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Came House, Dorset

This is not how Handed on had intended to begin. Since this blog started at least four owners of houses featured here have subsequently died. Statistically this is probably not remarkable and certainly all were at least late middle-aged. On Sunday, however, in a stunning and ghastly coincidence literally as this piece was being assembled the Mail Online broke the news of the tragic and untimely demise of a young man named Charlie Norton in an accidental fall in Morocco. One month ago this name would not have registered; today, however, Handed on is suddenly and all too grimly aware that he was the husband of the present owner of the sizeable Came House estate in Dorset and the father of its next generation.

For what it’s worth, this is how the post was going to begin…

The thin line between aristocracy and gentry might these days seem an arcane distinction but it’s one which until quite recently would be periodically codified in separately dedicated 1,000-plus-page tomes. Peerages will doubtless continue to be produced but the last guide to the landed gentry was published fifty years ago at which point it would seem that (rather symbolically) the money ran out.

There has, of course, been a great deal of co-mingling of the species which, combined with the transience of titles, can mean that some places will fall between the cracks. Places like Came House, no owner of which has had a main entry in either code since about 1900. An estate now in its fourth century of continuous ownership, despite multiple unfecund heirs and significant recourse to the female line, one way or another Came House has been retained, a tenacity of possession which basically requires no greater explanation than this:

see: Peter Everett  @ Pinterest

see: Peter Everett @ Pinterest

Set into rising parkland, the silvery white Portland stone of Came’s N facade cannot fail to catch the eye of travellers along a lane just south of Dorchester. To some this place approaches the beau ideal, including the late Candida Lycett Green who featured Came in her book The perfect English country house: ‘Its ostentatious Georgian splendour makes the same impact now as then.’ In a way, Came could be seen as a representation of the aforementioned dichotomy being modest and manorial in scale yet distinctly noble in bearing. Which could be faintly ridiculous, of course, were not the conception and execution here so thoroughly excellent both inside and out. Little wonder its architect was pleased with himself.

see: RCHM

see: RCHM

Among the memorials to be seen in the small village church of Blandford St. Mary is that of Dorset master-mason and architect Francis Cartwright (d. 1758). The house depicted on the scroll at its base has been identified² as Came, Cartwright recording it as his greatest achievement, a view echoed down the ages. A ‘mid-C18 masterpiece hardly altered in more than two centuries,’ marvelled Pevsner.¹

see: Bing Maps

see: Bing Maps

‘Came is not a product of different periods, it is all of a piece, the expression of a single phase of taste,’ and in some part presumably that of Cartwright’s client, John Damer (1720-83).³ He was the grandson of Dorset Cromwellian Joseph Damer who had hightailed it to Ireland at the Restoration where he made ‘a fortune by usury and speculation.’ The legacy of the Damers in Ireland endures but by 1752 John Damer was owner of the Dorset estates.

see: Christie's

see: Christie’s

Elder brother Joseph meanwhile would be elevated to the peerage and later build himself Milton Abbey and also Dorchester House in Mayfair, now the site of the famous hotel. John Damer produced no children nor would his heir, nephew Lionel (r), who died in May 1807 reportedly as a result of ‘election fever‘. Lionel’s sister Caroline duly benefited and would do so again just the next year, the entire Damer Dorset properties now coalescing in her ownership when she inherited Milton from her childless brother, George.

Lady Caroline herself died in 1829, childless.

see: Country Life

see: Country Life

The estates would now be divided among the children of John Dawson, 1st earl of Portarlington, whose mother was the sister of the builder of Came House. Acquiring both the latter and an additional name was Col. George Dawson-Damer (d. 1856) who was to commission the only major alterations to Cartwright’s original composition. Now ordinarily it is at this point that alarm bells might start ringing…

see: RCHM

see: RCHM

…for common in the recent history of many a surviving C18 mansion is the moment when it is decided that the egregious ‘improvements’ of Victorian forebears really do have to go.

see: RCHM

see: RCHM

But, happily, at Came George’s interventions were to be largely sympathetic. The grander N front became the entrance with addition of a porch (above); internally the principal rooms, including the white and gold gilt splendour of the saloon (l), which feature the work of top-drawer London craftsmen like Vile & Cobb were left intact. Most conspicuous is the large domed conservatory c.1840, ‘a wonderfully light-footed affair’ which remains splendidly fit for purpose today.4

Lionel, 5th earl of Portarlington, died aged 42 in 1900, his widow arranging that Came should in time pass to their daughter, Lady Christian Martin. With the exception of her son Maj. Nigel Martin’s incumbency the estate has continued to pass in the female line to the present owner.

see: Quinlan Terry

see: Quinlan Terry

About 35 miles to the N-E just over the border into Wiltshire lies a house bearing close resemblance to Came. Looking the picture of Palladian perfection, Ferne Park (r) was in fact built in 2002 to a design by Quinlan Terry. The architect’s clients knew and admired Came House, suggesting it might serve as a template. The commission came from Lord and Lady Rothermere, owners of the organ which last Sunday revealed the bleak latest chapter in the story of this quite remarkable place…

see: RCHM

see: RCHM

[Grade I listing][Came shoot]

¹ Newman, J. and Pevsner, N. The buildings of England: Dorset, 1972.
² Oswald, A. Country Life, 20/27 Feb 1953.
³ Cecil, D. Some Dorset country houses, 1985.
4 Mowl, T. Historic gardens of Dorset, 2003.

see: Lucy Vanel

see: Lucy Vanel

There is, it would appear, an unwritten law which dictates that where there are pyramids so shall there be mystery. Leave aside the marvel of the pharaohs’ tombs – preoccupation of many an archaeological and anthropological mind across the ages – and consider, if you will, goats’ cheese. This emblematic taste of French gastronomy has taken various classic forms, none perhaps more distinctive than the flat-topped, four-sided pyramid (r), the origins of which are hazy and subject to conjecture.

