The March 1867 issue of The Gentleman’s Magazine carried an obituary for Sarah Sophia Fane Child-Villiers, Dowager Countess of Jersey:

January 26 – At 38 Berkeley Square, suddenly by the rupture of a blood vessel, aged 81, Sarah Sophia, Dowager Countess of Jersey.

            Her ladyship was the eldest and only surviving child of John, 10th Earl of Westmorland, by Anne, only daughter and heir of Mr. Robert Child. She was born March 4, 1785 and in May 1804 she married George, Viscount Villiers, who in the following year succeeded his father, the 5th Earl of Jersey, and by whom she had a family of four sons and three daughters. Her eldest son, George Augustus Frederick, died three weeks after the death of his father in 1859; and was the father of Victor, 7th Earl; Augustus John died at Rome in 1847; Frederick married to Lady Elizabeth, daughter of the 8th Earl of Athlonel (title extinct); Francis John died in May 1862; Lady Sarah, married to Prince Nicholas Esterhazy, son of his Excellency the late Prince, many years an ambassador to the Court of St. James’s, from Austria, died at Torquay in November 1853; Lady Clementia died unmarried in December 1858, and Lady Adela, wife of Lieut. Colonel Charles Ibbetson, who died suddenly in September 1860.

Osterley Park, Greater London

            The late Countess, on the death of her maternal grandfather, Mr. Robert Child, the banker, by his will succeeded to his large property, both real and personal. Owing to her mother having eloped with the Earl of Westmorland, Mr. Child carried out his determination that not a shilling of his property should go to the male heirs of the earldom, and he bequeathed his large and valuable property to the county of Middlesex and his interest in the old banking house at Temple Bar to the Countess. The deceased Lady Jersey was kind and charitable to the poor, but studiously avoided publicity in doing good to those beneath her. Many indigent families will regret her death, as well as an extensive circle of friends.

Lady Jersey, National Portrait Gallery
by Frederick Christian Lewis Sr, after Alfred Edward Chalon
stipple engraving, published 1839
            The Countess of Jersey was for many years one of the leading ladies patronesses of “Almacks” and with Viscountess Palmerston shared the greatest influence; indeed she had for more than half a century occupied the highest position in London society. She was a woman of extraordinary abilities and no female member of the aristocracy could surpass her in her knowledge of European politics. For nearly fifty years her saloons were nightly open to receive the distinguished foreign diplomatists of the day and the prominent political character of the Tory and Conservative party. The Countess’s “at homes” were however, unlike those of Devonshire and Holland houses, exclusively confined to a distinct political faction. Lord Brougham was a great personal friend of the deceased lady, and Viscount Palmerston was among her occasional visitors, even while in office. Lady Jersey was connected by marriage with the late Viscount Ponsonby, the late Marquis of Anglesey; the Earl of Bessborough and a large number of friends of opposite politics.
Entrance Hall, NT
            It was not until the death of her husband in October 1859, that Lady Jersey retired into comparative seclusion.—That is to say, sought only the society of her most intimate friends. The Countess was honoured by the personal regard of the late Emperor Nicholas, the late Kings of Hanover, Prussia, Holland, Belgium, and of George IV when Prince Regent.


Lady Jersey, National Portrait Gallery
by Henry Thomas Ryall, published by John Murray, sold by Charles Tilt,
 after Edmund Thomas Parris  stipple engraving, published 1833

            The interment of the deceased took place in the family vault of the parish church of Middleton Stoney, Oxon on the 2d of February, the body of the Countess having been brought to Middleton Park on the day previous. The funeral procession was preceded by the principal tenancy of the estates.

Note from Victoria: The Jersey estate at Middleton, Oxfordshire, was the family’s principal country home after its purchase in 1737, though the property had been a manor since the 13th  century. The house built there in the 1750’s and used by Sarah, Lady Jersey, for extensive entertaining, was pulled down in 1934 and replaced a few years later with a modern house designed by Sir Edward Lutyens, now made into flats. The former Middleton Park grounds are now mostly a public park.  The village of Middleton Stoney boasts one public house, the Jersey Arms.


Originally published in 2010, we’re re-running this post now because we think you may like to look at Haddon Hall’s glorious gardens on this cold December day. Victoria and Kristine revisited Haddon Hall this past September on Number One London’s Country House Tour and the gardens were stunning. Do check our new line-up of tours at Number One London for details on the 2018 Country House Tour!


I visited Haddon Hall on a cool early summer day and found roses climbing all over the ancient grey walls, their colorful profusion a perfect complement to the lichen-covered stone.

Haddon Hall, high above the Wye River near Matlock in Derbyshire, is typical of medieval manor houses: built of local rock with thick walls and small windows.


The property is listed in the Domesday Survey conducted shortly after William the Conqueror took over England. The Domesday Book was a great survey completed in 1086, a sort of census. William wanted to know who the landholders were and what taxes he could collect from them, so his clerks looked for property holders from the time of Edward the Confessor. The judgment of the assessors was final and there was no appeal. The name Domesday comes from the Old English word dom (same root as doom in modern English) meaning accounting or reckoning. The book of this census is known by the English as ‘Domesday’, that is the Day of Judgment.


Many of the finest English Country Houses evolved from ancient foundation structures of which few traces remain. Rebuilding, remodeling, and redecorating have been beloved preoccupations for centuries. Houses were altered by almost every generation to incorporate the latest technological improvements or to enhance the size, style and beauty of their surroundings. The richer the family members, the more they rebuilt over and over again.




The Haddon estate came into the Vernon family through the marriage of its heiress in 1170 to Richard Vernon.

The oldest and best-preserved old houses usually are passed down in a family through the female side. History repeated itself when in the mid-1550’s, Dorothy Vernon eloped with Sir John Manners, a son of the Duke of Rutland, against the wishes of her father. But despite his opposition to the match, Haddon Hall soon became the property of the Manners family, which has owned it ever since. It was, however, a secondary residence to the Rutland’s primary estate, Belvoir (pronounced Beever) Castle.

