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The History of Lucknam Park Hotel & Spa

It is not known exactly when Lucknam began, but the –ham ending to its name, ‘Luckenham’ suggests that it was a Saxon settlement dating from before the Norman invasion in 1066.

From as far back as 1199 to 1688 there was a farmhouse on the current site of the main house.  For over 5 centuries the land was farmed until 1688 when the last of that family died leaving all the estate to nine cousins who decided to sell. Lucknam Park was bought in 1987 by a joint venture trading as Lucknam Park Hotels Limited. In 1994 the hotel was bought by a European shipping family who operate Lucknam Park as a single private hotel property.

 
  • The Wallis Family

    James Wallis, a wealthy Bristol Merchant, bought Lucknam and its 100 acres for just £500.  This part of the West Country had been long famous for the manufacture of woollen cloth and the Wallis family had been cloth merchants for several generations.  James Wallis owned two ships and traded various cargoes to Europe and America.  In 1680 he imported 7000lb of tobacco from Virginia, making a large fortune – which funded his purchase of Lucknam.

    It is probable that James Wallis built the centre part of the house, with the pillared portico and bowed wings being added at a later stage.

    When he died in 1708 his son Ezekiel inherited Lucknam at the age of 14.  In 1728 he married Cecilia Selfe, the following year he served as Sheriff of Wiltshire.  He died in 1735 and Cecilia remarried, she survived her husband and as she had no children the estate passed to her nephew Paul Methuen.

  • The Methuen Family

    Like the Wallis’s the Methuen’s made a fortune as clothiers, but two members of the family, John and his son Sir Paul, were distinguished as envoys to the King of Portugal during the war of Spanish Succession.

    When Sir Paul’s son, Paul Cobb Methuen married in 1776 his father gave him Lucknam Park.  Nearly 20 years later Paul Cobb Methuen inherited nearby Corsham Court, the family home, and Lucknam Park was once again sold.  This time its value was £7,750.

    William Norris Tonge was the new owner.  However he lived there for only 8 years before instructing his agent to find a buyer.

  • The Boode Family

    In 1827 Lucknam Park was bought by the very wealthy Andreas Christian Boode.  His father was of Dutch origin and had been immensely successful.  When he died in Demerara he was the owner of five coffee plantations, worked by some 2000 slaves.

    Andreas came to England and married the daughter of the rector of Liverpool.  On her death he bought Lucknam Park and moved there with his two children Phoebe and John.  It is at this time that he added the pillared portico and bowed wings to the house.  Land was also added to the estate.

    His son proved to be a great traveller and after university he set off for Italy, Russia, Palestine, Egypt and Turkey.  He married Clementina in 1834 and a few days after the marriage there were celebrations at Lucknam.  Eight hundred people sat down at tables to the side of the house and a cannon signalled the start of the feast (an artist impression of the occasion can be seen in Reception).

    The newlyweds travelled to Italy spending a year in Florence.  They had four daughters, two of whom died in infancy.  Unusually for the time Clementina left John and there was a divorce.  John remained at Lucknam with his daughters.

    The interior of the house was much altered at this time.  The Hall was panelled in dark oak, with carved beams, and coats of arms on the ceiling.  There was a large library which is now the Drawing Room.  The Park restaurant was a conservatory.  Upstairs the boudoir was a very heavily furnished room, with Jacobean panelling, and stained glass windows.  Soon after John’s death in 1870 the estate (now 1,100 acres) was sold.

  • The Walmesley Family

    The new owner was Richard Walmesley.  Later Lucknam passed to his son, Johnnie.  Both were typical Victorian squires, helping the poor, entering into the life of the county and funding building in the district.  Johnnie’s only son was killed in the Great War and he was so affected by the loss that he sold Lucknam in 1918.

  • Merry Family

    The Merry family originally came from Glasgow.  In 1928 Archie Merry bought Lucknam Park estate for his only son Eion Merry as a hunting box.  When Eion married in 1932 he and his wife Jean moved from Scotland to Lucknam.  They made many alterations to the inside and outside of the house.  In 1933 the blacksmith from the nearby village of Crudwell made wrought iron gates for the walled garden that are still there today.

    The Drawing Room was decorated in blue flock paper (silk finished paper overlaid with velvet designs).  The family was given a green and white marble fireplace for the Drawing Room from the father of Davina’s aunt, Alice Crichton.

    She had bought it from the Crichtons home in Dublin for a bottle of whisky! In the library, the red flock paper was removed and the current panelling was installed by the great decorators of that era, Lenygon.

    Cars were parked in the courtyard.  Around the fountain was a ring of cherry trees.  The groom and his wife lived in one of the courtyard buildings and the gardeners in the cottages leading to The Spa.
    Race horses and hunters were stabled in the farm buildings and Snowdrop bedroom in the courtyard was a saddle room.  Apples were stored in the Dovecote.

    For a short time at the start of the war, the house was home to hundreds of evacuees before being transformed into a bustling informal headquarters for airmen from the neighbouring aerodrome.  They used Lucknam Park’s Beech and Lime tree driveway to park the Spitfire and Hurricane planes – the huge trees being a perfect camouflage.

    The main dining room (then used as a Billiard room) had side cupboards filled with tinned food, a billiard table and a large dolls house (now displayed at Longleat House).  All its windows were covered with brown paper to block out the light and netting to catch splinters of shattered glass.  The entire house was heated by just three fires in the Hall, Library and Drawing Room.  During an air raid, everyone in the house raced to the dining room and hid under the Billiard table.

    Among the many visitors to Lucknam during the war was Queen Mary who was staying at nearby Badminton House.

    When Eion Merry died in 1966 at 63 years, the family could no longer afford the upkeep of the house.  Faced with the option of either demolishing both wings of the house to scale down the size they decided to sell to neighbour, Mr Stevens.