Theories naturally include reference to the wonders of Egypt; no mention is made, however, of their four-sided, flat-topped European equivalents, those rather less well-known objects of intrigue that are the ancient pyramids of…Bosnia. Never heard of them? You’re not alone.

One person who definitely has, however, is the present squire of Thorpe Hall, Hugh Lillingston, whose diverse enthusiasms for, amongst other things, New Age philosophies and French cheese, have served to raise the profile of an otherwise quite obscure, centuries-old traditional family estate which lies some five miles N-E of Tamworth.

see: Bing Maps

see: Bing Maps

Earlier this month Lillingston, a self-confessed ‘old hippy‘, was set to host a study trip to Bosnia via his agency Reality Engineering: ‘Whatever else the Pyramid of the Sun is doing, it is also generating a coherent 28 kilohertz electro-magnetic beam straight up from the centre and out through the apex. In other words the Pyramid is some kind of advanced machine that is still working. It appears to be sending a signal outside our solar system.‘ Not everyone is convinced, of course. Where some perceive thrilling evidence of an advanced ancient civilisation, others see merely ‘a big hill.’

Lillingston is also an advocate of neurolinguistic programming – self-help through positive thinking – directly inspiring initiatives such as the Warrior Programme charity. Emerging from the self-styled Thorpe Institute, Reality Engineering is surely one of the more unlikely examples of rural estate diversification. Artisanal cheese-making may seem less so…

…though back in the mid-80s when Lillingston conceived his Staffordshire chevre it too was innovative in its own way (and the goats were played Mozart). This enterprise – whose signature product the Innes Button is a two-time blue riband winner at the the British Cheese Awards (and remains, Handed on can attest, sublime bordering on sinful) – is now owned by his collaborators-in-curd, the estate-based Bennett family, but retains in name at least an association with its founder…

…who was actually born Hugh Inge-Innes-Lillingston. And it is the first of that rather unwieldy trinity which has the oldest roots here, being the name of Richard Inge, son-in-law of wealthy Leicester vintner William Ives who had acquired the Thorpe estate in 1631 – the last time that this place changed hands by sale.

The first incarnation of Thorpe Hall was erected by Richard’s son, William, in 1651. The winds of change towards classicism which began to influence country house design during the Commonwealth would take some time to blow through this corner of the Midlands where Inge opted for the popular Dutch style, taking his cue from the likes of, well, Kew. The latter’s middle gable strongly resembles Thorpe’s matching set of three, all of which were to be lopped off five generations later when the house was Georgianised by William Phillips Inge (d.1838).

see: Bing Maps

see: Bing Maps

The now stuccoed five-bay original centre would be gradually complemented by early-C19 lower wings as ‘the old manor expanded into a spanking mansion three times its former size.’¹ The interior was similarly modernised to include a ‘delightful’² cantilevered staircase (below) not unlike a contemporaneous flight to be found at…

The Field

The Field¹

…Thorpe’s centuries-long next-door neighbour, Statfold Hall. (As previously featured, Statfold is the seat of the Pipe-Wolferstans, several of whom are in fact interred at the Thorpe estate church of St. Constantine which stands hard by the house.)
see: Charlie Cooper @ flickr

Charlie Cooper @ flickr


In the latter half of the C20 the parents of the present owner carried out further significant restoration and remodelling. The N-E facade would be re-established as the entrance while ‘the balustrading in the gardens came from Drayton Manor.’¹

The afternoon of Saturday 4 February, 1903 saw a solemn gathering in the library at Thorpe Hall where a formal inquest was convened into the sudden demise, at his own hand, of the then squire. 39-year-old William Inge had prematurely curtailed a day’s hunting with the Atherstone; his body was later discovered in a cowshed en route back to the house. Among those called at the inquiry was Poole, the butler – then but half way through a 59-year career on the staff at Thorpe – who produced a damaged riding crop and lash found at the scene.³

Atherstone Hunt

Atherstone Hunt

All but two of the tragic squire’s predecessors, back to mid-C17, had shared his name but there were to be no more William Inges at Thorpe. Leaving behind three daughters, his death would usher in those subsequent hyphenations as the property descended in the female line through the last century. None of which affected the estate’s enduring association with the Atherstone Hunt, however, a relationship which was celebrated on the occasion of the pack’s bicentenary last year with a meet – and speeches – at the Hall.

As it has for 365 years, Thorpe ‘stands splendidly erect surveying from its low rising ground the wide scene E and W,’ much of which comprises the 3,000-acre estate straddling the Warwickshire border. But the horizons being contemplated at Thorpe these days stretch way beyond these fields. And while embodying a history of continuity remarkable to most, it’s an inheritance the present incumbent might now consider to be but a mere trifle in the greater scheme of things..

see: Google Streetview

see: Google Streetview

[Listing][Archive]

¹ Montgomery-Massingberd, H. The Field 2 Aug 1986.
² Pevsner, N. The buildings of England: Staffordshire, 1974.
³ Tamworth Herald 14 Feb 1903.
4 Thorold, H. Staffordshire: A Shell guide, 1978.