Since secondary residences were visited rarely, there was little urge to remodel to wife’s property.  This pattern is repeated many times throughout the history of various stately homes. Cotehele in Cornwall and Chiswick near London are two more excellent examples. The romance of Dorothy Vernon and Sir John Manners was the basis for the 1902 novel Dorothy Vernon of Haddon Hall by Charles Major, popular author of historical romances including When Knighthood was in Flower (1898). Major altered parts of the story and his novel was further enhanced when it was made into a movie starring Mary Pickford in 1924. The story has also inspired a play and an opera.



Haddon’s exterior is typically medieval, severe and somber, yet softened by lovely gardens.








Inside, many rooms are open to visitors.  In 1370, Richard de Vernon built the banqueting hall to house forty to fifty people. The house and continued to grow in subsequent centuries, both in number of inhabitants and in number of rooms and outbuildings.





The long gallery was added later and is typical of those found in Tudor and Elizabethan era houses, designed to replace cloister-style open air walkways. One strolled back and forth in the long gallery to take daily exercise where it was somewhat more protected.

Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, Haddon Hall was ignored and fell into disrepair. Not until the 1920’s was major restoration begun. It continues today under the direction of Lord and Lady Edward Manners. Haddon Hall is often used in films and stood in as Prince Humperdink’s castle in The Princess Bride.

Whether it was the elopement story or the abundant roses, I found Haddon Hall very romantic and great inspiration for the imagination.

Previously published in 2010.


I’m pleased to say that Number One London’s Country House Tour was a resounding success and that a good time was had by all! Our group was the perfect size – eight like-minded people traveling together through Derbyshire in search of houses, history and a whole lot of fun.

Of course, the Tour included stately homes, amongst them were –

Kedleston Hall
Haddon Hall
Sudbury Hall

Along the way, we met house stewards and curators who provided our group with private, behind-the-scenes tours –

Wentworth Woodhouse

And we were fortunate enough to be joined by author Catherine Curzon, who spoke to us about the Georgian Royals over lunch at Chatsworth House

Our group stayed in the historic Old Hall Hotel in Buxton, below . . .

which provided us with atmospheric accommodations and memorable meals


In addition to stately homes, we were also able to study examples of historic fashion and furnishings

We found photo opportunities around almost every corner

And a few of us were lucky enough to find the new Jane Austen ten pound note

Victoria Hinshaw and Sandra Mettler

I’ll be doing future posts on the individual sites we visited, but I wanted to take this opportunity to thank everyone who joined me on this Tour for making it so memorable, and so much fun!

If you’d like to join me on the next Country House Tour, this one with an Upstairs, Downstairs twist, please visit Number One London’s Tour website for complete details of the April 2018 tour.


by Kristine Hughes Patrone

Our next stop on Visit Britain’s Familiarization Trip for members of the travel trade was Leeds Castle, which bills itself as “the loveliest Castle in the world.” There’s no denying that it answers every little girl’s requirements for a fairy tale castle, although on the day we visited Prince Charming was not in evidence. Lunch was, however, as well as a tray of very welcome Pimm’s Cups and as warm a welcome as one could wish for at a fortified castle.

Do click on this link to watch a video of our walk up to the Castle and our arrival within. There’s a bit where the video goes all green – I had to put the camera down in order to remove my coat, but do hang in there, it all gets going again before too long.



As some of you will know, I was recently invited to attend Visit Britain’s travel Expo in Brighton, where tour operators and travel suppliers had the opportunity to meet and network while discussing travel products and sites. Representing Number One London Tours, I was able to discover a host of museums, behind the scenes tours, historic sites and stately homes that I will be including in future tours.

I was also invited to participate in a five day Familiarization Trip immediately following the two day Expo, which took us to Kent, Essex and Hertfordshire. Our first stop was stunning Hever Castle, the childhood home of Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII’s second wife and mother to Queen Elizabeth I. More recently, Hever Castle was owned by William Waldorf Astor, who spent a considerable sum on the Castle’s restoration.

Today, the Castle is open daily to visitors and features several guest rooms, although these are only available to those who rent the entire Castle for private use. Below, my bedroom for the night, which was both lovely and enormous.

After freshening up from our travels, our group reassembled for cocktails and we were given a private tour of the Castle beginning in the Inner Hall, below, which was the Great Kitchen in the Tudor period. The Italian walnut panelling and columns were designed in 1905 by the sculptor William Silver Frith as part of William Waldorf Astor’s restoration of Hever Castle. The gallery above the hall was inspired by the rood screen at King’s College Chapel, Cambridge. The ceiling is in the Elizabethan style and incorporates the Tudor rose emblem.













The room above contained the domestic offices in the Tudor period and became the Drawing Room in 1905. It was designed and panelled by the architect Frank Loughborough Pearson for William Waldorf Astor. The oak panelling is inlaid with bog oak and holly and was inspired by the Elizabethan Inlaid Chamber at Sizergh Castle, Cumbria.

The Long Gallery, above, was constructed in the sixteenth century and extends across the entire width of the Castle. It was used for entertaining guests, taking exercise, and displaying art collections. The panelling dates from the sixteenth century. The ceiling is an early twentieth-century reconstruction in the Tudor style created by Nathaniel Hitch.

Our tour concluded with our going in for dinner to the dining room, below. In the fifteenth century this room was the Great Hall and was originally open to the roof rafters. The linenfold panelling, the ceiling and the fireplace surmounted by the Boleyn coat of arms were designed by William Silver Frith. The sculptor Nathaniel Hitch carved the Minstrels’ Gallery in 1905.













Part Two, the Hever Castle Gardens coming soon!


by Louisa Cornell
Me, poor man, my library
was dukedom large enough.
The Tempest
William Shakespeare

I cannot comprehend the neglect of a family library in such days as these.
Fitzwilliam Darcy
Pride and Prejudice

When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library.
Jane Austen

One can hardly envision an English stately home without a library somewhere about the premises. Think of all the murder mysteries without a place to discover an inconvenient corpse if this were not true. Or what about all of those Regency romance heroes and heroines searching for a respite from the tedium of a ball, only to discover the one lurking about in their host’s barely lit book room? One shudders to think!

