Archaeology Magazine

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

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England's Grand Estate

Knole House, in Sevenoaks, Kent, is one of the largest homes in England, and has been witness to six centuries of British history. The National Trust is currently conducting a major five-year program of restoration that is offering an unprecedented look at the house and grounds, and glimpses into the lives of many who passed through its halls—from aristocrats and eccentrics to footmen and housemaids. Each owner of the house, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, King Henry VIII, and many generations of the Sackville family, has added to its size and complexity. The new project, which involves lifting floorboards, inspecting rafters, and repointing walls, is like an excavation of the house itself. While Knole House wasn’t a direct inspiration for Downtown Abbey, its architecture and the dramas of the Sackville family will be familiar to fans of the show. Below is a slideshow of images that illuminate the history of this majestic home.