Costume and Cake: Mother’s Day at Killerton House

Posted by on Apr 4, 2011 in Travel & Leisure | 7 comments

I had the most perfect Mother’s Day yesterday, beginning with my teenage son bringing me a cup of tea in bed – bliss! My daughter and her boyfriend then visited for the day and took me to Killerton House, a National Trust property, for a four-course Mother’s Day lunch. They stayed overnight so we had a fun-filled evening at home afterwards, and I went to bed a very happy (and over-stuffed, plus slightly tipsy) Mum.


Killerton House, Devon, Photograph © Copyright Derek Harper and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence


Killerton was built in 1778-9, and was home to generations of the Acland family. Architecturally the house is nothing very special – Pevsner called it a ‘plain 2-storey Georgian box’ – but it is set in 6,400 acres, and its wonderful garden, created by John Veitch, is a mecca for plant-lovers.

For me, the main attraction is its costume collection on the second floor. This had been closed on my previous visit, so I was delighted to see it yesterday. The current exhibition of historic dress is titled ‘Dressing up, Dressing Down’ and explores the numerous outfits that were required for different times of the day and occasions, from flower arranging at home in the morning, walking in the garden, afternoon visits, changing for dinner or a social event in the evening, and then again for bed.

Neither Pearl nor I thought we would have a problem with changing six or seven times a day, though I wasn’t too keen on the idea of being laced into this corset:



We happily tried on a number of replica costumes and hats available for visitors to dress up in, imagined the occasions we would wear them to, and picked handsome suitors from the eighteenth-century portraits of members of the Gentlemen’s Club that line the walls of the downstairs corridor. I must admit we were hard pressed to choose, and are happier with the men’s fashions of today and our current partners!


My lovely daughter and her boyfriend, and some dapper dudes (on the walls)


The women’s fashions were another story, and I would have loved to have worn this:



and to have walked in these shoes:



Downstairs we learnt all about beauty and medicine through the ages – including a very informative discussion about leeches! – and sampled hand-cream made from a historic recipe (hopefully not from the one that recommends collecting 50 snails and pounding them to a paste!).

Lunch was delicious, but the amount we ate put paid to any ideas of a long walk in the grounds afterwards – we were all ready to go home and lounge (if not snooze) on the sofas after puddings this size:



We soon perked up however and worked off some of the lunch by hula-hooping on the WiiFit, and then settled down to an evening of wine, snacks, Waking the Dead and dvds.

Thank you to my wonderful children for making my Mother’s day (and every day) so special. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, I am the luckiest mum in the world!

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  1. Sounds like a wonderful day for a very deserving mum! And those blue-est of shoes… perfection!

  2. Oh what a fab day you had….lovely that it carried on to the evening as well, perk of having older children.
    I would have loved to try some of the reproduction costumes on, sounds great fun! Shoes were gorgeous, very you!
    I had a fab day too, cup of tea and bagel in bed, can’t believe how decadent that felt!

    Amanda x

  3. How marvellous that you can ‘dress up’ to really give a sense of what life would’ve been like. The corset looks amazing, can’t imagine having to wear it every day though – ouch! I haven’t visited any National Trust properties for atleast a year, I feel inspired again now!
    Looks like you had a fabulous day x

    • I spent a day once laced into a corset and a very tiny Victorian dress (part of a photoshoot for a museum) – it really does give you a sense of what life would have been like. I could not slouch or lean, so was sat or stood bolt upright all day, and by the time I went home I was feeling in quite a bad humour – I could really see how the clothes contribute to mood, I’m sure if I wore Victorian dress and corsetry everyday I would be very upright and proper!

  4. How lovely! Looks like you had a really nice day out. Love the costumes…especially those shoes! Fab x

  5. Hi Molly, you had requested to use our exterior photo of Killerton House from our Flickr photostream but I couldn’t find your comment on there to reply and it looks like you already found an exterior photo from someone else. If you still want it, you can use it. Please credit to Stephen Jennings.

    Kind regards

    • Thanks Therese – I did request, but then found this one on Creative Commons, so I deleted my request for yours. I am sorry for being impatient, I just wanted to put the post up yesterday so used this one, which I will keep. Thank you so much for getting back to me, it’s very kind of you.

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