The year 1901 would turn out to be a rather notable one in the lives of Ernest Conant and his wife of two years Eva Tryon (as was). For over the course of those twelve months each would separately inherit a country house estate: as second-born children of their respective families neither eventuality had been preordained. Ernest’s elder brother, Edward, had died months before the couple’s 1898 wedding at which the bride, the eldest of three sisters, had been given away by her only brother. Having followed his family’s strong military tradition, Grenadier Guardsman Guy Tyron died less than three years later serving in the Boer War. So it was that the ownership of the Lyndon and Bulwick estates coalesced with the Conants, with whom they remain today. Handily, they’re just six miles apart as the crow flies.

Lyndon Hall gates @ Google Streetview

Lyndon Hall gates @ Google Streetview

To the mellow lanes of Rutland and its Northamptonshire borders, an area recently named Britain’s best rural place to live, the only drawback apparently being the relative cost of property. The value of the two houses featuring here has, of course, never been tested since neither has ever come onto the open market. Built at precisely the same time, Lyndon Hall and Bulwick Hall have also remained entirely private (not that there is a shortage of epic house-visiting opportunities locally with historic family seats like Rockingham Castle, Deene Park and Burghley all within a ten-mile radius).

Commonly, estates with no public access or venue facilities to promote make little or no effort web-wise. Which makes comely Lyndon Hall all the more exceptional, its online presence being fairly crammed with historical and architectural information way beyond the call of duty. But then such fulsome documenting is rather in keeping with the bent of Lyndon’s builder, Conant antecedent Abel Barker, whose thorough preparatory studies led one authority to declare Lyndon to be the only house of the period ‘that can be related in detail to the architectural literature on which it is based’.

A successful C17 sheep dealer and merchant, Barker’s various activities took him often to London but his second wife Mary would correspond regularly, reminding him that, for all their relative prosperity, the family badly needed a decent place to live. ‘The saddest weather for a day and a night that I ever knew in my life. The wind broke the windows and beat in the rain so that..I was forced to carry [the children] into the kitchen to be dressed,’ she reported in February 1662. Months later Abel acquired the estate at Lyndon but for various reasons Mary would have a further 15 years to wait before their new Hall was completed.

See: Lyndon/Country Life

See: Lyndon/Country Life

Abel Barker immersed himself in contemporary architectural thinking ahead of formulating his design. 1662 was also the year in which Roger Pratt completed his influential first house, Coleshill. Though altogether more modest (closer in scale to another house of the period, Thorpe Hall in Cambridgeshire) Lyndon speaks to some degree of this transitional phase in English country house building.

Barker’s eventual blueprints would be realised with the aid of his man on the ground, local surveyor John Sturges. But even when construction finally got under way progress was to be regularly frustrated as Mrs B. would relay to her oft-absent husband. ‘Your building goes on not in the least,’ she reported in June 1673. ‘It is the saddest weather that was ever known of man for this time of year. All the masons [were] constrained to go away. Suttons stayed the longest but John said they did more harm than good.’

see: Churches of Christ

see: Churches of Christ

It’s perhaps just as well that Sir Abel (as he became) was so intellectually and practically engaged by this project as he would have relatively little time to enjoy the end product, dying in 1679 just two years after Lyndon’s completion aged 61.

Meanwhile, a few miles to the south…

see: Panoramio

see: Panoramio

‘Bulwick was built in 1676 on the site of a C16 house and incorporates some of its fabrics. It had hipped roofs and stone-crossed mullioned windows, comparable in style with such nearby contemporary houses as..Lyndon Hall, Rutland.’¹ Don’t be misled by that past tense, Bulwick Hall still stands but not quite as its builder knew it. Where Lyndon to this day projects a satisfying conceptual completeness Bulwick Hall displays a puzzling disposition characteristic of the unfinished or the much-reduced. Here it’s the latter. Interestingly, an extant 1728 map indicates that Bulwick’s substantial truncation occurred barely fifty years after the house’s completion.

source: Country Life

Country Life 1899

Between Lyndon and Bulwick is the village of Harringworth. Still part of the Conant estates today, in the early 1620s this manor was purchased by Moses Tryon, a London merchant of Dutch extraction. It was his stepson James who would develop the Bulwick property to the SE creating a three-sided courtyard house with ‘over 40 rooms including a long gallery and chapel’. But following Charles Tryon’s later decision to downsize, for almost 300 years all that has remained is the 12-bay, two-storey N range and perpendicular to this the ‘remarkable and unusual’ ballustraded loggia.²

see: RCHM

see: RCHM

see: Sprout Gardens

see: Sprout Gardens


The last major development of Bulwick Hall was undertaken in the early C19 by Thomas Tyron who, in addition to remodelling the interiors, would add the curiously proportioned bowed extension. When he died in 1825 the estate was inherited by his 22-year-old son, also Thomas, whose 47-year tenure as squire ended most abruptly when he was thrown from his horse, perishing instantly.

In stark contrast to the reporting of this unfortunate incident, which received but brief notice in the provincial press, the sensational demise of Thomas’ third son 21 years later would consume a great many column inches in The Times and beyond. For the career of renowned naval commander Vice-Admiral Sir George Tryon was to end calamitously and with ‘the largest peacetime loss of life in the history of the Royal Navy’.³

see: YouTube

see: YouTube

Widely regarded as ‘navigation genius’, Bulwick-born Tryon’s instincts were to inexplicably fail him one fateful day in 1893 off the coast of Tripoli. Helming the mighty HMS Victoria he directed a tight fleet manoeuvre that alarmed the officers under him but which, through a combination of faith and fear, they attempted to execute. The resulting collision caused the flagship to sink swiftly with the loss of 358 lives including that of Tryon himself. Remarkably, in 2004 the wreck of HMS Victoria was discovered standing vertically, bow-first in the Mediterranean seabed.