It is surprising to discover large private libraries were rare in England before the 18th century. Before then, they were more likely to be found in the hands of kings, great lords, monasteries, and universities. However, a number of occurrences related to the Reformation of the 16th century – the spread of book printing, country houses began to take the place of monasteries and castles, the libraries of said monasteries were dispersed in sales as the monasteries were closed, and universities in the throes of humanist zeal purged their libraries, also in sales, all of which led to the acquisition of books by aristocrats eager to build their own book collections. Some of these aristocrats were genuine scholars and book lovers eager to preserve England’s and the world’s intellectual heritage. Others simply wanted to keep up with the neighbors. In three or four hundred years, very little has changed. Never underestimate the power of the male ego to turn Mine’s bigger than yours. into a competition.

The fashionable bar for libraries in country houses was set in the 18th century by Edward Harley, 2nd Earl of Oxford. His elegant library at Wimpole Hall, designed by James Gibbs in 1730, consisted of a huge room built to house his collection of over 50,000 books and 350,000 pamphlets and three small cabinet chambers leading into the library which housed his collection of coins, seals, antique cameos, and manuscripts. Unfortunately, his debts forced the sale of the entire collection on his death in 1741. Or perhaps his heir simply wasn’t the bookish type and opted to get rid of the library rather than land or other assets. Whatever the reasons for the dispersal of the library, the Earl of Oxford fired the starting shot across the bow of every aristocrat in England. The race was on to amass the largest and most unique and valuable collection of books and to erect the most spectacular temple to the written word in which to house them.
 Far end library – Wimpole Hall 
I will be covering a great deal more about the advent of libraries in stately homes in my follow-up post. (Yes, there will be a follow-up post. There is a reason I write novels and not short stories.) The library in an English country house was made up of a beautifully constructed room designed for the specific purpose of housing books. Once the room was designed, crafted, and finished it was filled, of course, with books. However, there was another, little studied, aspect of creating those beautiful libraries which I would like to address in brief in this post. After all, if you are going to dispose of a body it is helpful to have a few things in the room behind which to hide it. A dead body is so much more effective if it is found suddenly and results in screaming servants or fainting ladies. And remember those heroes and heroines meeting in the library? What happens if there is nothing on which, against which, or behind which to tryst? I’m all for romance, but carpet burns, even on a very expensive Aubusson carpet, do tend to ruin the mood.
Thus begs the question, what sort of furnishings might one find in his lordship’s library? What started out as an ostentatious room to display one’s intellectual snobbery soon became a refuge for the man of the house. His lordship could invariably be found “hiding” in his library when any number of unpleasant events occurred, including, but not limited to – his wife. Over the years it eventually morphed into a sort of living area for the family. This may be responsible for the sheer size of such rooms. Family togetherness was all well and good, but lets not becom
e too bourgeoisie about this. By the late Regency it would not be unusual to find his lordship at his desk, her ladyship reading before the fire, the daughters at the piano at the far end of the library, and the sons perusing maps on a library table or sneaking a peek at grandfather’s naughty books shelved on the top shelves at the far end of the library.
Here are a few items one might have found in the stately home library to facilitate the room’s many purposes.

Library Steps –

Most libraries included shelves going nearly to the ceiling. Every inch of space was utilized. If a mezzanine balcony was not added to access those shelves at the higher levels, library steps were used to peruse the shelves above one’s head. The set below includes a post with which to steady oneself when descending with an armload of books.
19th Century Mahogany Library Steps
A sturdier version, also mahogany 19th century.

Library chairs –

Once one had retrieved the books one wished to read, a comfortable chair in which to read them was necessary. Of course, most libraries included one or more fireplaces for heat and chairs and sofas were often arranged around them for reading and conversation. These items – chairs, sofas, and even chaises for those inclined to recline and read – might come from other areas of the house. (Trysting on a chaise is far more comfortable than trysting on a library table or worse. Remember the carpet burn?) More often, chairs ordered specifically for the library were put into use. Here are some examples of chairs designed for use in the library. 
19th Century English Leather Library Chair
This looks to be a very comfortable chair and has the added advantage of wheels should one wish to move it closer to the fire or away from noisy family and guests. The chair above is in fantastic condition considering it is over 200 years old. Craftsmanship, ladies and gentlemen. Craftsmanship.
19th Century Leather Library Chairs  
These two were undoubtedly used on either side of a library fireplace. The sides might shield one from the prying eyes of others, or in the case of two people sitting before they fire they might shield a private conversation from others in the library.

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English Regency Library Chair

I find this particular chair fascinating. The shelf on the back can be made to lay flat or can be dropped to the back of the chair completely. One can only assume it was made for someone to kneel in the chair and read over the back or perhaps the shelf was for the reader to stack extra books. No matter its function it is a uniquely designed chair and in all design books and catalogues it is listed strictly as a library chair.

19th Century Rosewood Library Chair

This chair represents the evolution towards comfort and relaxation in Regency era furniture, an evolution which started in those items designed for both the library and the bedchamber. A clear indication, perhaps, of these rooms being viewed as those where one might be more at ease than in the more public and formally social rooms of the house.

Bookcases – 

Of course,  the walls of libraries were lined with built-in shelves, inset bookcases or free standing bookcases pressed to the walls. In addition to these large shelving units for books, a library might contain other places in which or on which to house books. There were smaller bookcases, library tables, and even movable cases on which to organize one’s books for further use.

This lovely piece is a Regency era mahogany bookshelf with castors on the bottom to enable it to be moved easily about the library. The drawers were for manuscripts or folios. I would imagine a butler or footman might have found it useful in returning books to the shelves after his lordship left them scattered about the library.

The above is a Regency era parcel gilt lacquer circular bookcase, and, yes, it spins. In the photograph, it is used to hold sets of books. One might imagine it next to a comfy chair with a few days’ or weeks’ worth of books on it within reach of his lordship or her ladyship during a long winter’s reading season.

Library Tables –

Library tables were present in any 18th and 19th century library. They were used for a variety of purposes. They were designed to be placed in the middle of a room as surfaces to spread out maps, folios, or a selection of books. It is important to remember whilst these were family libraries, they were also resources for local vicars, magistrates, scholars, and anyone from the estate and local villages who might want to make use of them with his lordship’s permission. They were often used to look over design plans for houses, gardens and estates. These rooms were not simply for show. Most, if not all, were used every day for every sort of pursuit today’s public libraries might encounter.

Library Globes –

A final item to complete the furnishing of the stately home library might be a globe. They were used to plot a journey, check the location of an investment property, or perhaps to plan a young man’s Grand Tour. There were terrestrial globes and also globes of the constellations for those with an astronomical bent.

