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A second house and garden visit and another celebration of the achievements of a preservation trust.

Lamport was home to a branch of Northamptonshire’s ancient Isham family from 1560 until the death of Sir Gyles Isham, 12th Baronet, in 1976. After the National Trust refused to take on the property, because of its poor condition and lack of endowment, and having no close family heirs, Sir Gyles set up his own Preservation Trust, before dying two years later. However, it was not until 1986 that work began on the restoration of the house, its contents, environs and estate. Thirty-four years has brought about a complete transformation, with the place back to its glory days of the mid-C19, when here the garden gnome first had its introduction to England.

The Ishams’ first house (built 1568 and extended 1610-11) being considered too small by Sir Justinian Isham, 2nd Baronet, in 1655 he commissioned John Webb to extend it further towards the south-west. Webb’s work, with the later motto “In things transitory resteth no glory”, forms the centre of the existing  park facade, which was further extended to house a library towards the north-west, by Francis Smith of Warwick (1732), and to the south-east, by his son William Smith (1740), the latter originally forming a double-height orangery, open to the garden. The arches on the garden front of the orangery were enclosed by Henry Hakewell (1829) when he transformed it into a billiard room, for Lady Mary Isham (sp. 8th Bt.), adding bedrooms above. He had already restyled the Jacobean wing as Tudor (1819) and done much internal work, but his north-west facade was not to last long before a new Isham wife, Lady Emily (sp.10th Bt.), employed William Burn to create the existing entrance front, in 1861.

The interior has many fine rooms, decorated with paintings and furnishings collected by Sir Thomas Isham, 3rd Bt.(1656-1681), who undertook an extended Grand Tour of Italy from 1676, but unfortunately for the family’s finances managed to die on the eve of his marriage to a wealthy heiress. Webb’s ‘High Room’ is definitely the architectural star of the show but the Library, a refitting of Smith of Warwick’s interior by Hakewell, is also fine, with its ‘Egyptian’ furniture and busts of classical authors. The Drawing Room, extended as part of a rebuilding of the garden facade by Henry Goddard (1842), who introduced the French windows, contains fine portraits by Thomas Hudson, R.A. (1701-1779) and Richard Brompton, P.S.A. (c.1734/5-1783), court painter to Catherine the Great, as well as a painting from Sir Thomas Isham’s collection , Gimignani’s “Venus and the Death of Adonis”, which he commissioned directly from the artist. Whilst there are many paintings ‘after …’, or ‘attributed to’, the general quality is extremely high and well-worth seeing and there are a number of important items, including a number of Van Dycks, a reflection of the family’s Royalist loyalties. ‘Lampy’, the original garden gnome (Guarding Naturally Over Mother Earth), should not be missed when visiting The China Passage.

Sir Thomas was also responsible for the early layout of the garden, including the raised walk-way that borders it on two sides. This allowed views both inward to the garden and outwards to the park, whilst giving the ladies of the house some privacy. Lamport is, however, justly famous for its rockery, the former abode of ‘Lampy’ and where his descendants still reside. This was built for Sir Charles Isham (1809-1903) as a miniture world with plants, caves and crevices built or planted to be in scale with Lampy and friends.It is hidden from the rest of the  garden by a high wall. The former kitchen garden has been planted as a cut-flower garden with the advice of the famous plantsman, Piet Oudolf (whose garden for Hauser and Worth, in Bruton, some of visited in October). This provides important revenue for the trust, whilst at the same time giving an interesting, colour-texture-fragrance experience.

Lamport is in Northamptonshire  NN6 9HD. Meet in Stable Car Park 13:35. The house tour is approximately 1.15 hours as is the garden tour. Please book tea in advance. Tea and scones £6.00