Sunday, 26 May 2019

(377) Baring of Stratton Park, Barons Northbrook and Earls of Northbrook - part 1

Baring family, Earls of Northbrook
This is the fourth of five posts about the various branches of the Baring family. For an introduction showing how they connect, please see the first post in the sequence. This post has been divided into two parts because of its length. This first part provides the introduction and gives an account of the houses associated with the senior line of the Baring family. The second part discusses the houses associated with the cadet branch descended from the Rt. Rev. Charles Baring (1807-79) and sets out my account of the genealogy of both these branches of the family.

The founder of the Baring family in England was Johann Baring (1697-1748), who emigrated from Germany to England in 1717. He came as an apprentice to an Exeter wool merchant, decided to stay, and was naturalised in 1723, thereafter using the Anglicised form of his name, John. In 1729 he married a local heiress, and he built a business as a cloth merchant before his premature death in 1748. In 1737 he bought an ancient castellated house called Larkbeare on the edge of the city and remodelled it with an elegant new Georgian front; a fragment of the house survives, but all trace of Georgian elegance has long since gone.
Larkbeare House: the front constructed c.1740 for Johann
Baring. Image: Devon County Council.
When Johann died, his children were all minors, and the business was taken on by his widow, a determined and severe lady who turned the £40,000 Johann left at his death into £70,000 by her own death in 1766. This sum provided the foundation capital on which Johann's three surviving sons - John, Francis and Charles - built the business which evolved into Barings Bank. From 1762 the three men entered into a complex partnership arrangement. John and Charles were partners in the original cloth manufacturing and marketing business in Exeter, and John and Francis were partners in a merchant house in London. Francis in London and Charles in Exeter were the active partners; John only a 'sleeping partner'. As the eldest son he had inherited most of the family wealth, and he put his capital into the Exeter and London businesses but took little active part in their management. The experience of the two firms was very different. Charles Baring (1742-1829), who was catapulted into the management of the established Exeter firm very young and with little business experience, was cocky and made rash decisions that did not work out, and he had constantly to be bailed out by his brothers. Francis Baring (1740-1810), after some difficult early years, rapidly expanded from agency work for Exeter merchants in London to create one of the first international merchant banks, carrying out difficult and risky financial operations on an unprecedented scale. His clients came quickly to include the British, American and French governments as well as private firms. John Baring (1730-1816), the most relaxed of the three brothers, became MP for Exeter and enjoyed a gentry lifestyle at Mount Radford, the house he built for himself next door to Larkbeare.

By the 1790s, Francis Baring was 'the first merchant in Europe' and was also a Member of Parliament. He provided mercantile advice to successive Prime Ministers of both parties (Lord Lansdowne and William Pitt), and in 1793 he was raised to a baronetcy. During the Napoleonic Wars, when Barings helped the British government raise vast sums for the war effort, he made huge profits, and when he died in 1810 he was worth at least £500,000. It is no surprise, therefore, to find that he had invested in property: first Camden House at Beddington (Surrey); then the more elegant Lee Manor House at Lee Green near Lewisham (Kent); and finally, in 1801, the 9,000 acre Stratton Park estate in Hampshire, where much of the house had recently been demolished and he was obliged to undertake a major remodelling to provide a house consistent with the scale of the estate.

When Sir Francis Baring died in 1810 he was succeeded as head of the family by his eldest son, Sir Thomas Baring (1772-1848), 2nd bt., who was a partner in the bank for some years but soon showed that his heart was not in the world of commerce. His inheritance from his father was large enough that he had no need to work, and he devoted his life to politics and the collecting of pictures. It was Sir Francis' second son, Alexander Baring (1773-1848), later 1st Baron Ashburton [whose family will be the subject of my last post on the Barings], who displayed the aptitude and commitment required to manage the bank successfully, and who became its moving spirit. This set the pattern for the bank for well over a hundred years: while they could almost always find a role for descendants of the original partners, especially those with the Baring name, progression beyond a mere clerkship would be exclusively on merit and commitment, and leadership of the bank moved from one branch of the family to another over time as a result; it did not descend, like their real estate, from father to son. The bank could not afford to be let down by people in senior roles who did not pull their weight, and successive senior partners agonised over who in the rising generation were most deserving of encouragement and opportunities. The key to the success of the bank was that the family threw up in every generation at least one man of exceptional ability who could be trusted to run it; only in the late 19th century with Edward Charles Baring, 1st Baron Revelstoke, did that trust prove to have been misplaced.  

Sir Thomas Baring, 2nd bt., was succeeded at Stratton Park by his son, Sir Francis Thornhill Baring (1796-1866), 3rd bt., who possessed the family's crisp intelligence. He went to Oxford and took a double first, and then trained as a barrister at Lincoln's Inn. He headed, however, not for the bank but for Whig politics, and his marriage to a niece of Lord Grey, the Prime Minister who steered the Great Reform Act through Parliament, ensured his entrée to Government. A man of high principles and rigid views, however, he was in the last analysis perhaps not sufficiently pragmatic for the higher reaches of politics. The apex of his career was a term as Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1839-41, which ended when a miscalculation on his part resulted in a vote of no confidence in the Government. Although several subsequent Prime Ministers tried to persuade him to return to the Treasury, he had felt the twitch of his tether and always refused, although he did serve as First Lord of the Admiralty under Lord John Russell. He also twice refused the offer of a peerage, but in 1866, after retiring from the Commons he finally accepted a third offer, and became Baron Northbrook a few months before his death.

