Country house visiting

‘The house is undoubtedly good, but not grand,’ wrote the exacting Mrs Lybbe Powys on her first visit to the country seat of Lord Palmerston, Broadlands, in 1792. ‘The entrance gives one the best idea, as you ascend a pleasing portico,’ she observed, ‘but the inside, from the Italian taste, strikes me with gloominess, as the height of all the windows is dreadful.’ Despite being thoroughly unimpressed with the design of the house, she did concede that the statues and works of art in Lord Palmerston’s collection were ‘very capital’ – which was praise indeed from the erudite lady, who between 1756 and 1808 visited countless country estates. Fortunately for Lord Palmerston the concept of ‘visitor feedback’ was still 200 or so years away, and he was probably relying on Mrs Lybbe Powys’s journals never coming into publication.