Gunby Hall, about 20 miles East of Woodhall Spa, just off the main A158 road to Skegness, is a hitherto largely unsung National Trust gem, now definitely on the up. Formerly the country seat of the Massingberd family, the house and grounds have only recently been fully in the National Trust’s capable hands, and last year saw a dramatic increase in visitor numbers from near and far.
At the moment the house and gardens are closed for the winter; the National Trust did plan to open them for the new season in February, weather permitting, but the weather did not permit, so the latest estimate is now March 21, so do check with the website beforehand. Visitor feedback has been very encouraging, so why not find out why for yourself if you are in the area? Find out more about opening times.
Locals will tell you that during the war, the house was very nearly demolished to make way for an airfield. House Manager Astrid Gatenby has shared an article from 1954 in the Grimsby Telegraph archives, titled “Field Marshall fought for a Lincolnshire gem”. It tells the story of how Gunby Hall was saved from oblivion by Field Marshal Sir Archibald Armar-Montgomery-Massingberd, who resented the Air Ministry plan, but as a distinguished soldier, did not want to be seen as obstructing the war effort:
“The squire was a soldier,……….. who having served his country since the Boer War was not at all keen on this abrupt approach, he was even less keen on losing one of the most impressive stands of timber in South Lincolnshire. Sir Archibald went into battle again, this time against bureaucracy. He stirred up service chiefs, he wrote vigorous complaints to cabinet ministers and land organisations, and addressed a letter to his King. He was successful. The “enemy” capitulated and the Under-Secretary Of State For Air came down to Gunby Hall and apologised for “a bad flop”.”
His conscience was clear:
“I am bound to resist this piece of vandalism, not so much on account of Lady Messingberd and myself, as we have both passed the allotted span, but of posterity. I should, I feel, fail in my duty if I did not do my utmost to prevent it.”
The journalist’s conclusion from this episode was “Visitors who pause before the garden gate, erected by staff, tenants, relatives and friends in his memory in 1947, will silently agree.”
By the way, they do excellent home made cakes at Gunby these days……..