Peter's Church.
  • 2. From St. Peter's Church, carry straight on and cross the parkland and continue to the stile, with the cottages and trees on your left.
  • Deserted medieval village at Gunby. Nearby are the remains of the deserted medieval village of 'Gunnebi'.
  • 3. Follow the path and climb over a second stile into a field and turn left and follow the fence line by the trees to the gate/stile. Follow the purple way markers along the green lane.
  • 4. At the end of the green lane turn left. Continue along the lane and through a field, until you reach the disused East Lincolnshire railway line. Constructed in 1848, the line linked Grimsby to Boston up until 1971 when it was closed as part of the Beeching review. The old railway line is a permissive right of way and you may walk up and down it. During the summer it is rich in wildflowers due to the limestone.
  • 5. Cross the old East Lincolnshire line and walk along the edge of the field and climb over the next stile. Look out for nectaring butterflies such as common blue, small tortoiseshell and the painted lady.
  • 6. You have now reached the site of the medieval moat, which you will see in front of you.
  • Bratoft Manor. The moat is all that remains of Bratoft Manor, the former home of the Massingberd family.
  • 7. You may return the way you came, or you can extend your walk with a visit to Bratoft church (not National Trust) which has connections to the Massingberd family. Carry straight on along the side of the moat, climb the stile and walk straight on along the lane. You will see a road ahead - carry straight on and take the first left to the church on your left hand side.
  • St Peter and Paul's Church. Bratoft's church was built in the fifteenth century, and was partly restored in the memory of Charles Langton Massingberd in 1889, having a brick West tower built in 1747. Inside is a unique painting depicting the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588. The Church is open daily between 9am and 4pm, services on Wednesdays and most Sundays. Next door to the church is the Old Rectory, built in about 1840 by Rev Algernon Massingberd. It is now a National Trust holiday cottage.
  • 8. Retrace your steps to Gunby Hall and Gardens.
  • End: Gunby Hall and Gardens.

    * – Visiting – *

    ‘I could live here!’, is what most people say when visiting Gunby Hall and Gardens. Modest-sized rooms full of character and charm make it easy to imagine you can move in yourself. With links to Tennyson, Darwin and Vaughan-Williams there is so much to discover about the family home of the Massingberd family.

    Explore three floors of the hall full of interesting collection pieces amassed over generations from 1700 until 1967. Chat to their room guides to find out stories about Gunby’s interesting past. Stroll through our eight-acre gardens and enjoy the different areas: sweeping formal lawns, flower borders, vegetable gardens and wildflower corners. Complete your visit with a stop in the charming tea-room and enjoy some cake and a nice cuppa.

    General Access.

  • • Well behaved dogs on leads are very welcome in the gardens, grounds and courtyard. Please don't leave your dog unattended when you visit the house.
  • • All parking is on grass and not suitable for motor homes, mini buses or sporty cars; there's a lay-by at the end of the drive near the roundabout that can be used - ring 01754 890102 for more advice.
  • • They have a small tea-room that offers hot and cold drinks, ice-cream, crisps, cakes and sweet treats. They have a small number of sandwiches for sale each day, but don't offer lunches as such - you're very welcome to bring a packed lunch.
  • • Gunby produce and plants are for sale near the tea-room (when available).
  • • Groups are most welcome - please contact them on 01754 890102 to book your visit.
  • • Picnics are allowed anywhere in the gardens and grounds.
  • • Limited coach or motor home access - please contact them before you visit.
  • • They have a small number of toilets in the courtyard and the house.
  • • Smoking is only permitted in the car park - they ask that you don't smoke or vape in the gardens, tea-room or grounds.
  • • There's a well stocked second-hand bookshop in the stables.
  • Family

  • • They have a high chair in the tea-room which can also be used outside.
  • • The garden paths are generally suitable for pushchairs, but loose gravel might make it hard going in places; they don't mind if you use the lawns.
  • • Have fun and take part in their self-led '50 things to do' activities - pick up a booklet from the tea-room.
  • • You can use the unisex baby change facilities in the basement of the house which is accessible via steps from the courtyard.
  • • They ask that you don't bring pushchairs or buggies into the house but leave them at the door - their room guides will look after them for you.
  • Accessibility.

  • • Due to the historic nature of the house and grounds, some areas might not be fully accessible to all visitors.
  • • You can use the Gunby wheelchair or wheeled walker (with seat) to go around the ground floor of the house. They ask that you leave your own wheelchair or wheeled walker outside - ring 01754 890102 for more info or to book.
  • • There are steps and stairs in the house, but they have modern chairs available in most rooms as a rest point.
  • • They have a visitor drop-off point in the car park and blue badge parking close to the entrance.
  • • The gardens are mostly accessible to all visitors, with only small changes in level, but there are some narrow paths and gateways - ask the admission team for the best route.
  • • There are loose gravel paths in the gardens; if it's hard going, we don't mind wheelchair users going on the lawns.
  • • There are two outdoor wheelchairs available for visitors - ring 01754 890102 to book.
  • • For conservation reasons they ask that you leave pushchairs, food and drinks, large bags and rucksacks at the entrance when visiting the house.
  • • Ring 01754 890102 to speak to Access Champions Astrid Gatenby or Rachel Marriott or to request a full access statement.

    Location : Gunby, Spilsby, Lincolnshire, PE23 5SS

    Transport: Skegness (National Rail) then bus (7.5 miles). Bus routes: No.6 from Lincoln and Skegness. Layby at Gunby roundabout is a request stop. 530 yards walk to entrance.

    Opening Times : Daily, 11:00 to 17:00, April to October.

    Tickets : Adults £8.10;  Children £4.05 ;  Family £19.50.

    Tickets Group (minimum 15 people): Adults £6.50;  Children £3.50.

    Tel: 0175 4890102