Becoming a National Trust member was one of the best things I’ve ever done, I love history, country houses and beautiful garden, even more so when they are on my doorstep like the 16th-century Smallhythe Place, a stunning house and cottage gardens that was once owned by renowned Victorian actress, Ellen Terry, who was once the most highly paid actress in England.
The charming house has become a homage to the life and career of the actress with over 9500 artefacts from her personal and professional life, exploring her history as well as how she became an international celebrity. A highlight has to be the costume room, where the famous Beetlewing Dress, which she wore playing Lady Macbeth is on display. The dress designed by Alice Comyns Carr is adorned with real wings shed naturally by the jewel beetle of Southeast Asia.
I also loved seeing the library, it features more than 3,000 books, I love seeing what books are in people’s collections, and the bedroom, which the bedroom retains its original layout and I could just imagine Ellen living there.
Once you’ve been charmed by the quirks of the house, there is a colourful cottage garden that has been restored to how it would have looked during Ellen Terry’s life, with roses that she would have planted, and it really is beautiful. I got lots of inspiration for my own garden – I loved her rose garden, the orchard, and wished I had a bigger pond.
There is also a cute vintage tea room, the scones are amazing, as well as a 17th-century thatched Barn Theatre which keeps Ellen’s legacy alive today with productions in the theatre and garden.
My tip when visiting Smallhythe Place – choose a sunny day, then you can sit outside and listen to the birds while sipping tea in a vintage teacup and eating a delicious scone, and then afterwards place a game of croquet.
Also, if you want to bring your dog, the garden and tearoom is dog-friendly, your pooch just isn’t allowed to go inside the house.