His son and successor at Stratton Park was Thomas George Baring (1826-1904), who succeeded him as 2nd Baron Northbrook. His father had sought to prepare him carefully for a political career, by placing him as private secretary with a succession of relatives who were in Government, so that he gained broad and diverse experience. He became an MP in 1857 and was at once brought into the government. He had two periods as Under-Secretary of State for India before his elevation to the Lords, and in 1872 he was reluctantly persuaded to become Viceroy of India. In India, he ran a notably liberal regime, with the support of his kinsman Evelyn Baring (later 1st Earl of Cromer), believing that the Indians could and should play a much greater part in their own Government. With a Conservative government in power in England and an institutionally racist view of the abilities of the Indians among his civil servants, however, he met continual opposition to his reforms and was in the end limited in what he could achieve. Back in England, he founded a club in London for Indian students who came to England to attend the universities or train for the professions, and continued to support it for the rest of his life. As an outgoing Viceroy, he was advanced in the peerage to be Earl of Northbrook and Viscount Baring in 1876, and he went on to be First Lord of the Admiralty, 1880-85. His commitment to public service continued into old age, and he was Lord Lieutenant of Hampshire from 1892, and Chairman of Hampshire County Council from 1894, until his death.

The 1st Earl's only surviving son, Thomas George Baring (1850-1929), 2nd Earl of Northbrook, was less academically inclined than his father and did not aspire to high political office. He had a spell in the army, but retired from that on becoming an MP in 1880. He did not seek re-election after 1892, and seems to have travelled extensively on the continent in the mid-1890s, where he had an affair with a married woman which ended up with his being cited as co-respondent in the divorce courts. Once the divorce went through, he married his lover, but unfortunately she developed sunstroke on her wedding day and died four weeks later. He married again in 1899 but he and his second wife had no children. After he succeeded to the Earldom and the estates, he took over from his father as Chairman of Hampshire County Council and held that office until shortly before his death, apparently being regarded on all sides as a great success in the role. His chief interest, apparent from local government, was in farming his estate. Money was tighter than it had been for his father, and he sold both a major part of the picture collection from Stratton Park (in 1904) and outlying parts of the estate (in 1920), but the core of the property was intact and in good heart at the time of his death.

With no sons or nephews to succeed him, the Earldom became extinct in 1929, but the original Northbrook barony survived, passing to the 2nd Earl's second cousin, Francis Arthur Baring (1882-1947), who became 4th Baron Northbrook. Stratton Park was sold with its remaining 2,300 acres in 1930 and the house became a girls' school until the eve of the Second World War, while much of the fine timber in the park was cut down. In 1939, however, it was bought by Barings Bank, which used the house as its headquarters for the duration of the war, and no doubt found it convenient that the Bank of England was located nearby, at Cranbury Park.

The new Lord Northbrook was the eldest son of the Hon. Francis Henry Baring (1850-1915), a younger son of the 1st Baron. F.H. Baring was an academically able man, who had become a partner of Barings Bank before the crisis of 1890, and had built himself a substantial house (Banstead Wood) in Surrey to the designs of Norman Shaw in the 1880s. His wealth was all wiped out by the crisis of 1890, however, and Banstead Wood had to be sold. He became a director of the limited company which rose from the ashes of the old partnership, and was its titular head from 1891-1901, a period in which he played a significant role in ironing out the legal difficulties the firm faced in settling the affairs of its predecessor. The new firm rapidly rebuilt its reputation and profits, and he was worth nearly three-quarters of a million pounds at his death in 1915. His eldest son, who became the 4th Lord Northbrook in 1929, had no ambitions to join the bank, and in 1913 purchased a small estate at West Meon (Hants) which had previously formed an outlying portion of the Basing Park estate. It had no great house, but the principal farmhouse, Woodlands Farm, became his home. On his death in 1947 this property and the peerage descended to his only son, Francis John Baring (1915-90), 5th Baron Northbrook. When Barings Bank decided to sell Stratton Park in the 1950s, the 5th Baron took the opportunity to buy back what was left of the estate, but he did not want the house, which was sold instead to his kinsman, the Hon. John Baring (later 7th Baron Ashburton), who demolished all of the house except the portico and built a smaller modern house on the site. The 5th Baron made his home at East Stratton House, a secondary dwelling on the estate, and Woodlands Farm at West Meon was occupied by his unmarried sister, the Hon. Anne Baring.

The 5th Baron died in 1990 and was succeeded by Francis Thomas Baring (b. 1954), 6th Baron Northbrook, the present peer, who inherited both the Stratton and Woodlands estates. In 1995 he greatly enlarged Woodlands Farm to make a new principal residence for the family, but in 2005 it suffered a major fire. The opportunity was taken to replace the old house with a new classical mansion, designed by Christopher Smallwood, which was built in 2009-10, and which makes a centre of appropriate consequence for the combined estates. Lord Northbrook has three daughters but no sons, so there is now no heir to his peerage; the family baronetcy, however, does still have an heir, in the person of his fourth cousin, Peter Baring, who is mentioned further below.

