Three newly-refurbished rooms have recently reopened at the National Trust’s Lanhydrock house, outside Bodmin, including those of eldest son and heir Thomas Charles ‘Tommy’ Agar-Robartes, who died in action during the First World War.
Building on the stories told in the nursery rooms at Lanhydrock, which opened in March last year, visitors can now see the three ‘Coming of Age’ rooms which follow the teenage years of the Agar-Robartes children as they entered society.
The Bay Bedroom, a room once reserved for guests of the Victorian family, now tells the story of the Agar-Robartes girls who were educated at home before being presented at court as debutantes. Visitors can practice their best waltzing dance steps on a specially-designed mat or relax on the plush sofa beneath a regal canopy. There are displays of delicate silverware and finery next to chairs used by the family at several royal coronations. There is even a bespoke scent wafting through the air and a debutante dress taking pride of place, a replica of one worn by eldest daughter Mary Vere.
Visitors can find out what life was like for the young men of the family in eldest son Tommy’s bedroom and dressing room. Sophisticated and popular, Tommy was the the MP for St Austell soon after the turn of the 20th century and became known as the ‘best dressed man in Parliament’. His rooms display the life of a wealthy young man at the turn of the century, including photographs, sports and leisure wear, a travelling trunk and a full set of white tie and tails from Tommy’s London tailor.
When coming up with the concepts for these new rooms, Lanhydrock staff established a focus group of 16–25-year-old colleagues to find out what Tommy and Mary’s modern contemporaries would like to see in these new spaces. Ideas ranged from a ‘vintage’ selfie stand to holographic photos of the Victorian children, which show them growing up as visitors walk by. Oliver Byram, Assistant Business Services Co-ordinator at Lanhydrock, was part of the focus group; ‘It’s been an incredibly rewarding experience and a wonderful opportunity to have an influence on a part of Lanhydrock I would not normally. Working with passionate colleagues to see our co-created vision come to life has been really great.’
Dr Charlotte Newman, Senior Collections and House Manager, adds; ‘It was a privilege to work with young employees at the National Trust to develop this experience, about young people, for young people, by young people. The dance mat – designed by the group – has been a huge hit. It’s great to see families of all ages interacting within this space.’
The children’s nursery and Coming of Age rooms can both be seen on the Family route of Lanhydrock House from every day until 31 October 2023. Normal admission applies for non-National Trust members.