The house from a circa 1905 postcard
Alfred Tennyson, his wife Emily, and sons Hallam and Lionel from a circa 1862 photograph. Gunby is believed to be Tennyson's "haunt of ancient peace." The photo is in the collection of the Museum of Reading. This image is in the public domain.
Earlier Houses: The current house sits on the site of a small manor house that once belonged to the Gunby family.
Built / Designed For: Sir William Massingberd
House & Family History: Gunby was built in 1700 for Sir William Massingberd, 2nd Bt. of Bratoft, and is noted for its paneled rooms and beautiful oak staircase. The house was extended in the 1870s with addition of the music room. When the baronetcy of Bratoft died out, the estate passed to the Langton family of Langton Hall. Field Marshal Sir Archibald Montgomery-Massingberd rescued Gunby from demolition during World War II, when the RAF planned to build a new runway on the estate. His appeal to the king saved the house, which he promptly gave to the National Trust in 1945 as a gift to the nation in gratitude for Gunby's survival. James Lees-Milne negotiated the acquisition of Gunby for the National Trust in 1943. In his book "People and Places," Lees-Milne states "in the whole history of the National Trust, the transfer of a large estate to the Trust never happened more speedily or smoothly than Gunby" (it was one of Lees-Milne's favorite houses). The field marshal's wife, Lady Massingberd, had a second cousin by the name of Ralph Vaughn-Williams; his song "Linden Lea" was first performed in 1902 in the music room at Gunby. The house is rare in having its servants' quarters preserved perfectly intact. Gunby is believed to be Tennyson's "haunt of ancient peace" (Tennyson lived at nearby Somersby).
Collections: Gunby contains two exceptional portraits by Reynolds: one of Bennet Langton and the other of his wife, the Dowager Countess of Rothes, as well as many other fine paintings, furniture, and china.
Comments: Henry Thorold, writing in "Lincolnshire Houses," described Gunby as "Like a lovable big doll's house..."
Garden & Outbuildings: The garden was dismantled in the 1920s and restored by the National Trust at the end of the 20th century. There is today a walled garden that grows vegetables, fruit (over 50 varieties of apple trees are grown), and flowers. The Gunby Estate today stands at approximately 1,500 acres. The Gunby Estate is supposedly haunted. In this case, the builder of the house, Sir William Massingberd, discovered that either his wife or his daughter (take your pick) was about to run away with a servant. Sir William lay in wait and killed the servant and threw his body in the pond. It is by the pond, today called the ghost walk, that the spectre most frequently appears.
Chapel & Church: Monksthorpe Chapel is one of the two best surviving English examples of a Baptist chapel from the late 17th century. In the 19th century the chapel was substantially altered. It's owned by the trust and open to the public.
Country Life: XCIV, 816, 860, 1943.
Title: National Trust Handbook 2002, The
Author: Dittner, Liz (Editor)
Year Published: 2002
Publisher: London: The National Trust
Book Type: Softback
Title: Lincolnshire Houses
Author: Thorold, Henry
Year Published: 1999
Publisher: Norfolk: Michael Russell (Publishing) Ltd.
Book Type: Hardback
Title: People and Places: Country House Donors and the National Trust
Author: Lees-Milne, James
Year Published: 1998
Publisher: London: John Murray (Publishers)
Book Type: Hardback
House Listed: Grade I
Park Listed: Grade II
Past Seat / Home of: SEATED AT EARLIER HOUSE: Gunby family. SEATED AT CURRENT HOUSE: Sir William Massingberd, 2nd Bt., 18th century; William Meux-Massingberd, until 1781; Peregrine Langton-Massingberd, 19th century; Field Marshal Sir Archibald Montgomery-Massingberd, 20th century.
Current Ownership Type: The National Trust
Primary Current Ownership Use: Visitor Attraction
House Open to Public: Yes
Historic Houses Member: No