We must now turn out attention back to the younger sons of Sir Thomas Baring (1772-1848), 2nd bt. While his eldest son entered politics and became a peer, it was again the second son, Thomas Baring (1799-1873) who went into the bank and made a substantial fortune. His story has already been told in my account of the Barings of Norman Court, since he inherited that house in 1853. Sir Thomas' third son was John Baring (1801-88), who after gaining some business experience in America, also became a partner in the bank from 1828-37. He did not find banking congenial, however, and having built a capital of £180,000 he decided to retire. He bought - or rather, for reasons which are obscure, his father bought for him - a house called Oakwood in Sussex, which was close to Chichester but also not far away from his relatives in Hampshire. He was briefly married in the 1840s, but after his wife died he lived a quiet bachelor existence and devoted his surplus income to helping the poor.

Sir Thomas' fourth son was the Rt. Rev. Charles Baring (1807-79), an evangelical clergyman who became Bishop of Gloucester & Bristol in 1856 and was translated to Durham in 1861. He both built himself a new house in Gloucestershire called The Highlands and commissioned the building of a new bishop's palace in Gloucester itself, although he did not remain in post long enough to enjoy the first for very long or to see the later completed. Not long after he sold The Highlands, the house partially collapsed and had to be rebuilt by the new owners: it proved to have been built on a steep and unstable slope. The Bishop left two sons, one of whom was a clergyman who spent a good deal of his life in India. The elder, Thomas Charles Baring (1831-91) entered Barings Bank and was the last member of the firm to combine a partnership with a political career, becoming MP for South Essex and later for the City of London. He retired from Barings before the crisis of 1890 and had taken most of his money out of the firm by time it hit, so he was not financially affected as much as many others. He helped to establish the new company that was set up after the crisis, but died before it had been operating for very long. He was exceptionally generous to both his old school and his old university, but he seems to have been a grumpy man with little use for the social civilities. He bought Wallsgrove House on the edge of Epping Forest (Essex) which was then a fairly ordinary large villa but has been treated rather extraordinarily since. He left two sons, the elder of whom, Harold Herman John Baring (1869-1927) entered Barings but never made it to a partnership, on account of being addicted to gambling. He did, however, cut a considerable figure in Society, where his American wife became a noted hostess. They had no children and Wallsgrove House was sold after his death. His younger brother, Godfrey Nigel Everard Baring (1870-1934) was addicted to hunting, and he and his wife lived in Ireland for many years before moving to a rented house in Leicestershire. Their son, Desmond Charles Nigel Baring (1914-91), after a number of brushes with the law on account of furious driving, settled down and leased a fine 18th century house in Berkshire called Ardington House from 1939. He bought the freehold in 1960 and soon afterwards added a tactfully unassertive kitchen wing. His son Nigel (b. 1940) took over the management of the house and estate, and in 2012 handed it on in turn to his son, Lorne Baring (b. 1970).

Mount Radford, Exeter, Devonshire

Mount Radford, Exeter: engraving of the house as first built, published in 1832.

Mount Radford was a large villa on the south-eastern outskirts of the city of Exeter. According to the 17th century historian, Sir William Pole, "Uppon a little ascending hill did Lawrence Radford Esqr. bwild hym a fayre howse & called it Mount Radford" in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I (1558-1603). The appearance of this house seems to be unrecorded, but may have been quite modest. The house was fortified by the Royalists as part of the defences of Exeter during the Civil War, and as a result may well have needed repairs or alteration after the Restoration, but it was evidently still an essentially Elizabethan house when it was bought by John Baring (1730-1816) in 1755. The house stood next door to Larkbeare, where he had been brought up, and where his mother then still lived. He seems at once to have rebuilt Mount Radford as a nine-bay, three-storey house with quoins at the angles and a central pediment, and he moved into the house in 1757. In 1770 he bought the adjoining manors, so that he came to own almost the whole of St. Leonard's parish. The house may have had from the first a colonnade across the central three bays, but this was extended to either side around 1830. Nothing seems to be recorded of the interior of the house. The Baring family sold the property in 1826 for use as a school, known as Mount Radford College, and development of the estate began soon afterwards, but the house itself survived in school use until 1902.  In that year the house and its remaining grounds were sold for housing development, and Mount Radford was demolished. The school continued to exist for many years in another building nearby.

Descent: built for Lawrence Radford; to son, Arthur Radford, who sold to Edward Hancock MP (c.1560-1603) of Combe Martin (Devon); to widow, who married Sir John Doddridge; sold 1614 to Nicholas Duck MP (1570-1628) of Heavitree, Recorder of Exeter; to son, Richard Duck (1603-56); to son, Nicholas Duck (1630-67); to son Richard Duck (1657-95) to widow (d. 1723)... sold to John Colesworthy (fl. 1755); sold 1755 after his bankruptcy to John Baring (1730-1816); to son, John Baring (1760-1837), who sold to his cousin, Sir Thomas Baring (1772-1848), 2nd bt.; sold 1826 for use as a school; demolished 1902.

Courtlands, Exmouth, Devonshire

A farmhouse on this site was acquired by Charles Baring (1742-1829) in the 1760s and rebuilt as 'an elegant spacious mansion... about the year 1800'. It must have been built in a rare moment of prosperity, but he was obliged to sell it soon afterwards. Although the house has been much altered and added to by later owners, the original two-storey Regency villa is still clearly apparent. 