Sir George’s widow was naturally in attendance five years later at the wedding of his niece, Eva, the event (mentioned at the outset) which would effectively ally the Bulwick and Lyndon estates. On the groom’s side that day were his sisters – all nine of them. Historically, a preponderance of daughters – like the consequences of military service – has affected the continuity of many a family estate. Since then at Lyndon the gender balance has evened itself out. At Bulwick, meanwhile, the heir remains most apparent

[Lyndon Estate | GII* listing][Bulwick Estates | GII* listing]

¹ Heward, J. & Taylor, R. The country houses of Northamptonshire, RCHM, 1996.
² Country Life, 15 July 1899.
³ The Times, 2 Sept 2004.

Now some four years and 50 houses into this little odyssey, Handed on must confess to being no nearer to divining common characteristics which might help explain how these remarkable, mostly lesser-known survivors have quietly defied the gravitational pull towards extinction. Which was certainly the narrative of the country house estate across much of the last century, the tidal force of structural decimation running at full spate in the immediate post-war years. So it was perhaps the good fortune of Orleton Hall – an estate which has passed only by inheritance since the C14 – at that moment to become temporarily subsumed within an altogether grander, aristocratic domain.

Now managed by the National Trust, spectacular Powis Castle remains the seat of the Earls of Powis. The two World Wars were to claim both sons of the 4th earl, so it was that the title and substantial estates descended in 1952 to his kinsman Edward Herbert of Orleton Hall, some thirty miles due east across the English border, on the other side of Shrewsbury.

see: Bing Maps

see: Bing Maps

An advertisement in The Times 13 May 1957: ‘Young woman wanted to help in house and dining room, other staff kept, for Orleton Hall, Wellington, from June, and Powis Castle, Welshpool, from October. Apply The Countess of Powis‘. This seasonal arrangement continued for another decade at which point the entire Orleton estate and its history came – quite literally – to a Holt.

Mr Vesey Holt, Esq. to be precise, whose obituary in the Daily Telegraph recorded a positively Wodehousian stroke of fortune: ‘In 1967 Holt was unexpectedly given Orleton Hall, an 18th century house and 2,000-acre estate in Shropshire, by his uncle Edward, Earl of Powis’. Splendid, what?! Holt – scion of the military banking family – was the great-grandson of Anna Maria, Mrs Robert Herbert, an only child whose 1854 marriage effectively brought to an end Orleton’s 500-year association with the family name of Cludde.

see: Bing Maps

see: Bing Maps

Another house and estate chiefly remarkable for its boggling longevity in the same hands, for over 300 years from the end of the C14 Orleton passed directly from Cludde father to Cludde son. In 1721 a nephew, William Cludde, was required and when his son Edward duly inherited he soon set about giving the existing medieval family seat a Georgian makeover.

see: DiCamillo Companion

see: DiCamillo

Kirsche Tortshen@Flickr

Kirsche Tortshen@Flickr

Expanded on three sides, some original timbering survives in the centre of Orleton Hall as does one arm of the square moat which originally surrounded it’s earlier incarnation. Cludde also updated the C16 gatehouse (left) – ‘Orleton’s most picturesque feature’¹ – while another eye-catching survival in the grounds is the ‘remarkable’² mid-C18 octagonal Chinoiserie gazebo (r). However, the delightful detailing of these two structures does rather serve to highlight the relatively featureless severity of the exterior of the grade II* listed Hall itself: ‘The windows devoid of any ornament, the [main] facade without platbands or quoins, the doorway little more than an opening’.³

see: CLA Midlands

see: CLA Midlands

The Field

The Field¹

Yet Orleton’s plainness was quite typical of Shropshire houses of the period (c1770), a trend being at once a reaction ‘to the decorative idioms of previous generations and a failure or disinclination to invent any other’. In the 1830s some slight relief was to arrive courtesy of prolific local architect Edward Haycock who, in addition to remodelling the interiors (r), would insert a colonnade into the shallow recess on the entrance side essayed in his favoured Greek Revival style. (Using the same Grinshill stone Haycock would late give full vent to this enthusiasm when creating Millichope Park 20 miles south.)

Richard Webb/geograph

Richard Webb/geograph

‘The mansion stands in a beautifully situated park and commands a magnificent view of the Wrekin, the bold arch of the mountain rising abruptly from the plain to heights unrivalled in England.’4 Although a public beauty spot, in the late C18 a 130-acre slice of this inspirational landmark was acquired by the Cluddes and remains part of the Orleton estate today following an abortive disposal attempt 10 years ago (see: ‘Middle Earth for sale’).

Other sales have been successful, however, including that of nearby Burcot Manor which had come into the fold via a mid-C18 marriage. Latterly serving as the estate’s secondary residence, this ‘substantial chunk of spare property’ was sold – for the first time since at least 1650 – in 2004. And, rather more controversially, just last year another 37.5 of the estate’s 1,700 or so acres were shaved off when a proposed housing development which had locals ‘frothing at the mouth‘ was given the go-ahead by the local council.

source: Pinterest

source: WCC/Pinterest

‘There can be few pleasanter places to visit in summer than the Wellington Ground under the mighty Wrekin,’ observed one 1980s visitor of the cricket club established in the park at Orleton by Edward Herbert, later 5th earl of Powis.¹ But pleasant for how much longer wonder the denizens of the minor leagues venue. Just one amongst many to formally lodge reservations about the development of land abutting the eastern edge of the park, the club’s concerns ranged from the unwelcome prospect of players being put off their stroke by ‘music blasting out from a Saturday afternoon barbeque’ to mildy apocalyptic visions of flooding and dead children.