Pair of 21 inch Regency Globes – Terrestrial and Constellations for those with Navy affiliations.
Rare Regency Era 36 inch terrestrial globe by Cary’s of London

There you have it, a few of the odds and ends, unique pieces designed and created for use in the magnificent libraries of those exquisite country houses. They created and continue to create an atmosphere of elegance and intellectual pursuit. They gave these spaces a personal touch, often an indication of the family’s character, attitudes, and even their relationships with each other. These pieces are also markers in the evolution of the views of houses as homes rather than simply showplaces. Items previously designed with an eye to their ability to stress the owner’s wealth, success, and power began to morph into pieces crafted to be practical, to blend in with their surroundings, and to promote concepts of ease and relaxation. Books became escapes as well as instruments of learning. Reading became a pastime enjoyed by all, rather than a strictly scholarly pursuit. As much as we owe the owners of these libraries for the preservation of our literary heritage, we also owe them thanks for making reading more than simply a search for knowledge, but also an endless source of joy.


ONCE AGAIN WEDNESDAY – Mr. Phillip's' Auction Offices – Part One

Mention of venerable London auction houses invariably brings to mind Christie’s, in King Street. But there was another auction firm who held some of the most anticipated, and most unique, auctions in the City. The London firm of auctioneers known as Phillips and Son of 73, New Bond Street, was founded by Harry Phillips in 1796. Phillips died in October of 1839 at his house at Worthing, age 73, and was succeeded by his son, who, with his son, son-in-law, and Mr. Frederick Neale, carried on the business of fine art and general auctioneers. Amongst some of the more important art sales by this firm were: The Beckford Collection at Fonthill Abbey, Sir Simon Clarke’s engravings; a thirty-days’ sale of engravings from Paris; the Duke of Buckingham’s engravings, in 1830; Duke of Lucca’s Collection, in 1841; the Count de Morny’s Collection, in 1848; Lady Blessington’s property, in 1849; Lord Northwick’s pictures, in 1859; the Marquis of Hastings’ pictures, books, and engravings, in 1869; Sir Charles Rushout’s pictures and engravings in 1880, including a small collection of about one hundred examples by Bartolozzi (many duplicates) in a folio, which sold for 225 guineas. Another lot in the same sale, containing ninety-eight prints by Bartolozzi and school, sold for 174 guineas.

A book titled Art Sales of 1891 sheds some light on what the going rates for auction houses of that day were – The commissions charged are 7 per cent, on pictures, plate, jewels, porcelain, wine and effects, sculpture, and modern drawings, and 12 per cent, on engravings, books, manuscripts, sketches, coins, medals, antique gems, and old drawings, 5 per cent, being charged on unsold or bought-in lots under £100, and 2 percent, exceeding that sum. For furniture at private houses or in the country the charge is 10 per cent. There is no charge for making valuations for probate if the property is subsequently sold by auction. To secure a day at Messrs. Christie’s, application must be made some months beforehand, and Saturdays in the season are allotted only to exceptionally fine collections.

Still, many of those who had their property sold by auction were in no position to balk at the terms, as they were either badly in hock to creditors or deceased, as evidenced by the following piece which ran in The Gentleman’s Magazine 1805 – Mr. Phillip Auction-room, New Bond-street, was crowded with nobility and persons of distinction. After the sale of several choice lots of china, statues, and Mr. Phillips stated the conditions of sale of the elegant house and furniture, in Hill-street, Berkeley-square, belonging to Mr. Robert Heathcote. The auctioneer referred to the printed particulars, which were in the hands of the company, for the minute description of this elegant mansion, held under a lease from Earl Berkeley, for an unexpired term of 30 years, at a ground rent of 11 l. 7 s. 6d.; and, he stated, that the cost to Mr. Heathcote had been as follows: For the lease, £6000. to Mr. Cundy, the architect, whose taste and judgment had been so conspicuously displayed in the new arrangement and fitting-up of the house, and particularly in the erection of the new and superb library . . . After stating, that every article in Mr. Heathcote’s house at present, except plate, jewels, linen, books, pictures, wines, china, glass-ware, and apparel, would go to the purchaser, the biddings commenced with 1, 000 guineas, on which several advances we’re made from different parts of the room, till they got up to £10,000, when the contest lay entirely between two gentlemen, who were rather tardy in their advances of 50 and 100 guineas at a time, till at length it was knocked down to P. Phillips, esq.

Another entry reads –

Furniture Of Napoleon—On Wednesday a sale by auction of the property of the late Sir Hudson Lowe, including some portion of the furniture which was in the possession of the Emperor Napoleon at St. Helena, took place at the auction rooms of Mr. Phillips, by order of the executors of Sir Hudson Lowe. These consisted of about twenty lots, and among them were a large mahogany frame indulging chair, banded with ebony, on castors, from the Emperor’s study, 15/. 5s.; a small circular mahogany pillar and claw table, on which Napoleon burnt pastiles, 61. 6s.; a six-foot pedestal library table, formed of mahogany and yew tree, on which table he almost always wrote, 18. 18s.; an ebonied arm chair, with cane seat and back, formed of common materials (there was a hole in the cane seat which had been caused by being constantly used, and it was stated by some brokers in the room not to be worth 1s. 6.) From the chair being light it was carried about by the Emperor when he took his walks M Longwood. It was bought for £6.

One sale that was the destined to be the auction of the year, if not the decade, was that of Fonthill Abbey, owned by William Beckford, the author of Vathek. Beckford had commissioned architect James Wyatt to design the Abbey and very few people were invited inside whilst Beckford resided there. For a complete look at both Beckford and the auction we turn to The Mirror of Literature, Amusement, and Instruction –

THE LATE WILLIAM BECKFORD. From the newspapers we learn that the author of “Vathek” is no more. He died last week at Bath, where he had erected a singular edifice, in some respects a miniature of his former abode, the far-famed Fonthill Abbey.

