The National Trust team at Kingston Lacy, near Wimborne have welcomed some new arrivals.
Three female spur-thighed tortoises and one female Hermann’s will be residing at the property until September. They are on loan from the British Chelonia Group who advise on the care and conservation of tortoises, terrapins and turtles.
The interest in tortoises at Kingston Lacy stems from family member William John Bankes. He rebuilt the house between 1835 and 1841, and was an intrepid explorer who spent a lot of time in Europe and the Middle East. Much of the house collection is attributed to his style and travels.
“William was very keen on tortoises from an early age,” says Bernie King, assistant house steward. “When he transformed Kingston Lacy into an Italian palazzo he incorporated tortoises into many of his designs, from torchères and bronzes in the saloon to bases for garden ornaments. He famously carried a tortoise in his bag to Paris so that Baron Carlo Marochetti could make an accurate model prior to casting the bronzes for the garden.”
The four tortoises vary in age: Berry is between 70 and 80 years old and the youngest are Carry and Gerry, who are both. The Hermann’s tortoise Betty, who was previously with a family for over 40 years, is 50. Visitors will be able to see them in the glasshouse on the far side of the fernery wall, from 10am–4pm daily.
Chairperson of the British Chelonia Group, Henny Fenwick says: “It’s a fantastic idea that Kingston Lacy are reinstating tortoises back to the estate after over 150 years. It is a marvellous opportunity for people to see these fascinating creatures.”
Kingston Lacy grounds are open from 10am–6pm.