Noticeably, this submission was cc’d to the club’s senior honorary figures – Mrs Elizabeth Holt (president) and Mr Peter Holt (deputy president, current owner of Orleton Hall and vendor of said land). But with this particular team currently on a score of 700 (years) not out, could the result ever seriously have been in doubt?

[Listing][Archive]

¹ Montgomery-Massingberd, H. The Field, 30 Aug 1986.
² Newman, J. and Pevsner, N. The buildings of England: Shropshire, 2006.
³ Mercer, E. English architecture to 1900: the Shropshire experience, 2003.
4 Leach, F. County seats of Shropshire, 1891.

Sandbeck Park, Yorkshire

While history in its baldest telling is a matter of immutable fact, historical reputation is something altogether more fickle. The shifting sands of fashionable regard can be perfectly – and topically – exemplified by the career of Lancelot “Capability” Brown. As readers are probably aware, preparations are now well under way to celebrate in 2016 the tercentenary of the ‘genius’ Georgian landscaper’s birth, cementing his modern day standing as a more-or-less bulletproof heritage icon. In the era of Brown’s bicentenary, however, dissenting voices were not hard to find – ‘heritage hooligan’, more like:

It is to the 4th Earl of Scarbrough that attaches the reproach of having permitted Brown to work his wicked will on Roche Abbey. His lordship paid £3,000 to spoil the ruin and outrage its surroundings‘.¹

Being the trenchant reproof of an early-C20 correspondent to the Sheffield Daily Telegraph and not untypical of a prevalent antiquarian antipathy which by this time attached to Brown’s aesthetical approach. But at Roche Abbey and across the rest of the Sandbeck Park estate, which lies some ten miles east of Rotherham, Lancelot was only doing as he had quite literally been contracted.

That he should set about his work here ‘with Poet’s feeling and with Painter’s eye’ was the peculiarly florid stipulation laid down by Richard Lumley, aforementioned 4th earl, in his formal commission to Brown in 1774. Lumley desired uplifting views from the rooms of his substantially remodelled mansion; though the abbey was never visible from the house, a chestnut avenue arrows westward across the park directly towards the ecclesiastical ruin some 2km distant.

see: Bing Maps

see: Bing Maps

A Cistercian monastery founded in 1147, ‘Roche Abbey is an outstanding example of early Gothic architecture in England, a surviving account of its suppression [being] one of the most important sources describing a monastery’s destruction’. The remnants proved a boon for Lumley, however, providing the earl with a ready-made romantic ruin for which others would have to engage the likes of Sanderson Miller to create. Though ‘archaeologists curse Lancelot for dismantling the cloister and levelling the footprint of the building in the Picturesque cause’, Roche is also notable as Brown’s earliest essay in this direction.²

see: Chris Morgan @ geograph

see: Chris Morgan @ geograph

Today, Roche Abbey is managed by English Heritage but remains the property of the Lumleys, Earls of Scarbrough, part of a now 5,000-acre estate which has passed only by inheritance since 1549. (The original and considerably older family seat, Lumley Castle in County Durham, also remains in their possession, managed as a high-end hotel since 1976.)

In the post-Dissolution carve-up in this part of south Yorkshire it was the local Saunderson family’s land acquisitions which would become the foundation of the Sandbeck estate. Sir Nicholas Saunderson (d.1631) – ‘whose reputation as squire was not an altogether savoury one’ – never lived to see the completion of a house he had commissioned, no impressions of which survive. But the retention of a significant element during its Georgian remodelling would help to give Sandbeck as we see it today it’s singular stamp. Architect James Paine was engaged here in the 1760s, the end result being ‘no doubt one of his most dramatic designs. The garden front in particular, with its projecting portico [over] heavily rusticated arches…is not easily forgotten’.³

see: United Environmental Services

see: United Environmental Services

The last of the Saunderson line, James, Viscount Castleton died in 1723 leaving his ‘considerable estates’ in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire to his maternal cousin Thomas Lumley, younger son of the 1st Earl of Scarbrough. The two families’ estates would fully coalesce unexpectedly in 1740 when Thomas’ elder brother Richard, 2nd Earl, ‘blew his brains out, for reasons that remain mysterious’ at his house in Grosvenor Square.4 A bachelor when he perished, all now flowed to Thomas.