Beckford squandered his money in the most reckless manner, and at his bidding Fonthill arose, one of the wonders of the world. He bought Gibbon’s library, and left it locked up at Lausanne, and the reason he gave for the purchase was that he might have some books to read when he happened to visit that town. It was not the splendour of Fonthill Abbey —though that was great—nor the value of its contents—though on these immense sums had been expended—that fixed public attention on Fonthill Abbey, so much as the habits of the proprietor, exaggerated, and, in all probability, misrepresented, by report. He was said to see no company, to allow no approach— but to live in almost regal state. Though he had servants fitting his opulence, his favourite was understood to be a dwarf, called Pero. Mr. Beckford was described to be violent. He would speak harshly, or more than speak, to a
servant or a villager that came in his way, but, soon relenting, it was his care nobly to recompense the party he had outraged. It was shrewdly suspected that some of those who experienced the throb of his impetuous anger had artfully put themselves in the way of it, for the sake of the healing donation which was likely to follow.

He certainly lived in seclusion for a number of years, and objected to the abbey being shown to the curious. It was even said, George IV, when Prince of Wales, had intimated a wish to visit it, which had been met by something like a refusal. Be this as it may, it got wind among the public that the residence of Mr. Beckford was “a sealed book;” and when, in 1822, the news burst on the town that the abbey and all its contents were about to be on public view, preparatory to a sale by auction, every one was anxious to see the Palace of Wonders. It was likened to throwing open the blue-room of Bluebeard.

It is not surprising that so eccentric a man excited the popular wonder, and that when in consequence of the depreciation of his West India property he decided to sell Fonthill via an auction conducted by Mssrs. Christie, the public excitement was intense: Fonthill, which had been talked about by the whole nation but only seen by a very few. This was in 1822. Seven thousand two hundred catalogues were sold at a guinea each to those who wished to see the place. However, it was not disposed of by Mr. Christie at public auction, but sold en masse to Mr. John Farquhar for £330,000. Beckford reserved, however, some of his choicest books, pictures, and curiosities.

The whole property had been bought by the late Mr. H. Phillips for a Mr. Farquhar, a Scotsman, of very penurious habits, who had mode a vast fortune in India, but who continued to dress and to live in the meanest style. He bought this palace and park, not because, like old Scrooge, a dream had induced him to rush from grinding parsimony to openhearted benevolence, but because it appeared a good opportunity for increasing his store, aided by the experience and talent of the Bond-street auctioneer. It is true he took up his abode in it for a time, but he bought it not to inhabit, but to sell, and accordingly it was announced in the following year that the whole, as the phrase is, was to be brought to the hammer. The ensuing sale occupied thirty-seven days.

Mr. Beckford’s library was very extensive, yet, among the countless ranges of books which he possessed, he had so extraordinary a memory, that he could at once indicate the shelf, and the part of the shelf, on which any particular volume might he found. This was proved, to the utter amazement of the new proprietor of Fonthill. In many of the works, notes had been made, in the handwriting of Mr. Beckford: the books which contained them were intended to be withdrawn, but, by accident, some escaped discovery; they were discovered by the prying gentlemen of the press, and the memoranda found in several of the books appeared in the newspapers. They were eagerly sought after at the sale, though frequently they presented but quotations from the books: occasionally, however, they expressed opinions, and some of them were of a most singular nature. High prices were given for these, and some, it was understood, were purchased for Mr. Beckford at twenty times the price which the holder had given for them at the sale. His thoughts were often expressed with great force. In one instance, speaking of human nature, he powerfully marked his sense of the humanising power of letters. He pointed to the mind of man as wretched in its native state — as ” blood-raw, till cooked by education.”

With the money he received from Mr. Farquhar, Beckford purchased annuities and land near Bath. He united two houses in the Royal Crescent by a flying gallery extending over the road, and his dwelling became one vast library. In 1810 Beckford’s second daughter, Susanna Euphemia, married Alexander, Marquis of Douglas, who succeeded his father as 10th Duke of Hamilton, and to her he left all his property. Beckford died at Bath on May 2, 1844, aged 84. Most of Fonthill Abbey collapsed under the weight of its poorly-built tower the night of 21 December 1825.

This link will bring you to the catalogue for the Fonthill Abbey Library of 20,000 books

Also in 1822, on 9 February, Phillips auctioned the contents of Bradenburgh House upon the death of the Queen. Phillips’s royal connections continued, as evidenced by this piece from the Annual Register of  1831 – Sale Of His Late Majesty’s Coronation Robes.— A portion of his late Majesty’s costly and splendid wardrobe destined for public sale, including the magnificent coronation robes and other costumes, was sold by auction, by Mr. Phillips, at his rooms in New Bond Street. There were 120 lots disposed of, out of which we subjoin the principal in the order in which they were put up :— No. 13. An elegant yellow and silver sash of the Royal Hanoverian Guelphie Order, 3/. 8.— 17. A pair of fine kid-trousers, of ample dimensions, and lined with white satin, was sold for 12.v.— 35. The coronation ruff, formed of superb Mechlin-lace, 2/.—50. The costly Highland costume worn by our late Sovereign at Dalkeith Palace, the seat of his Grace the Duke of Buccleugh, in the summer of 1822, was knocked down at 40/.— 52. The sumptuous crimson-velvet coronation mantle, with silver star, embroidered with gold, on appropriate devices, and which cost originally, accordiug to the statement of the auctioneer, upwards of 500/., was knocked down at 47 guineas.—53. A crimson coat to suit with the above, 14/. – 55. A magnificent gold body-dress and trousers, 26 guineas.—67- An extraordinary large white aigrette plume, brought from Paris by the Earl of Fife, in April, 1815, and presented by his lordship to the late King, was sold for 15/.—87. A richly embroidered silver tissue coronation waistcoat and trunk hose, 13/.—95. The splendid purple velvet coronation mantle, sumptuously embroidered with gold, of which it was said to contain 200 ounces. It was knocked down at 55/., although it was stated to have cost his late Majesty 300/.—96. An elegant and costly green velvet mantle, lined with ermine of the finest quality; presented by the Emp
eror Alexander to his late Majesty, which cost upwards of 1,000 guineas, was knocked down at 125/.

Part Two, featuring the Blessington/D’Orsay Auction, coming soon . . . . .

Originally published August 2010


With this post we’re instituting Once Again Wednesdays, whereby we republish some of our most popular posts and reader favourites.

