We are staying in Epsom and we are taking care of two sweet french bulldogs and a rabbit.
We have gone to two National Trust homes. The first one was Polesden Lacey. It was the weekend home of the popular and powerful socialite in the 1900s, Margaret Greville. No expense was spared to impress the royalty and political men of the time who flocked to her accommodating home to spend the country weekends away from London .
She catered to each guest to make sure they had the best time at her home. She made sure that the cigars that were preferred by each guest was in his room. There was a large billiard and smoking room for the gentlemen to use. Each guest room had the latest novels on the bed stand. The food was fresh from her farm land and of the highest quality prepared by a famous chef. Everyone who was anyone wanted to be her guest.
She died in 1948 and left her house to the National Trust. This is a lovely home that is still impressive and now it is open for the public to enjoy.
The second house we visited was Ham House. This was another stately home that was build in 1610. It was the home of William Murray and his feisty daughter Elizabeth, the Duchess of Lauderdale. She hosted important government officials at her home and dining table during the English Civil War. They did not know that she was a spy for King Charles II while he was in exile in France. She even wrote letters to the royalists in France in invisible ink. She was a member of the secret organization known as the Sealed Knot. In 1660, when Charles was restored to the British throne, he awarded a sizable reward and pension to Elizabeth for risking her life and fortune in support of him. She died at Ham House in 1698 at the age of 72. Her descendants lived in the house until 1948 when it was donated to the National Trust.
The house was built a short walk from the River Thames. No doubt many distinguished guests arrived by way of the river for house parties.It was an inspiring visit to the homes of two women who were powerful political agents in a time when women were considered powerless party ornaments.