News, Culture & Society

Julie Montagu, 48, in the hall of Mapperton House in Dorset 

My haven, Julie Montagu: TV presenter and yoga instructor Viscountess Hinchingbrooke, 48, in the hall of Mapperton House in Dorset

  • Julie Montagu shares significant items in the hall of Mapperton House in Dorset
  • TV presenter, 48, treasures a George I mirror found in an antiques shop for £300
  • Also values the cap she wears while swimming in a pond in the garden

Julie Montagu shares items of personal significance in the hall of Mapperton House in Dorset


Coming here as an American, then marrying into the aristocracy, meant I was an outsider twice over. 

I’m not an English rose, and after 20 years I still have my American accent and don’t feel I’ve changed, apart from being respectful to the wonderful family I’ve married into and to their traditions. 

But I hope I’ve helped to put Mapperton on the map. I really like 18th-century furniture and want to add a few pieces to the house, like this George I mirror I found in an antiques shop in Bridport for £300.


I used to think people who swam in the sea near here were bonkers, but now I swim all year round in a rectangular pond in the garden, wearing this cap. There are frogs and all sorts in there, but I prefer that to water with chlorine. 

In the winter, when you first get in you want to jump right back out, but now I stay in for up to five minutes, and you come out feeling unbelievably invigorated. My husband Luke [son and heir of the Earl of Sandwich] says I’m like the Energizer Bunny.


Julie values this cap that she wears while swimming in a pond in the garden

Julie values this cap that she wears while swimming in a pond in the garden

This spectacular fireplace, which dates from 1604, is one of at least 18 in the house and it’s the biggest and best. Although we have a biomass boiler I still feel the house is cold, so I love to do my yoga here. 

Since having my fourth child I’ve also run a yoga school. I’m an optimist, I think projects keep you young and inspired, whether or not you succeed or fail.


I grew up in the Midwest in a Chicago suburb, in the middle of corn fields, so when I saw my local Co-op stocked the Goose Island Brewery beer that I grew up drinking I thought, ‘You’re kidding me.’ 

I’m a beer girl through and through, and even if I go to posh dinner parties I take my own beer with me. Also on the table is a bottle of juice, from the 350kg of apples from our orchard that I decided we should pick and press during lockdown.


I’ve never been much into fashion labels and famous designers – I can’t even pronounce half their names, so why bother? I’m very into vintage clothes instead, and I’m a real bargain hunter. 

This gold dress I’m wearing was from a second-hand shop, and on the chair are two 1930s dresses. I look better in those types of dresses and their imperfections tell a story, even though you might have to get a stain removed or a hole repaired. 


I only recently found out that the tiara I wore to my wedding in 2004 was also worn by Alberta Sturges, the 9th Countess of Sandwich, who was my father-in-law’s grandmother. She too was from Chicago. 

She came over to England during the so-called Gilded Age and married the Earl of Sandwich in 1905 [left]. She was also a devotee of yoga. 

Researching her has made me feel more content and more grounded knowing that another American did what I have done and did it successfully!

As told to Andrew Preston. Julie’s series An American Aristocrat’s Guide To Great Estates is available on My5. Visit or @Mapperton_estate on Instagram