What is an Orangery? by Victoria Hinshaw – Originally published in April 2010

Since the first purposeful cultivation of plants, humankind has struggled to improve growing conditions by altering the environment. For the plant to thrive, is it too cold? Too dark? Too rainy? Too arid? Too windy? How can the plant’s living arrangements be improved to give it maximum light, water, air circulation and fertility? How can we improve on Mother Nature?

Below, inside the Orangery at Saltram House, Plymouth, Devon.

Today we take for granted the cultivation of fruits, vegetables, herbs and flowers in computer-monitored locations that bring us year-round production, the result of centuries of experimentation and invention. Two hundred years ago, our ancestors knew what was needed for maximum production, and they were quickly developing the technological requirements for success.

To some extent, the terms greenhouse, glasshouse, hothouse, orangerie, pinery, and conservatory can be used interchangeably, though each has a generally agreed upon specific meaning. All these terms and the buildings they describe existed in Georgian England, mostly at royal palaces and the estates of the wealthy aristocracy. 

The Regency era, whether one confines the definition strictly to 1811-1820 or, more broadly, the French Revolution to Victoria 1789-1837, was truly a time of transition in enhanced plant cultivation indoors.

At Carlton House, the Prince of Wales’ London residence (demolished in 1826-27), a conservatory was added in 1807 in the newest construction techniques in cast iron columns and a fan vaulted ceiling supporting large glass spaces. The architect was Thomas Hopper (1776-1856) whose work was considered a tour de force. The conservatory opened into the gardens at one end. If one looked in the opposite direction, there was a clear view of the entire lower ground-floor range of rooms.

The Carlton House conservatory was intentionally theatrical, as some writers observed, bringing the term “elaborate” to a new level. The Prince Regent planned a great fete for 2,000 people on June 19, 1811, to celebrate his Regency. Down the middle of the 200-foot length of the table ran a curving stream of water lined with flowers, mossy banks and crossed by miniature bridges. Goldfish swam up and down this tiny stream. Here is the account by John Ashton in Social England Under the Regency (1895) of the Prince Regent’s conservatory and the party: “…the architecture of it is of the most delicate Gothic. …In the front of the Regent’s seat there was a circular basin of water, with an enriched Temple in the centre of it, from whence there was a meandering stream to the bottom of the table, bordered with green banks. Three or four fantastic bridges were thrown over it, one of them with a small tower upon it, which gave the little stream a picturesque appearance. It contained also a number of gold and silver fish. The excellence of design, and exquisiteness of workmanship could not be exceeded; it exhibited a grandeur beyond description; while the many and various purposes for which gold and silver materials were used were equally beautiful and superb in all their minute detail.”

Existing watercolors of the conservatory by Charles Wild (1781-1835), who painted many views of Carlton House, do not show any plants placed to take advantage of the overhead light provided by the glass and iron fan vaulting. These watercolours were published by Rudolph Ackermann in his Repositories of the Arts, beginning in October 1819. The watercolors of Carlton House and other royal residences were re-issued in 1984 by The Vendome Press, ISBN 0-86565-048-9. In Regency Design, however, Steven Parissien shows a view of the Prince Regent’s conservatory with extensive planting along the sides p. 218; also in Morley, p. 787). He also notes that the structure leaked badly and quotes Nash in 1822, “the glazed vaulting was ‘worse than useless as a roof’ and recommended replacing it with plaster.” Leaks or no leaks, Prinny’s conservatory was, as he wished, a trend-setter.

The fanciful orangery at Sezincote, in the Gloucestershire Cotswolds, inspiration for the Brighton Pavilion. Visit Sezincote.

A more modest conservatory was built by the renowned regency architect Sir John Soane at his country home Pitshanger Manor, in Ealing, a suburb of London. Mavis Batey writes, “The breakfast room opened on to a conservatory, which ran the length of the building, with sash windows to the floor, partly of coloured glass. Soane described it as ‘enriched with antique cinerary urns, sepulchral vases, statues…vines and odiferous plants; the whole producing a succession of beautiful effects, particularly when seen by moonlight, or when illuminated and the lawn enriched with company enjoying the delights of cheerful society.'” Despite the difference in scale, it is clear that the conservatories at Carlton House and Pitshanger Manor shared a common element: they were used for entertainment and socializing.

Greenhouses have ancient sources. The Romans, adept at channeling the waters and building for maximum comfort, had many schemes to enhance growing conditions for plants of all kinds. The Roman emperor Tiberius had a sort of greenhouse, called a Specularium, created with mica in small translucent flakes where we would today have glass. Tiberius, it is reported, needed a year-round supply of his favorite food: cucumbers! Further developments in specularia included ducts carrying hot water or cool air, typical of Roman engineering. Among the plants grown in these mica-roofed structures were grapes, peaches and roses.

Orangeries can be seen at many English country houses and on the grounds of several royal palaces im Britain, as well as throughout Europe. Below, the orangery at Belton House, Lincolnshire

A primary motivation for the improvement of greenhouse design was the English penchant for the collection and study of botanic material from all over the globe. The earliest explorers brought back seeds and exotic species. The damp, chill English climate needed some alteration if these new species were to survive and flourish.

Kew Gardens (officially the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew) originally belonged to the royal family. Frederick, Prince of Wales, (son of George II and father of George III) and his wife, Princess Augusta, had a great interest in exotic plants. Their collection is the core of today’s 40,000 varieties of plants at Kew. None of Kew’s hothouses survive from the Georgian period. One regency-era building, the Nash Conservatory, was built at Buckingham Palace in the design of a Greek temple; it was moved to Kew in 1836. Recently fully restored, the Nash Conservatory is used now as a school education center.

By the middle of the 19th century, the popularity of greenhouses had grown exponentially. What’s more, materials became less expensive and more readily available, so greenhouses and growing plants under glass were no longer a pastime only of the wealthy. Small greenhouses and conservatories of many designs were added to middle class Victorian houses. There was also competition by cities and countries to build conservatories as part of grand public parks. These housed exotic, non-native plants as well as common varieties, and remain popular today.

One of the most famous glass buildings in the world was the Crystal Palace, built in London in 1850-51 for the Great Exhibition. Chief architect was Joseph Paxton (1803-65), former gardener to the sixth Duke of Devonshire (the Bachelor Duke). It contained all kinds of exhibits, not only plants. Nonetheless, the design of the Crystal Palace influenced decades worth of greenhouses and conservatories, including the many you can order for your home today.

