We were received by Mrs Sambourne, who apologised for opening her own front door; the family had just returned from being away for a few days and were all still "at sixes and sevens". And so the tour of the Sambourne's house, family and time, started from there.
While "conventional" tours of the house are available, we opted for one of the "costumed" tours, where an actress showed us around the house, in the character of Mrs Sambourne. The house itself is almost a perfect recreation of a period daily home, contemporary to the time of Arthur Rackham, Oscar Wilde and the Arts and Crafts movement. Hours and hours have been spent on the interior itself, and the contents, to ensure that the house is both accurate and well maintained.
But what makes the house come to life is the love with which the house is presented on the tour. The skill of the lady who played Mrs Sambourne was in her ability to engage us in what felt convincingly like a lady introducing her home and her family to not so well known visitors.
The house itself is in immaculate condition, and an outstanding representation of homes of this period. The William Morris wallpaper, the chinoiserie and the the contents of the house are perfectly presented, and perhaps most interesting, the house offers a rare insight into the life of the domestic staff and the mechanics of running such a household during this period.
This is not a grandiose tour through centuries of shirty, This is a charming, intimate and engaging presentation of family life during a period of massive change in the UK. Perhaps because of this, I have to rank it as one of the absolute best museum experiences in years. While booking a place on one of the tours is pretty much a requirement, we had no problem getting a place.
In the end, I recommend Mrs Sambourne and her beautiful home unreservedly - an absolute hidden gem.
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