Knole, Kent, December 2001

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Isolated within its large estate, Knole seems to exist in a bubble of history. The earliest parts of the house date from the fifteenth century, built by the Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Bourchier. Later, the estate was given by Elizabeth I to her cousin Thomas Sackville, in whose family it remained until it was given to the National Trust in 1946.

Knole's most famous inhabitant was perhaps Vita Sackville-West, the writer and wife of Harold Nicolson. Unable to inherit the estate owing to her sex, she must have gained some slight consolation from a novel written by her friend and lover Virginia Woolf, in which Vita is transformed into a character who transcends both time and gender. Mirroring some of the history of the family and estate, Virginia described the book as 'a biography beginning in the year 1500 and continuing to the present day, called Orlando: Vita, only with a change about from one sex to another.' The novel was filmed in 1992 by Sally Potter.

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