The latter’s only surviving son, Richard, succeeded in 1752 promptly engaging James Paine to work not at Sandbeck but in developing the 4th earl’s Lincolnshire property at Glentworth. However, his wife, Barbara Savile – herself an heiress who would bring Rufford Abbey in Nottinghamshire to the Lumleys – possibly had other ideas. Long before Lancelot Brown had been anywhere near the place she had declared Sandbeck to be “inexpressibly charming” and in time Paine’s energies would be redirected exclusively to their Yorkshire domain.

see: Anne E W @ flickr

see: Anne E W @ flickr

‘Rising high and high-waisted out of the green park..Sandbeck is unlike any other English house of its date.’4 Its distinctive proportions and plan are largely a function of the major room, the saloon, Paine’s repurposing of ‘a huge chamber traversing the first floor front of the house’, an arrangement by then a century out of fashion.5 This epic space features ‘a superb plaster ceiling of c.1775, perhaps the best in any Paine house’.³

Doubtless beneficial in the project management of Sandbeck’s 1760s remodelling was the ready supply of limestone from the quarry at Roche Abbey, an estate asset never as commercial as it might have been due to poor transport links. (This did, however, leave all the more for other family development schemes – like Skegness. A Saunderson manor since the early C17, the 9th earl (d.1884) would develop its seaside resort potential in the 1870s replacing a coastal hamlet with an entirely new model town, the sea wall promenade built with Roche Abbey stone.)6

The eventual arrival of the railway locally made viable the exploitation of other Sandbeck mineral resources, Maltby colliery being established just NW of the park in the early C20. Not that any such brutal practicalities were ever visible from the big house, of course, thanks to the idyllic cocoon conjoured by Capability Brown in the 250 ha park and beyond. ‘Perhaps no great house in Yorkshire is more out of the way than the Earl of Scarbrough’s seat. Nothing can be seen of it until several sylvan labyrinths and luxuriant groves have been threaded’ – a 1900 observation which still broadly holds, Sandbeck remaining an essentially private domain.

see: Safe@Last

see: Safe@Last

The harsher realities of life do occasionally pierce this cultivated haven, however, through the charitable activities of the current 13th earl and countess (r) . One local affiliation is a now decade-long patronage of the charity Safe@Last which focuses on the needs of vunerable, often abused young people in south Yorkshire. Now clay shooting may be the unlikeliest of social service allies but, as last year’s grim revelations from Rotherham, the Scarbroughs’ local town, show, Sandbeck’s guns are aimed in the right direction…

see: Google Streetview

see: Google Streetview

[Up close with the Grove and Rufford Hunt 2013]

¹ Sheffield Daily Telegraph 11 June 1904.
² Brown, J. The omnipotent magician: Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown 1716-1783, 2011.
³ Pevsner, N. The buildings of England: Yorkshire The West Riding, 1967.
4 Girouard, M. Sandbeck Park, Yorkshire I/II/III, Country Life Oct 1965.
5 Harris, J. The architect and the British country house 1620-1920, 1985.
6 Beastall, T. A North Country estate, 1975.

Radburne Hall, Derbyshire

‘The Hulton family’s occupation of Hulton Park is documented since 1167, reputedly the lengthiest uninterrupted occupation of any UK estate..and has never previously been sold.’ When, in 2010, property investment company Peel Holdings acquired the entire 1000-acre Hulton Park Estate in Lancashire another piece could be added to the jigsaw of land ownership in England and Wales. The official keeper of the puzzle, the Land Registry, acknowledges that the jigsaw is only 80% complete, a significant area having ‘never been registered because it has never been sold’. (They also admit that trying to find out the ownership of such land ‘will often come down to your own detective work’, suggesting that you ‘ask in the local pub’.)

In its own small way, this blog could be viewed as an accidental register of unsold England since all of the places featured naturally qualify as ‘missing pieces’. Many of these estates have changed hands for money at least once, of course, though not since 1862 when the Land Registry came into being. But places like Shuckburgh and Severn End can still claim the 800-plus years history unsullied by commercial exchange that was Hulton’s boast before it succumbed. And there is another such place just outside Derby.

Exiting that city to the west one almost immediately encounters another piece of England that time forgot, being the 3,000-acre Radburne Hall estate, seat of the Chandos-Pole family and passed only by inheritance and marriage since the C12.

see: Bing Maps

see: Bing Maps

A ‘relatively unknown house’¹ built by a ‘minor Palladian’,² sitting amidst a large park created by a landscaper ‘with none of Capability Brown’s genius’,³ Radburne’s resolutely provincial connections nevertheless combined to produce what has been described as ‘the most perfect of all the Georgian seats in Derbyshire, if not further afield’.4 But it is perfection with some distinctly similar contemporaries.

see: Adventures in Apiculture

see: Adventures in Apiculture

‘Begun in 1739. Red brick, placed on an eminence. Seven bays, stone-faced basement storey and two main storeys. The central, slightly projecting, three bays crowned by a carved stone pediment.’5 Pevsner on Radburne, remarks which could also describe a place like Wolterton Hall, which Thomas Ripley was finishing for Lord Walpole in Norfolk just as Radburne was going up (and remains in that family). More especially, they could apply to…

Kelmarsh @ ArtFund

Kelmarsh @ ArtFund

…Kelmarsh Hall in Northamptonshire (r). Completed in 1732 Kelmarsh was designed by architect James Gibbs but built by Francis Smith of Warwick. The house was one of several major projects Gibbs contracted to Smith’s firm which would develop, from relatively humble beginnings, into the most prolific architectural building practice in the Midlands during the first half of the C18. Integrity and reliability were the keys to the Smiths’ prosperity, producing houses to a tried and tested plan: not especially original but ‘convenient and handsome’, realised with excellent craftsmanship and on budget – even, sometimes, as at Radburne, under it.

see: picturethepast

see: picturethepast

William Smith had succeeded to the business on the death of his father in 1738 and was soon tasked with replacing the old house of the Pole family at the behest of the then incumbent, German Pole. ‘The sum it cost him was comparatively small’, German’s great-nephew and subsequent heir Sacheverell recalled: ‘Smith of Warwick was his architect and he completed it for five hundred pounds under his estimate which he had the honesty to return.’²