Courtlands, Exmouth (now Lympstone Manor): the garden front

It was built of rendered brick, and has a high parapet which conceals the roof. The entrance front and side elevation are of five bays, but the garden front to the rear has six bays; a rather later ironwork veranda runs the whole width of the garden front and continues around the side elevation. On the entrance front, a heavy Italianate stone portico was added in the later 19th century, presumably for Octavius Browne, and probably at the same time the windows on the entrance front were given stone architraves in a matching taste. The service wing was extended to the east, and given an Italianate tower, and a large single-storey billiard room with a bay window and a 41-ft conservatory were added (the latter having since been demolished). The interior has been a good deal altered as well, but the drawing room retains its original chimneypiece and the dining room retains a fairly intact 19th century decorative scheme in an 18th century taste. The house was divided into four apartments, and three new houses were built in the grounds, in the early 21st century, before in 2006 it became a conference and wedding venue. In 2014 it was acquired by the celebrity chef and entrepreneur, Michael Caines, who has restored the house and added a new wing to form a luxury hotel and restaurant now known as Lympstone Manor.

Descent: sold c.1765 to Charles Baring (1742-1829), who rebuilt it c.1800; sold c.1804 to Lambert Blair (d. 1815); sold 1809 to Sir Walter Roberts, bt; sold c.1828 to William Francis Spicer (1763-1853); to great-nephew, Richard Heaviside (later Richard William Spicer); sold 1861 to Octavius Browne (1809-76); to widow, Martha Browne; sold 1885 to William Lethbridge (1825-1901); to sister, Mary Martha Lethbridge, who sold c.1902 to Mrs Mary Bridget Johnston (1840-1908); to cousin, Gen. Sir George Luck (1840-1916), who leased to tenants and then sold in 1923 to Sir Thomas Garbutt Knott (1879-1949); sold to Robshaw family... Simon Robshaw; sold 2006; sold 2014 to Michael Caines.

Lee Manor House, Lewisham, Kent

Lee Manor House, Lewisham: the entrance front. Image: Stephen Craven. Some rights reserved.

A surprisingly little-altered suburban villa - in the 18th century sense - which was designed by Richard Jupp and built in 1771-72 for Thomas Lucas, a West India merchant who was president of Guy's Hospital. The house is built of yellow brick with white stone used for the rusticated basement and rather original entablature decorated with neo-classical swags. The entrance front is of five bays and two storeys above the basement, with the central three bays projecting slightly and rising an extra half-storey above the entablature as an attic. In the centre is a four-column single-storey porch, and to either side are lower two-bay wings. 

Lee Manor House, Lewisham: garden front. Image: Historic England.
On the garden front, where the fall of the land means the basement is more exposed, the central three bays are formed into a shallow curved bow rising the full height of the house and continuing into the attic storey. The interior has been more seriously altered to accommodate local authority use since 1898, first as a nursery and later as a public library. The original staircase was removed in about 1932, but the generous staircase hall retains a screen of columns on the ground floor and another, carrying groin vaults, on the first floor. Other rooms have pretty plasterwork, especially a ceiling in the Adam style in the ground-floor room behind the bow window. Most of the grounds became a public park at the end of the 19th century, but an ice house survives in a private garden.

Descent: estate assembled from c.1745 by William Coleman (d. 1771); to nephew, Thomas Lucas (c.1720-84); to widow, Eliza (c.1748-1800), later wife of John Julius Angerstein (c.1732-1823), who sold c.1796 to Sir Francis Baring (1740-1810), 1st bt.; to son, Sir Thomas Baring (1772-1848), 2nd bt.; to son, Sir Francis Thornhill Baring (1796-1866), 3rd bt. and 1st Baron Northbrook; to son, Thomas George Baring (1826-1904), 2nd Baron & 1st Earl of Northbrook; sold 1898 to Lewisham Metropolitan Borough Council; transferred 1965 to London Borough of Lewisham. The house was let from c.1806-1820s to John Perkins (d. 1812) and his son Frederick Perkins (1780-1860), who were partners in the Barclay Perkins brewery. It was let again from c.1850 to Harry Burrard Farnall (d. 1883), a civil servant, and Henry Wolfram, who ran it as a military crammer.

Stratton Park, East Stratton, Hampshire

East and West Stratton and Micheldever were possessions of Hyde Abbey at Winchester in the medieval period and passed into the hands of the Crown at the dissolution of the monastery in 1538. The estate was bought in 1544-46 by the 1st Earl of Southampton, who had already built a house at Micheldever in the 1530s on a site he leased from Hyde Abbey, and this probably remained the centre of the estate until the 17th century. Later earls made their principal seat at Titchfield Abbey (Hants) and the first building on the site of Stratton Park about which anything is known was built or remodelled for Thomas Wriothesley, 4th Earl of Southampton, who came of age in 1629 and is said to have made Stratton Park one of his chief seats. No view seems to be known of this house, but it is intriguing to speculate whether it might have shared the innovative astylar classicism of Southampton House in Bloomsbury, which the Earl began in 1638-42, although it was left unfinished and not repaired and completed until after the Restoration, in 1660-63.
Southampton House (later Bedford House), London in the late 17th century.
Southampton House is thought to have been designed by Inigo Jones or someone in his immediate circle such as John Webb (with whose later work at Lamport Hall and elsewhere it has a good deal in common), and it seems quite plausible that the same architect was involved in building Lord Southampton's country house. 
This arrangement was certainly the case in the 18th century, when the 3rd and 4th Dukes of Bedford rebuilt or remodelled Stratton Park as a Palladian mansion to the designs of John Sanderson (d. 1774) in 1731-39 and while work was in progress there employed him to add a wing and remodel the interior of what had now become Bedford House in London; he also made designs for the Duke's principal seat of Woburn Abbey. 

