Knebworth House is a country house in the civil parish of Knebworth in Hertfordshire. The home of the Lytton family since 1490, when Thomas Bourchier sold the reversion of the manor to Sir Robert Lytton, Knebworth House was originally a red-brick Late Gothic manor house, built round a central court as an open square. In 1813-16 the house was reduced to its west wing, which was remodelled in a Tudor Gothic style by John Biagio Rebecca for Mrs Bulwer-Lytton, and then was transformed in 1843-45 by Henry Edward Kendall Jr. into the present Tudor Gothic structure. In 1913-1914 it was leased for ₤3,000 per year by Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich of Russia and his morganatic wife Natalia Brasova (a morganitic marriage is between people of disparate rank where the neither lesser nor the children will inherit the estate or the titles). Its most famous resident was Edward Bulwer-Lytton, the Victorian author, dramatist and statesman, who embellished the gardens in a formal Italianate fashion. Much of the interior was redesigned by Sir Edwin Lutyens, who simplified the main parterre. A herb garden, with an interlaced quincunx design, was drawn by Gertrude Jekyll in 1907, although not planted until 1982.
Edward Bulwer-Lytton, much maligned for starting a novel "It was a dark and stormy night" was also the author of the phrase "the pen is mightier than the sword", from his play Richelieu. In addition, he gave the world the memorable phrase "pursuit of the almighty dollar" from his novel The Coming Race. He is also credited with "the great unwashed". He used this rather disparaging term in his 1830 novel Paul Clifford: He is certainly a man who bathes and ‘lives cleanly’, (two especial charges preferred against him by Messrs. the Great Unwashed). Among Bulwer-Lytton's lesser-known contributions to literature was that he convinced Charles Dickens to revise the ending of Great Expectations to make it more palatable to the reading public, as in the original version of the novel, Pip and Estella do not get together.
The romantic exterior of Knebworth House with its turrets, domes and gargoyles silhouetted against the sky does little to prepare the visitor for what to expect inside. The House has stood for many years longer than the Victorian decoration suggests and the stucco hides from view a red brick house dating back to the Tudor times. Every generation of the Lytton family has left something of its style and taste, making Knebworth an extraordinary walk through 500 years of British history. Stories and heirlooms reflect the family’s contribution to literature, politics and foreign service and visits by characters as diverse as Charles Dickens, Winston Churchill and Noel Gallagher.
The grounds include tourist attractions such as an adventure playground and dinosaur park and host various events including classic car rallies and, since 1974, major open air rock and pop concerts, featuring the likes of The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Queen, Paul McCartney, Genesis, Mike Oldfield, The Beach Boys, Deep Purple, Eric Clapton, Elton John, Dire Straits, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Iron Maiden and Oasis. As an historic building, the House regrettably has no lift to the first floor. However, Knebworth’s history can be conveyed to visitors with impaired mobility on the ground floor. Wheelchair accessible toilets are located at the entrance of the gardens, in the House and at the Adventure Playground. Assistance dogs are welcome throughout the House, Gardens and Park.
Location : Knebworth House, Knebworth, Hertfordshire SG3 6PY
Transport: Stevenage (National Rail) then bus or taxi. Bus Routes : 44 and 45 stop near by.
Opening Times : See Calendar for open dates
Tickets House + Gardens: Adults £13.00; Seniors £12.50; Children (3 - 17) £12.50
Tickets Excluding House: Adults £9.50; Seniors £9.50; Children (3 - 17) £9.50
Tel: 01438 812661