In 1807 Sacheverell would adopt the ‘Chandos’ prefix in recognition of the exploits Sir John Chandos (d.1370), an original Garter Knight, a female heir of whom his ancestor Sir Peter de la Pole had married some 400 years previously. The Chandos family had themselves acquired the manor of Radbourne by marrying into the de Ferrers, Radbourne having been amongst the estates granted to William the Conquerer’s ally Henry de Ferrers.

see source

see source

Sacheverell Chandos-Pole is captured as a babe-in-arms in an ‘astonishing’6 portrait by Joseph Wright of Derby, one of several works commissioned from the artist by his father to adorn a remodelled saloon in 1771-2 (r). Later in life Sacheverell himself would patronise Wright, commissioning a portrait of his then stepfather, a man who just happened to be one of the most extraordinary figures of his or, indeed, any age.

Erasmus Darwin (d. 1802) was a man of bogglingly diverse perspicacity, devising a steering system later adopted by Henry Ford, publishing a theory of evolution sixty years before his grandson, a groundbreaking exposition of the artesian well and volumes of verse which would see him recognised ‘as the leading English poet in the country’.7 Darwin’s bread and butter, however, was as a medic and it was while attending upon Sacheverell’s ailing young sisters in 1778 that he would form an attachment to Mrs. Pole. Rather conveniently, within a couple of years Mr. Pole – thirty years his wifes senior – was dead, his coveted young widow stunning local society by marrying the well-furnished 50-year-old physician. The Darwins lived at Radburne Hall for two years before its impractical location forced a family move into Derby.

see source

see source

The saloon and indeed all of the principal interior spaces at Grade I-listed Radburne sing perfectly of their Georgian origins and all appears just as we have come to expect of such places. But this is an expectation with its roots as much in the last century as the eighteenth, in the mission of the man hired in the late 1950s by Radburne’s most recent occupants to help reverse decades of neglect. John Fowler – ‘the most influential interior decorator of his generation’ – is credited with the invention of the English country house style. ‘Self-taught, instinctive, blind as a bat’,8 Fowler’s approach to such restoration projects was meticuously conservative, scraping (literally, with a coin) his way around a property on the hunt for aesthetically acceptable ‘original’ detail. ‘Radburne is one of John’s finest surviving jobs, the interiors entirely appropriate to the house’.¹

see: Chas Miller

see: Chas Miller

In the past decade attention has been focused outside with a project to restore the 600-acre park guided by an extant plan of 1790 by the man who originally laid it out. William Emes was head gardener at nearby Kedleston Hall before going freelance as a landscape improver, hoovering up most of the Midlands clients who could not interest (or perhaps afford) Capability Brown. The view from the west-facing oculus window would likely still please both.

see: DerbyshireUK

see: DerbyshireUK

The Poles held firmly to a static position in society as prosperous landed gentry, below the aristocracy and above the middle class..carrying out their military or county duties6 – a tradition upheld by Major John Chandos-Pole, DL, JP, until he died in 1994. Survived by his widow Jill and one daughter, his death marked the end of the male line – and the family name – at Radburne. Well, not quite. Look closely at the current edition of Debrett’s and the name ‘John Chandos-Pole’ can be found, albeit book-ended by the names ‘Edward’ and ‘Chichester’. For after centuries of gentry status the foothills of aristocracy now beckon for Radburne, Margaret Chandos-Pole having married Sir James Chichester, 12th Baronet, an old West Country-rooted title now destined for gloriously Georgian Derbyshire. Lucky 13!

¹ Wood, M. John Fowler: Prince of decorators, 2007.
² Gomme, A. Smith of Warwick, 2000.
³ Wilde, W. The work of William Emes, Country Life 15 Oct 1987.
4 Craven, M. and Stanley, M. The Derbyshire country house vol.2, 2001.
5 Pevsner, N. The buildings of England: Derbyshire, 1978.
6 Nicolson, B. Joseph Wright of Derby: painter of light, 1968.
7 King-Hele, D. Erasmus Darwin: A life of unequalled achievement, 1977.
8 Lees-Milne, J. Fourteen friends, 1996.

Newhouse, Wiltshire

The foundations of both may have been somewhat undermined in modern times but Britain’s country houses (and their owners) have long understood the value of the institution of matrimony. Delving into the history of long-held country estates, the advantageous marriage is not hard to find, provident alliances historically a key means by which to bolster, sometimes super-charge, an estate’s fortunes. In the C18 ‘financial considerations often determined a family’s marital priorities [with] heiresses regarded as particularly good catches’.¹ And today marriage is once more playing a significant role in sustaining many an ancestral seat as country houses across the land vie to host ‘the wedding of your dreams’.