Stratton Park: elevation of the house from Vitruvius Britannicus, 1767.

The fourth volume of Vitruvius Britannicus, published by Woolfe and Gandon in 1767, gives an elevation, section and plan of the piano nobile of the house designed by John Sanderson. It had an immensely long fifteen-bay south front with a tall first floor set above a low basement, but only the projecting three bay porticoed centre had an attic storey, crowned by a pediment with a carved achievement of the Bedford arms. On the first floor the windows had architraves and carried alternating triangular and segmental pediments; in the basement they had simple rusticated surrounds and stepped keystones. At either end of the facade wider single bays with a Venetian window on the first floor were stepped slightly forward of the wall plane. These marked the ends of long wings that projected much further on the north side. The thirteen-bay centre between the wings was a double pile, with the entrance hall and saloon placed back-to-back in the centre, but with a vaulted corridor separating the rooms on the entrance and rear elevations to either side. On the east side, this corridor ran all the way through to the great gallery (100 x 23 feet) in the east wing, but on the west side the corridor was shorter. This is one of several indications that the whole of the west wing and the part of the house adjoining it, which formed the main bedroom accommodation in the 18th century, was actually a remodelling of the mid 17th century house, and a tradition that this was the case was recorded in the 19th century. 

Stratton Park: plan of the principal floor from Vitruvius Britannicus, 1767.
Stratton Park: section through the hall and saloon, showing the Palladian decoration, from Vitruvius Britannicus, 1767.

The basement level of Sanderson's house, which contained the service accommodation, was partly vaulted, and in the centre was a basement entrance hall supported on Doric columns. The main entrance to the house was approached by a double stair under the portico, and led into a splendid hall occupying both the first floor and the attic above, that formed a 38 foot cube with a coved ceiling and Corinthian pilasters set around the walls. Behind the hall and entered directly from it, was the saloon of the house (26 x 24 feet), which projected in the centre of the north front and had an exit to the garden linked by a narrow bridge over the area to a straight flight of steps. The interior of the saloon was decorated equally as grandly as the entrance hall, with a pair of matching chimneypieces and overmantels carrying scrolled broken pediments in the west wall, separated by plaster panels with Rococo drops from a Corinthian doorcase with full entablature carrying a broken triangular pediment. To the right of the entrance hall there was a state apartment, consisting of an ante-room, bedchamber, closet and cabinet. An enfillade linked all the rooms on the south front and another all those between the wings on the north front.
Stratton Park: Palladian chimneypiece surviving in the
house in 1960. Image: Historic England.
Less is known about the use or decoration of the other main rooms, but a comparison with Sanderson's other buildings suggests they would have continued the Palladian and Rococo themes of the hall and saloon. A Palladian chimneypiece that survived in the house until 1960 was evidently a survivor from the Sanderson house, and another, in a more Rococo taste, that is said to have been moved in the 1850s from Stratton to Kames Castle on the Isle of Bute, was for sale through Crowthers of Syon Lodge in 1990.

At some point before his death in 1771, the 4th Duke is said to have demolished rather more than half of the house he had built at Stratton, including the portico, lest its competing charms should cause his successors to neglect Woburn Abbey, the ancient seat of the Russells, which he had largely rebuilt even more recently, and which was now the apple of his eye. This act of vandalism left Stratton Park as an L-shaped block that was little more than a hunting box, with no front door: a library window was hurriedly adapted as the main entrance. This reduced house was bought in 1801 by Sir Francis Baring, 1st bt, the founder of the merchant bank which bore his name. Humphry Repton visited in 1803 and produced designs for a new house and garden. His scheme for the house does not seem to have met with favour, but some of his proposals for landscaping were evidently adopted.  For the house, Sir Francis turned instead to George Dance, who began work on designs for remodelling the house in 1803, with work being nearly complete in 1806, at a cost of some £25,000.  Dance's drawings for the project survive (in the Soane Museum) and show him working out his ideas. He used the plan from Vitruvius Britannicus of the old house as a base on which to draw his initial proposals and it enables us to see clearly how the two houses relate to one another. 

Stratton Park: the house from the south-east, photographed by William Savage in 1867. The hatchment over the porch commemorates the 1st Baron Northbrook, who died in 1866. Image: Hampshire Cultural Trust.
Although the house Dance created was large, it was still only two-thirds the size of its predecessor. It was decided early on to create a new portico, but one that rose from ground level and did not stand on a basement. It gave entrance directly into a lofty hall containing a double stair which took visitors up to the principal rooms on the first floor. An early idea that the columns of the portico should be fluted and that an existing Venetian window should be retained and duplicated in the elevation were quickly abandoned in favour of a Greek Doric treatment of singular severity.
Stratton Park: entrance hall and staircase.
Image: Historic England.
The entrance hall was only slightly less severe, with the lower walls of stone with horizontal rustication, and a double stair rising to a first-floor landing screened by columns with Ionic capitals taken from Stuart & Revett's drawings of the Temple on the Ilyssus. The landing formed part of a wide passage leading on the east to what Dance called a 'hall of communication', off which opened all his new reception rooms: a library and drawing room in the east wing; a breakfast room facing south, next to the portico, and a dining room in the centre of the north front. On the west the passage led to a secondary staircase up to the bedrooms on the attic floor. The early designs show that it was originally intended to have an ante room between the drawing room and library, but in the house as built this was omitted in favour of an enlarged drawing room, which was plainly decorated, with the walls left plain for the hanging of the picture collection which Sir Francis and his son Sir Thomas rapidly built up. The collection included a vast canvas by the scene painter Philip de Loutherberg of the Great Fire of London, painted in 1797, which may have hung in this room. The 'hall of communication' was much more richly treated than the drawing room, with an elliptical barrel vault, marbled walls, a tripartite window flanked by niches, and a striking chimneypiece and doorcases, the former being derived from Piranesi's
Diverse Maniere d'Adornare i Cammini (1769). The best room at Stratton was the library, lined for two-thirds of its height with bookshelves, over which were set monochrome classical scenes. The decoration was in rich sepia tones, with the ornamentation picked out in gold.

