Ten of the Best Georgian Stately Homes
by Rebecca Winward (August 2012)
The 18th century was a time of extreme luxury for the haves (though sadly often at the expense of the have-nots), and consequently the period's architectural legacy is quite astounding. Thanks to influence of the sights seen while on their Grand Tour, the aristocracy of the age developed a taste for a myriad of European styles, and many commissioned the building of new family seats in the Baroque, Palladian, Rococo, Neo-Classical, Greek revival or Italianate manner. Breathtaking interiors, elegant facades and stunning formal gardens can be seen at Georgian country houses all around Great Britain, but here's my pick of the best ones to visit...
Showing below are all 10 records in "Ten of the Best Georgian Stately Homes"
The Rotunda, Horringer, Bury St Edmunds
You know you're in for a treat when the blurb states that a property was built by an eccentric aristocrat, and Ickworth doesn't disappoint. An architectural wonder, boasting an imposing central rotunda and curved corridors, this striking edifice was the original party pad for the 4th Earl of Bristol, who was a complete Italophile. Highlights include a magnificent Georgian silver collection, an upstairs/downstairs exhibition, and a walled garden, complete with its own vineyard.
Middle Claydon, Buckingham
Boasting what are said to be the most ambitious and lavish interiors ever created in the 18th century, you won't be surprised to hear that Claydon House was something of a vanity project for Sir Ralph Verney, who set about this ambitious build back in the 1750s. Thirty years later he was facing financial ruin, but the resulting property is as impressive as he had intended. Don't miss the striking Chinoiserie room, and the parquet staircase that is so precious no-one is allowed to use it.
Commissioned by the 1st Earl Somers and built in the Norman Revival style, this 200-year-old castle looks like something right out of a fairytale. The Red Hall, Dining Room and Staircase Hall feature original 18th century interiors, while the Drawing Room was redesigned in 1849 by Pugin - most famous for his designs for the Houses of Parliament - in the High Gothic Style. Gaze in wonder at the Mediaeval-inspired interiors, collections of armour and fine art, and make sure you visit the special bicentenary exhibition.
Billed as one of the finest 18th century Palladian houses in Britain, Paxton House was built to a design by eminent Georgian architect John Adam. With 12 rooms decorated in his characteristic style, you'll find within them a superb collection of Chippendale and Trotter furniture, while other highlights include a world-class collection of 18th century men's costume, and the largest private picture gallery of any private house in Scotland.
An elegant stately home featuring fine Robert Adam interiors, Saltram House is one of Britain's best-preserved examples of an early Georgian mansion - so no wonder it was chosen as one of the locations used to shoot the 1995 film Sense & Sensibility. The property actually dates back to Tudor times, but thanks to judicious remodelling in the 18th century a Palladian facade is in evidence. The interiors were similarly redesigned, and boast delicate Rococo plasterwork, original 18th century Chinese wallpaper, and a superb collection of period furnishings.
Once occupied by the great lady who provided the inspiration for Downton Abbey's Lady Grantham, and one of the locations used for filming the Keira Knightley film The Duchess, Kedleston Hall is a stunning Neo-Classical mansion surrounded by historic parkland. Must-sees include the state rooms - one of the most complete sequences of Robert Adam interiors in England - the Colonial treasures of the Eastern Museum, and the superb original collection of paintings and sculpture.
With its striking Italianate looks, West Wycombe Park is one of the most theatrical Georgian houses in England, and its unique facade has graced the small screen on TV period dramas including Little Dorrit, Cranford, and Downton Abbey. The home of the notorious Hell-Fire Club - an exclusive club for high society gentlemen - this stately abode is the ancestral home of the Dashwood Family, whose ancestor Sir Francis Dashwood commissioned both the house and the landscaped Rococo gardens.
To see a stunning example of the Baroque style, visit Beningbrough Hall. Built in 1716 for John Bourchier, the fashionable red-brick edifice echoes many of the features of a Baroque Roman palace - unsurprisingly, it was created shortly after its owner's return from his Grand Tour. Highlights include the National Portrait Gallery's 18th-century collection including the interactive 'Making Faces' galleries (great for children!), picturesque Italianate gardens, and a fully-equipped Victorian laundry.
Built by Britain's first Prime Minister, Sir Robert Walpole, Houghton Hall is a Palladian mansion designed by a succession of architects - James Gibbs, Colin Campbell, and William Kent. The foundation stone was laid in 1722, the same year that Walpole took up this new and important office. Make sure you marvel over the Inigo Jones-inspired double-height hall with a gallery and award-winning garden, then take a peek at the model soldier collection.
Jersey Road, Isleworth
Originally a Tudor mansion, Osterley Park was transformed into a Neo-Classical villa by Robert Adam in the mid 18th century - though more recently it was (temporarily) transformed into Wayne Manor, during the filming of the latest Batman film, The Dark Knight Rises. Once described as the 'palace of palaces', like many such properties it was designed to impress and entertain friends and clients. Don't miss the 130-foot Long Gallery, the 'below stairs' area for a glimpse of 18th century domestic life, and the beautiful Pleasure Gardens.
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