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Tortoises make a historic return to Kingston lacy

Tortoises make a historic return to Kingston lacy

Some visitors – albeit slow moving ones – have arrived at Kingston Lacy for what could be called a holiday.

Three female spur-thighed tortoises and one female Hermann’s will be residing at the property from June until September. The reptiles have been loaned by 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 who rebuilt the house between 1835 and 1841. He was an intrepid explorer who spent a lot of his time in Europe and the Middle East. Much of the house collection is attributed to William John’s style and travels.

Bernie King, assistant house steward said: « William was very keen on tortoises from an early age. When he transformed Kingston Lacy in14527636to 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 are varying ages. The eldest, Berry, is between 70 and 80 years old and the youngest are Carry and Gerry, who are both 40 years old. The Hermann’s tortoise Betty, who was previously with a family for over 40 years, is 50 years old.

The chairman of the British Chelonia Group, Henny Fenwick said: « 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. »

Visitors to Kingston Lacy can come and see the tortoises daily from 10am – 4pm until September. The grounds are open from 10am till 6pm. The tortoises are located in the glasshouse on the far side of the fernery wall.