“I always wondered how people afforded to live in these lovely places. The answer was that many couldn’t. When I suggested weddings most bit my hand off“, said Diana Hastie, the founder of Country House Wedding Venues, recently. This enterprise is now one of many such agencies (1/2/3) whose websites, along with those of the individual properties themselves, today offer a rich source of what has been called ‘country house porn’ (a term, by-the-by, taken a tad literally in the latest edition of Tatler magazine). By way of a purely serendipitous example of the myriad options now available to the happy couple wanting to marry in surroundings to which they are unlikely ever to become accustomed, a simple dropped vowel during researches for this post inadvertantly took Handed on to the dedicated weddings website of Nether Whichendon House.

see: ArtFund

see: ArtFund

Deep in the Chilterns, this medieval/Tudor house was romantically Gothicised to his own design by Scrope Bernard in the late C18. Sir Francis Bernard (d.1779) had inherited a somewhat neglected pile late in life and his will instructed that the place be sold. And so it was but the buyer, against advice, was to be his youngest son, Scrope, possibly emboldened by his marriage to Harriet Morland…a banking heiress. Nether Whichendon remains in the family: ‘Timelessly enchanting and fabulous, this venue is absolutely unique and perfect for a truly romantic day and wonderful photographs…

…many galleries of which are displayed on their weddings website (there is another detailing public opening times and history). Alongside the pictorial riches afforded by such online marketing, the expansion of the role of the wedding photographer – from cheery snapper to virtual artist-in-residence – has likewise been a great incidental boon for the likes of your humble country house blogger. Gone, seemingly, are those ritualised post-ceremony permutations, now replaced by an immersive, fantasy-tinged photo-documentary of the entire day, often yielding revelatory perspectives of the hosting houses. (Long-standing Handed on readers will appreciate the exciting rarity of these interior images, for example.)

see: Newhouse Estate

see: Newhouse Estate

One particularly novel country house vista can be found on the website of ‘the wedding and special events venue’ that is the 1,300-acre Newhouse Estate in Wiltshire. In the view of one visitor, ‘the most extraordinary object on view at Newhouse is the ‘Hare’ picture (r) said to have been painted about 1640 as a satirical attack on the contemporary Court party‘.² Far be it from Handed on to gainsay the mighty Massingberd but this blog recommends the adjacent easel-mounted ariel perspective of this place for closest inspection.

For, however remarkable anything inside Newhouse might be, nothing can surely trump the extraordinariness of the building itself:

see: Angus Kirk @ flickr

see: Angus Kirk @ flickr

No, this is not a trick of photography but two arms of Newhouse’s three-pronged assault on the architectural senses. The seat of the Eyres and their descendants (today Jeffreys) since 1633, Grade 1-listed Newhouse is a remarkable and surprisingly little-documented survival, being one of only two Y-shaped ‘Trinity’ houses in existence (and much the best, the other being this C17 farmhouse in Herefordshire). ‘In late C16 England people were addicted to hidden meanings. Codes, devices and punning allusions were everywhere..entire buildings were constructed in the form of riddles‘.³ And John Thorpe – one of the six architects memorialised on the façade of the Victoria and Albert Museum – was as keen a practitioner as any.

see: Barry Deakin

see: Barry Deakin

Among the few buildings which can be confidently associated with Thorpe are Thomas Tresham’s triangular lodge in Northamptonshire and the similarly triadic Longford Castle near Salisbury in Wiltshire (r). ‘One of the most freakish Elizabethan houses, [it’s] plan based on the shield assigned in medieval heraldry to the Holy Trinity’, Longford has been the seat of the Earls of Radnor since 1717 but had been built in the late C16 for the Gorge family.4 In 1619 Sir Edward Gorge acquired the Newhouse estate a few miles to the S-E, with a ‘Mansion..late erected’, from William Stockman only to sell it again, in 1633, to another local landowner, Giles Eyre. Newhouse would change hands for money one last time in 1660 but on this occasion it was a family deal, Giles’s grandson William selling the place to his cousin, Sir Samuel Eyre, for £2000.

Samuel’s eldest son, lawyer Robert, his inheritance of Newhouse naturally assured, devoted his energies forging a notable parliamentary career. (Younger brother Henry, meanwhile, made his own way, buying in 1733 500 rural acres just outside London called St. John’s Wood. Later developed as a pioneering garden suburb whose character is still policed, the Eyre Estate remains with this branch of the family, the sale in 2011 of a 5.5 acre site yielding some £250 million for the 50 or so present-day beneficiaries of the family trust.)

see: Wikimapia

see: Wikimapia

see: Angus Kirk

see: Angus Kirk

The house inherited by Sir Robert’s son, also Robert, was still in it’s original form (above): a three-storey central hexagon with radial extensions on alternate sides, the entrance facade crowned by a trio of triangular gables. He would add the N-W wing c.1742 which points towards the stable block (above) erected shortly before he died childless in 1752. Newhouse would eventually go to his cousin Samuel whose matching S-E wing balanced the main facade and houses the ballroom which today ‘will seat a maximum of 102 guests for a wedding breakfast’…

…a point in proceedings still usually characterised by civility and order. Which rarely lasts, of course. Alexander Chancellor, the inheritor of ‘two crumbling Inigo Jones pavilions‘ in Northamptonshire, recently revealed the flipside of the country house wedding hosts’ lot : ‘It’s no fun being here when these noisy parties are going on; nor next morning to find my house surrounded by cars that have been left behind by drivers who have drunk too much the night before. Occasionally, I even find condoms in the flowerbeds.’

see: Wikimapia

see: Wikimapia

No doubt in the quarter of a century during which they have been hosting such events the Jeffreys of Newhouse will likewise have encountered their share of eye-opening goings on. But what is equally certain is that the thousands of wedding-goers who have had the pleasure of being their guests in that time will never have seen anything quite like it either…

[Newhouse Estate][Listing][Visit via the HHA]

1. Beckett, J.V. The aristocracy in England 1660-1914, 1986.
2. Massingberd, H. Newhouse in the shape of a ‘Y’, The Field, 21 June 1986.
3. Asquith, C. Shadowplay: The Hidden Beliefs and Coded Politics of William Shakespeare, 2005.
4. Hussey, C. Longford Castle I/II/III, Country Life, Dec 1931.

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