IN our new series explorig historic rooms in Cheshire, investigating what went on there and discovering what state it is in today, we get a glimpse inside Tatton Park's dining room. 

Renowned worldwide for its stunning gardens and incredible parkland, Tatton Park is a sparkling jewel in Cheshire’s crown.

And yet whilemuch is known about the grounds in which its beautiful Georgian mansion house sits, what treasures can be found inside this Neo-Classical stately home and, if the walls could talk, what stories would they tell?

Set amid more than 50 acres of gardens and at the heart of 1,000, acres of landscaped parkland, this magnificent stately home on the edge of Knutsford town is one of the most complete historic estates in Britain.

An impressive portico front dominates the view of the house from the parkland, but perhaps even more notable are the rooms inside whose contents represent a world of decadence, luxury and nobility – the perfect setting to entertain aristocratic, noble and esteemed guests.

And where better to do this than in the dining room?

For nearly 400 years the estate was the property of the Egerton family, until it was gifted to the National Trust in 1958. Today it’s financed and maintained by Cheshire East Council.

Purchased by Sir Thomas Egerton in 1598, Tatton Park was inherited by John Egerton in the 18th century and became a family residence.

It was his son Samuel who made a huge impact on the mansion’s design – the most impressive of which was the installation of the incredible Rococo interior to his drawing room, known today as the dining room.

This spectacular space is the oldest surviving part of the Egertons’ first house at Tatton Park and was used extensively for entertaining, with dinners, balls and parties all showcasing their lavish hospitality.

Elaborate carved plaster adorns the walls, incorporating shell and foliage motifs, scrolls and curves, and the furniture in the dining room is almost exclusively made of mahogany, supplied by the renowned Gillows of Lancaster in the early 19th century.

The impressive dining table was designed so that it could be enlarged or reduced to suit the number of guests and above it hangs a magnificent mid-century English crystal chandelier which glittered with 24 candles until the end of the 19th century when the mansion became one of the first in the country to embrace electricity.

The dining room walls are hung with portraits of family members and relatives – pride of place reserved for a painting of Sir Thomas Egerton, the founding father of the estate, whose image has presided over many a dinner, ball or party over the centuries.

During these special occasions the estate provided a wide range of meat, including venison from the deer herd, as well as fruits and vegetables from the walled garden, exotic fruits from the glasshouses and ice from the ice houses in the park to chill the drinks from the well-stocked wine cellar.

One such special occasion was a visit by the Royal Highnesses the Prince and Princess of Wales on May 2 and 3 1887, who were entertained by Wilbraham, Second Baron Egerton of Tatton, during their visit to Manchester to open the Royal Jubilee Exhibition.

On both evenings 28 guests sat down to dine and afterwards there were supper parties serving up to 80 guests.

Dinner was served upon a service of gold and 116 bottles of Champagne, claret and whisky were consumed in total!

It was during this visit that the dining room was described as “brilliant in the extreme”.


Preparations for dinner at Tatton Park mansion were planned with military precision.

Overseen by the cook, scullery and kitchen maids would prepare all the food, while the laundry maids would wash, starch and iron all napkins and tablecloths.

The dining room would then would be dressed with fresh flowers brought in by the gardeners and arranged by the housekeeper or head housemaid.

Footmen laid out elaborate table settings of silver-gilt, porcelain and glassware.

All preparations were scrutinised by the butler.

Handwritten place and menu cards, agreed in advance with the lady of the house were laid at each setting.

For formal dinners, a footman would stand behind the chair of each lady diner and the butler behind his hostess’s chair.

Service would be swift and virtually silent so as not to interrupt the diners’ conversation.


In the first half of the 19th century, formal dinners at Tatton Park mansion were served “à la française”. The meal was divided into three courses, each made up of lots of different dishes.

Each course would be laid on the table, and guests would help themselves.

There were drawbacks to this system, as guests were reliant on others handing them dishes which were out of reach and food was often wasted.

By the late 19th century, dinner was served “à la russe”, with a single course at a time served by servants from side tables and handed around to the diners who would help themselves. T

he new system allowed more space on the table for the family to show off their tableware, as well as highlight the luxury of depending on servants for assistance.


The dessert service which is dressing the dining room table today is decorated with the Egerton cipher and baron’s coronet and dates to 1859.

The delicate French Baccarat glassware on display is etched with the initials “E of T” and the baron’s coronet is part of a 984-piece set, commissioned by Alan de Tatton in 1911.