Virginia born beauty Nancy Lancaster was known for her sense of style, which was evident at Ditchley Park in Oxfordshire, indoors and out. Her particular flair was comfortable, personal, easy, and always elegant. Many writers succumbed to her creations and described them as “Nancy’s paradise” or “an English dream.” On our recent trip to England, we were lucky enough to explore all the places she called “home.”
The second stop on our trip with Kelmarsh. Shortly after marrying Ronald (Ronnie) Tree in 1920, the two began their first project together, the repair of Kelmarsh Hall in Northamptonshire, which is said to be Nancy’s favorite house. It reminded her of her upbringing in Virginia, and she loved it. Originally designed by James Gibbs, it is a perfect example of English Palladian style, with a central hall and saloon flanked by four rooms. Kelmarsh had the grandeur, formality and symmetry that Ronnie loved, whereas Nancy gravitated towards the shabby-run down state it was in. Kelmarsh was to be a great project, and she was up for the challenge. Paul Phipps assisted Nancy in the repairs. Little did she know then, that Kelmarsh would foreshadow her career and her legacy as having “the finest taste of anyone in the world.”
Today, Kelmarsh is renowned for its gardens. Nancy spent many hours and seasons back home with her hands in the dirt, getting up at the wee hours of the morning. Here at Kelmarsh, she did the same. Lady Astor’s garden at Cliveden was a great source of inspiration for her – particularly the herbaceaous borders that Norah Lindsay was responsible for creating. Nancy asked Norah to work at Kelmarsh, and the two became great friends.
And for the rest, you must make time to visit when you are in England…
Kelmarsh House & Garden
Northamptonshire NN6 9LY
+44 1604 686543