Stratton Park: the library was the most elaborately decorated interior. Image: Historic England.

Stratton Park became one of Dance's most valuable commissions not just because of the extensive work on the house, but because he was also called upon to design a range of ancillary buildings. Domestic offices and extensive stable accommodation were built to the west of the house; the L-shaped stable block was partly demolished in the 1960s but subsequently reinstated and divided into houses.
Stratton Park: Winchester Lodge in 1867. Image: Hampshire Cultural Trust
Dance also built a plain single-storey lodge cottage at the end of the Winchester drive, which was later remodelled and given a Doric porch, but for the main entrance off the London road he designed a more imposing arrangement, with a pair of widely spaced lodges linked by curved walls to a central gateway of faintly Indian design, reminiscent of his elevations at Coleorton Hall (which was completed just as work at Stratton was beginning). In 1806 he moved on to the village, where he designed nine pairs of semi-detached thatched brick and timber cottages with sliding sash windows, and to remodelling Micheldever church, where he rebuilt the nave in the form of an octagon of pointed arches, an original and successful design. In 1810, the Gothic Survival church built in 1677 for Lord Russell at the south end of Stratton Park was demolished and rebuilt, but this time Dance does not seem to have been involved, and Sir Francis Baring apparently supplied the design himself. This building was itself demolished when the present parish church was built to the designs of T.G. Jackson in 1887-88; a stone cross erected by Jackson in 1890 marks the site. George Dance created a remarkable rock garden north of the house, of which nothing now survives. Later in the 19th century, a broad lawned terrace with a ha-ha to the south was created around the house, with gateways at each end. Gertrude Jekyll designed a planting scheme for the raised border to the right of the house in 1895. There were flower gardens on both sides of the house in 1908 with many fine oaks, yews, beeches in the parkland including a fine avenue of trees following the original line of the main road which Sir Francis had diverted to the west in the course of his improvements.

The interior of the house was subjected to further changes in the 1840s and around 1900, when Adam-style chimneypieces and doorcases were introduced into some of the principal rooms (although the library and staircase hall remained largely unaltered). Parkhill Lodge, between the two earlier lodges, was built in neo-Tudor style in the 1840s, probably to serve a new drive built for access to Micheldever railway station. A major sale of pictures from Stratton Park took place in 1904, which it is said realised £200,000, but the house remained in the possession of the Baring family until the death of Francis George Baring (1850-1929), 2nd Earl of Northbrook. The house was then sold to Miss James, who moved her school for girls here from The Vyne, and it operated as a school until the eve of the Second World War. In 1939 the house and estate were bought by Barings Bank, who moved their banking operations to the house for the duration. In the early 1950s, the Bank sold the estate back to the 5th Baron Northbrook, but the house was sold separately to his cousin, the Hon. John Baring (b. 1928; now the 7th Baron Ashburton). Tragically, he demolished it - except for the magnificent Paestum-inspired portico - in 1960 or 1961. The house was not generally in bad condition, though it had suffered an outbreak of dry rot, but it was rather large for post-war needs: by one account it had 54 bedrooms, a tally which must have included all the servants' rooms in the service wing. A much less drastic trimming of redundant domestic offices could have made the house manageable, but John Baring, who went on to pull down and rebuild the Bank's historic offices in Bishopsgate, and who tried to demolish his own family's house at The Grange, Northington in the 1970s, attracted the soubriquet 'Basher Baring' for his cavalier attitude to historic buildings, and at this date the house would not have been protected from demolition even if had been listed, which, remarkably, it was not.

Stratton Park: the surviving portico and the new house built in 1963-65. Image: Tom Scott/BNPS Agency
To replace Dance's house, a much smaller replacement was built on the site in 1963-65 by Stephen Gardiner and Christopher Knight, with interior decoration by Bill McCarty. It is a rare example of a serious attempt to create a building of country house scale and luxury within the Modernist tradition, and it attracted a great deal of critical attention when it was first built. The retained portico was used effectively to create a dramatic setting for the new house, which is separated from it by a rectangular reflecting pool that continues under the house and appears again on the north side. The house is formed of two blocks, respectively for family and entertaining use, which are linked by a central entrance hall. The entertaining block consists of a brick ground floor containing guest bedrooms and above it a steel-framed and continuously glazed first-floor drawing room, which opens into a double-height conservatory space containing a bridge across the pool to the main staircase. The architects intended the drama of the conservatory space with its tropical plants and birds, to give the house the 'wow factor' and at the time the novelty of this may have been successful. Whereas the entertaining wing is solid below and glazed above, the family wing, which contains the dining room, kitchen, nursery and family bedrooms, has by contrast a continuously glazed ground floor and brick-clad first floor: a not very subtle way of marking in architectural terms their different uses. Behind it is a single-storey service range and staff flat built around a small courtyard. 

