The Dining Room
This is probably the only room in the house that Sir John Coke might still recognise as his own. It still measures 30’ long, 18’ wide and 12’ tall as Sir John had designed it, and the fireplace and windows remain in their original positions. The panelling, although much altered, is also original and was stripped of paint in 1907-8, when the elaborate overmantel was imported by Lord Walter Kerr from his Hertfordshire estate.
The Dining Room’s centrepiece is the George III mahogany dining table with its set of George III mahogany chairs, complete with green leather cushions. In the Dining Room are fourteen 17th century walnut chairs with high backs. Four of these are of the time of Charles II and the others are from the William and Mary period. They have 20th century tapestry seats worked by members of the family. A fine George I walnut side table with Derbyshire alabaster top; an interesting oak table coaster or cheese board given as a present by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert to Lord Melbourne are some of the more important items in the room.
Sir John Coke is the man with the large ruff and strikingly perceptive expression who gazes intently into the room from his portrait by the door at the far end. He is seen in his robes of Master of Requests, before his rise to the office of Secretary of State. In Sir John’s time, the Great Hall was still the focal point of any large house, and until the Billiard Room was built it was the only link at ground floor level between the two wings of the house. Sir John and his family would have dined in this room, retiring into their private parlours in the east wing while the servants cleared the food and crockery to the kitchens and sculleries in the west wing.
An attractive double portrait painted in 1673 by Sir Peter Ley of Colonel John Coke and his wife Mary Leventhorpe also hangs in the Dining Room. The unfortunate Mrs Coke bore seven children in eight years and promptly died. Colonel Coke raised a troop of horse for the 4th Earl of Devonshire’s regiment in the 1688 Revolution. William III later rewarded the Earl by creating him 1st Duke of Devonshire in 1694.