For her help in finding some interesting sources on this subject, special thanks to Jo Manning.
Among the sources used for this post are:
Batey, Mavis, Regency Gardens, Shire Garden History, 1995, ISBN 0-7478-0289-0.
Hobhouse, Penelope, Gardening Through the Ages, New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992, ISBN 0-671-72887-3.
Parissien, Steven, Regency Style, Washington, D. C.: The Preservation Press, 1992, ISBN 0-89133-172-7
Rogers, Elizabeth Barlow, Landscape Design: A Cultural and Architectural History, New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc. Publishers, 2001, ISBN 0-8109-4253-4.




We have written about Basildon here in the past.  Click here to see our previous post.

Victoria here. This trip in September 2014, my second visit to Basildon, was indeed a delight. Not only was I with a wonderful group on the Duke of Wellington Tour; the National Trust now allows non-flash photographs and I went wild with snapping with both my camera and my phone.

Susan dashed ahead to welcome us from the Piano Nobile Balcony
The East Front
Copper Beech, I assume

Basildon Park was built between 1776 and 1782 by Sir Francis Sykes, created a baronet in 1781. His roots were in Yorkshireand he chose architect John Carr of York (1723–1807) to build his house, a classical Palladian villa with a main block of rooms joined to pavilions on either side. The Sykes fortune was made during his service in India.
Carr had previously worked with Robert Adam, and Adam’s style clearly influenced the Palladian exterior as well as the decor of many rooms in the interior. The house as it stands today is the survivor of multiple owners, periods of abandonment, and occupation by soldiers and war prisoners in World Wars I and II. So it combines dazzling restorations of original features with comfortable furnishings and artwork from the 1950’s when the house was acquired and restored by Lord and Lady Iliffe.

Etruscan panels in the Hall

Above the fireplace


The library opens off the hall, magnificent yet cozy with its scarlet walls and huge book case. Who among us could resist sinking into the sofa with some selections from the shelves?

My corner?

The chimneypiece and other architectural features came from Panton Hall in the 1950’s
 to replace the originals which were lost in a fire in 1946. Panton Hall in Lincolnshire had been remodeled by Carr of York; it was demolished in 1964

Library Mirror

In the center of the house is the grand staircase, and Donna is shown admiring the piano and pianist who entertained us as we roamed the rooms.

Marilyn and others admire the furnishings

Dining Room

In the dining room, more influences of the Adam Brothers are found in the wall decoration.  

The ceiling lunettes and medallions show Roman scenes.
A screen of scagliola columns at one end of the dining room.

At the center back of the house is the Octagon Drawing Room. Venetian windows overlook the park and beyond to the Thames.  

Pier Glass and table
Display of shots from filming of Downton Abbey which used the Octagon Drawing Room to serve as the drawing room of the Grantham House, the family’s London residence. The dining room was also used in DA for ballroom scenes.
Perfect for the center, and quite clearly 20th century.
Kristine and Nancy have been peeking out the windows.

So I had to have a peek too!

Pier glass and table

Adjacent to the Octagon Room is the Green Drawing Room, originally the breakfast room. 

Ceiling medallion in the Green Drawing Room.

A serpentine marquetry commode with marble top shows photos from the Iliffe days.

One of the collection of landscapes in the room

The chimneypiece is original to the house and
 may be the work of sculptor Richard Westmacott the elder

Dried thistles reminded us not to sit on the damask sofa

Cupids play on the panels of this commode

Diagram of the Piano Nobile (1st floor) from Wikipedia

The first floor. 1: The four service courts; 2: Portico and West front; 3: North Pavilion; 4: South Pavilion; 5: Entrance Hall; 6: Staircase Hall; 7: Octagon Drawing Room; 8: Dining Room; 9: Study; 10: Library; 11: Sutherland Room (formerly lady Iliffe’s sitting room); 12: Kitchen (since 1952); 13: larder (?); 14: Green Drawing Room (formerly Breakfast or Small Dining Room).

The balcony above the staircase

The Crimson Bedroom
Lord and Lady Iliffe acquired this state bed form the sale at Ashburnham Place in 1953.
The Spode service on the washstand also comes from Ashburnham

Mahogany Cheval Glass

The Shell Room was probably an upstairs sitting room, now the home of a collection of shells collected by Lord Iliffe’s mother.

Ki admires another tempting bookcase

As befits a grand house of the 1950’s Basildon was equipped with luxurious bathrooms,
 definitely not in the 18th century style.

Wonderful 1950’s kitchen…added by the Iliffes and bringing back childhood memories for many of us;

Susan lags behind as we say farewell to Basildon…but wait! There’s more!

Outside the shop, we found this display of garden ornaments and we all wanted one!  or two!

Not even Susan could figure out a way to get a magical mushroom home for her garden.
This was our bus with out esteemed driver Graham.
Though we were all tired, we had to agree that our day at two excellent houses — Highclere Castle and Basildon — had been worth every ounce of energy!
Onward to Windsor!


Osterley Park
Victoria, here, reporting on the day Kristine and I spent at this jewel in Robert Adam’s architectural crown. Osterley Park is managed by the National Trust and a very good job they do! I had visited the estate several years ago, and this time I was excited to learn that we could take pictures INSIDE.  So, prepare yourselves for a set of interior shots of many rooms. All pictures in this post were tken by me or Kristine, unless otherwise noted.

We could not stop snapping!

Kristine leans in for a close-up

But I am getting ahead of myself!  The approach to the house is suitably dramatic, viewed across a pond laced with water lilies in full bloom.  Queen Elizabeth I visited the first manor house here after its completion in 1676. Thomas Gresham, a wealthy banker, built the house, Another wealthy banker, Sir Francis Child, hired Robert Adam to remodel it in 1761, and the current look – both inside and out – is very much that of the Adam period in all its glory. Adam had one section of the square house replaced with handsome Georgian columns, framing an open courtyard. The great house and estate passed down in the line of the Child banking family. Sarah Sophia Fane inherited the house from her grandfather, Robert Child; she married George Villiers (who added Child to his surname) who became the 5th Earl of Jersey. Thus the house for almost 200 years, belonged to the Earls of Jersey. The  9th earl presented it to the National Trust in the 1940’s.