Stratton Park: looking out from the conservatory of the house of 1963-65. Image: Tom Scott/BNPS Agency
Unfortunately, the house has not aged well or gracefully. The contrast between the massive solidity and perfect proportions of the portico and the flimsy materials and inarticulate elevations of the new house is telling, and the design now seems mannered and meretricious. Historic England recently declined to list the house, concluding that it "does not display the consistency and ingenuity of design, plan and detailing which is found in the best post-war houses". Already by the 1970s, the house had proved to be variously dysfunctional. The bridge over the pool in the conservatory 'provided an irresistible temptation for rowdy young men to push each other into the water when drunk at parties', and more prosaically there were problems with the cladding and the flat roof. More recently, the balcony opening off the first-floor drawing room and linking it to the garden was found to be pouring water into the structure of the entertaining block and making it very damp. This problem was rectified in 2013 by the removal of the original balcony and its replacement by a much larger and structurally independent terrace on the south side of the drawing room. Another significant change has been to erect a pergola in front of the south side of the family wing. 

When the M3 motorway was routed along the western edge of the park, uncomfortably close to the house, Lord Ashburton sold Stratton Park and moved back to his family's Northington estate. One feels it is only a matter of time before the 1960s house is replaced in its turn, and perhaps Dance's great portico could yet inspire a more sympathetic new Classical house on the site.

Descent: Crown sold 1544 to Edmund Clerke; to widow, Margaret Clerke, who sold 1546 to Thomas Wriothesley (1505-50), 1st Earl of Southampton; to son, Henry Wriothesley (1545-81), 2nd Earl of Southampton; to son, Henry Wriothesley (1573-1624), 3rd Earl of Southampton; to son, Thomas Wriothesley, 4th Earl of Southampton (1608-67); to daughter, Lady Rachel Wriothesley (1636-1723), later wife of William (1639-83), Lord Russell; to son, Wriothesley Russell (1680-1711), 2nd Duke of Bedford; to son, Wriothesley Russell (1708-32), 3rd Duke of Bedford; to brother, John Russell (1710-71), 4th Duke of Bedford; to grandson, Francis Russell (1765-1802), 5th Duke of Bedford; sold 1801 to Sir Francis Baring (1740-1810), 1st bt.; to son, Sir Thomas Baring (1772-1848), 2nd bt.; to son, Sir Francis Thornhill Baring (1796-1866), 3rd bt. and 1st Baron Northbrook; to son, Thomas George Baring (1826-1904), 2nd Baron & 1st Earl of Northbrook; to son, Francis George Baring (1850-1929), 2nd Earl of Northbrook; sold after his death to Miss James as a school for girls; sold 1939 to Baring Bros & Co. Ltd.; sold 1955 to John Baring (b. 1928), 7th Baron Ashburton, who demolished and rebuilt the house; sold 1988 to David James Stride (b. 1947).

Sandridge Park, Stoke Gabriel, Devon

The house stands in a wonderful position overlooking the River Dart. The first building on the site of which anything is known seems to have been built in the early 18th century for Raleigh Gilbert (1688-1773), a younger son of the Gilberts of Compton Castle (Devon), and is recorded on an estate map of 1748. In 1772 Gilbert sold the estate for £6,000 to a successful politician, John Dunning of Spitchwick (Devon), who was later raised to the peerage as Lord Ashburton. In 1776 Dunning visited the property with his friends Sir Robert Palk and the Rev. John Swete, and as Swete recorded, "We were all (I well remember) struck with the beauty and grandeur of the spot, and his Lordship then expressed an intention of raising an house on it, that should be more worthy than the present'. In practice, Lord Ashburton changed his mind and built at Spitchwick instead, and it was his widow Elizabeth, the sister of Sir Francis Baring, who carried out the plan in 1804-09. As a rich widow, whose son and heir declined to be involved in the project in any way, she was free to follow her own fancy. 

Sandridge Park: engraving of 1829 showing the house from the south-east, with the original conservatory.

She commissioned John Nash to design a fashionably asymmetrical and picturesque house in the same innovative Italianate style as his smaller villa, Cronkhill (Shropshire), which was built at much the same time. These buildings were inspired by the rustic Italian villas depicted in Arcadian landscape paintings by artists like Claude and Poussin, and set a fashion for the Italianate which endured for half a century. At Sandridge, the main front, facing south over the river, has a three-storey square entrance tower with, to its left, a lower central block with a ground-floor bow window, then a small loggia in front of a recessed bay, and finally a three-storey circular tower; to the right of the entrance tower there was a long (51 ft) conservatory built against the service wing, with seven bays of paired doors fitted between spiral-bound trellis columns. The loggia at the west end of the house was originally in the same form as the conservatory. The whole is unified by the stuccoed walls, the consistent use of arched sash windows and the deep bracketed eaves. 

The asymmetry of the house is reflected in the L-shaped plan, which allowed Nash to create a series of rooms of varied shapes, including a D-shaped room in the tower, a rectangular drawing room with a wide bow, and a diamond-shaped entrance hall with niches in the corners. Nash's simple classical Regency decoration and chimneypieces survive in the principal rooms. Curiously, the entrance hall does not communicate directly with the staircase, as was usual in houses of this date, and the reasons for this are obscure.