The Approach
Blooms in the Pond
The Courtyard

Before we go any farther, we’ve written on this blog about Osterley before.

Click here to read about my previous visit and the history of the house.

Read here about The Two Lady Jerseys. 

Click here for the obituary of Lady Jersey, Almack’s patroness, in a Gentleman’s magazine of 1867.

We arrived in time for a curator’s tour, but we had time to take a quick look around before it began.

The Entrance Hall

The Entrance hall has identical alcoves at each end with a fireplace and two classical statues in each.

Entrance Hall
This room was used as a saloon and reception room and occasionally for dining; Adam designed it to replace the original hall demolished for the columned entrance. The colors are subtle and effective in pleasing the eye with their near-monochromatic, soothing effect.
The floor of black marble on white reflects the design in the ceiling, a frequent Adam feature.

Wall designs are classical and yet light, in the rococo manner.
The Eating Room
The large painting between the doors is by Antonio Zucchi (1726-1795) entitled Figures Sporting in a ruined Roman Bath, part of a set of paintings he did, including The Four Continents, above the doors. Twelve mahogany chairs with lyre backs and two arm chairs were designed by Robert Adam and probably made by John Linnell (1729-1796) of London; Linnell executed the designs for the rest of the room’s furnishings as well.  The chairs are placed around the perimeter of the room in the 18th C. manner. Tables of several sizes were kept in the servant’s passages; they could be set up when needed.
The Eating Room
The NT guidebook quotes Agneta Yorke commenting on the sideboard “‘magnificently furnished with plate, and under the Table was a Massy and large silver Cistern’, reminding them of the fact that the Childs were goldsmith bankers and extremely rich.”  The painting, in this slightly blurry picture, is another of Zucchi’s capricci of 1767, Turkish figures dancing among classical ruins.
Pier table topped with antique marble mosaics, one of a pair
both topped by ornate 7-foot tall mirrors
Marble Fireplace, with Doric columns
Painting by Giovanni Battista Cipriani (1727-85) An offering to Ceres

A small group gathered in the Gallery to hear the curators speak about the house, its design and its treasures, its history and the continuing restorations of various rooms both above and below stairs to their appearance when completed by Adam. We found some places to sit, but not, of course, on any of the antique furniture.

The Gallery  photo ©National Trust

The gallery is 130 feet long and faces the garden. It once housed a billiard table and a fortepiano. Henry James described the room as ‘a cheerful upholstered avenue into another century.’ 

A gilt girandole, one of six in the Gallery
Above is one of six mirrored girandoles (ornamental branched candlesticks),  also made by John Linnell for Robert Adam.
Two pairs of Chinese mandarin jars date from 
the reign of the Chinese emperor Qianlong (1736-95)
One of several settees, also part of Linnell’s suite of furniture made for the gallery; the matching chairs can be seen below.
The Marbl
e Fireplace, one of two by Joseph Wilton. 
A copy of the NPG painting of Robert Adam, c. 1770-75; attributed to George Willison

one of the two beautifully gilded floral candelabra above the fireplace

The frieze includes marigolds, the symbols of Childs Bank

The model Chinese Junk is made of Ivory and bone, and comes from Guangzhou, c. 1750

The porcelain pagoda is if a similiar date.
At the conclusion of the curator’s talk, we explored the rest of the house, and what an exploration it was. Our pictures can only give a hint of what it was like, an abundance of magnificent paintings, furniture, rugs…all dazzling to us poor mortals.
Adam’s touch at the doorway of the Drawing room
Ceiling design in the Drawing Room
According to the Guidebook, this ceiling is based on the drawing of the Temple of the Sun in ancient Palmyra, adapted to the rectangular shape of the room.
The Drawing Room   photo ©National Trust
Even while moving from one magnificent room to another, the next two were jaw-dropping in effect.
Horace Walpole thought this room ‘the most superb and beautiful that can be imagined.” We agreed.
Adam designed the ceiling first.
Tapestry Room ceiling  photo ©National Trust
The Tapestry Room
Boucher’s Tapestries were delivered to the house in 1776 from the Gobelins factory in Paris, though run by a Scot, Adam’s countryman.The four large medallions in the tapestries (two seen above) represent the elements: earth, fire, air, and water.
The tapestry medallion above the fireplace is Cupid and Psyche.
The furniture was built by Linnell and upholstered to match the deep rose background of the tapestries.  Similiar tapestries in a drawing room designed by Adam can be seen at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, where the Tapestry Room from Croome Court in Worcestershire now resides. Read more about this room here.  This is the ante-room to the State bedroom, which almost overwhelms the visitor.  Imagine what it would be like to try to sleep in this bed.
The State Bed

Ceiling Medallion by Angelica Kauffman, Aglaia, one of the Three Graces being enslaved by Love

The Fire Board,  in the Etruscan style
Black and Gold Japanned Commode, probably Chippendale
Pier Glass mirror reflecting the State Bed
A repository for the necessary, aka chamber pot

Then, to add to the phenomenal variety of decorative motifs, comes the Etruscan Dressing Room, with designs drawn from ancient Etruscan vases discovered in Italy.  These designs were eagerly adopted into architectural decor and into popular patterns manufactured by Josiah Wedgwood and others in the mid 18th Century.

The Etruscan Dressing Room

Ceiling of the Etruscan Dressing Room

Fire Screen designed by Adam and embroidered by Mrs. Child
View towards the windows, Etruscan Dressing Room
The crest of the pier-glass is painted to match the medallions on the walls. The japanned commode is another attributed to Chippendale.
The Great Stair

The north side of the house is less dramatic that the south side where the State rooms are.  The library looks exactly like the kind of place we need for our most capable work.  What are the chances?

The Library
The painting above the mantel is by Antonio Zucchi (1726-95)  Virgil reading his works to Augustus and Octavia
Think of the work you could do at this desk! What a joy.

The last room on the north side, formerly known as the Breakfast Room, was under renovation. We found it fascinating to see a work in progress.

In the room were several beautiful pieces of what appeared to me to be valuable oriental-style furniture. No explanation was given for the state of the room or the random placement of these items. Guess I’ll just have to go back and see what happened!!

We have much more to tell you about Osterley — below stairs, the farm market and the horses. Come back soon!