Sandridge House: the house since recent restoration.
In 1935 the house was sold to a syndicate of developers who planned to build 400 houses on the estate, and the house was subsequently neglected and the conservatory demolished. The housing scheme was abandoned on the outbreak of the Second World War, and afterwards the house was sold to Alan Cathcart, 6th Earl Cathcart, who restored it. Subsequent owners made alterations to the service wing to create a separate dwelling, and created a swimming pool screened by a pergola. Happily, since 2006 the house has been returned to single occupancy, and has been the subject of a restoration scheme overseen by Watson, Bertram & Fell of Bath designed 'to restore the original external appearance and internal arrangement of the house', and the surrounding landscape. On the whole an excellent job has been done, but the restored 'conservatory' is a disappointingly weak veranda and not the robust and decorative conservatory that existed until the 1930s.

Descent: Raleigh Gilbert (1688-1773); sold 1772 to John Dunning (1731-83), 1st Baron Ashburton; to widow, Elizabeth Dunning (1744-1809), Lady Ashburton, who rebuilt the house; to son, Richard Dunning (1782-1823), 2nd Baron Ashburton, who let it; to James Edward Cranstoun (1809-69), 10th Baron Cranstoun; to brother, Charles Frederick Cranstoun (1811-69), 11th Baron Cranstoun; to his wife's niece, Margaret (d. 1904), Baroness de Virte; to nephew, Arthur Wilson; to daughter, Gladys Wilson; sold 1935 to a development syndicate... sold 1951 to Alan Cathcart (1919-99), 6th Earl Cathcart; sold 1967... sold 1993... sold 2002... sold 2006 to Mark & Rosemary Yallop.

Oakwood Park, Funtington, Sussex

Oakwood Park: the entrance front

One of three small estates developed around 1810 on the former Saltbox Common, the rest of which was officially enclosed and added to these properties in 1834. Oakwood is a two-storey white stuccoed house, built in 1809-12 for William Dearling, a Chichester brewer, and presumably designed by James Elmes, who exhibited a design for it in 1811. The west-facing entrance front has five widely-spaced bays and a central porte-cochère; the east-facing garden front has seven bays with a full-height curved bow across the central three, and a balcony at first-floor level. The side elevation is of four bays.The house has been a preparatory school since 1943, and there are simple and tactful white-painted additions on the north side for school purposes.

Descent: built 1809-12 for William Dearling; sold before 1819 to Sir George Hilaro Barlow (1763-1846), 1st bt.; sold 1825 to Rev. George Porcher; sold 1840 to Sir Thomas Baring (1772-1848), 2nd bt. for his son, John Baring (1801-88); to nephew, Francis Baring du Pré (1848-1920); to widow, Alice Forbes Du Pré (d. 1938); sold c.1942 to Richard and Nora Fenn, who moved their preparatory school here in 1943.

Banstead Wood, Surrey

Banstead Wood (originally Banstead Park) was a large new country house set in a former medieval deer park, built by Richard Norman Shaw for Francis Henry Baring, in 1884-86. Baring was a partner in Barings Bank, and Shaw worked for several of his colleagues around this time. The house was one of the last houses Shaw built in his full 'Old English' manner, and exhibited brick and semi-timbering, with part of the upper floor tile-hung, and picturesquely asymmetrical tall chimneystacks. On the entrance front, Shaw played with symmetrical and asymmetrical elements. The front door was set in a tall projecting gabled wing at the left-hand end of the house proper, with a tile-hung service wing to its left. To its right, the centre of the house was a symmetrical five-bay composition, and beyond this was an irregular semi-timbered wing, with a lower gable and an attached single-storey glass-roofed conservatory.
Banstead Wood: the entrance front as built by Norman Shaw, 1884-86.
The two garden fronts both had three gables, set so close together that their bargeboards touch. Again, Shaw is playing games, demonstrating his dexterous handling of traditional motifs in unconventional combinations. The broad semi-timbered gables were supported on narrower bay-units with recessed walls between, and these in turn were supported on ground-floor bay windows, many of which include an arched component. The overall effect had considerable movement and the top-heavy feel of medieval jettied buildings, although in fact nothing here is jettied at all.

Banstead Wood: the garden fronts as built by Norman Shaw, 1884-86
In 1893, after the crisis at Barings Bank had eliminated most of Francis Baring's wealth, Banstead Wood was sold to a local businessman, C.H. Garton, who lived here until his death in 1934. He then bequeathed the house to a hospital trust, but in 1938, while the house was being converted into offices and a nurses' home and new hospital buildings were being built in the grounds, the original building was extensively damaged by fire. The roof and all the semi-timbered parts of the building were completely lost. Rather than demolish the ruins and built anew, however, the hospital decided to restore the house, and called in H.R. Goodhart-Rendel to supervise the works. He created new elevations that preserved the character of the Shaw design, but eliminated most of the semi-timbering which had proved so vulnerable. His tile-hung elevations have often been mistaken for the surviving work of Shaw himself.

Banstead Wood: the house today, after remodelling by H.R. Goodhart-Rendel in 1938-40 and conversion to flats.
During the Second World War, the house was taken over for use as a military hospital, and there was a Prisoner of War camp in the grounds. The buildings were returned to the NHS in 1948 and reopened as the Princess Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth II) Hospital for Children in London. In 1973 it became a hospital for children with learning difficulties, and it finally closed in 1998. After a period of abandonment and dereliction, the hospital buildings, including the original house, were sold to Try Homes in 2005 and converted into a 109-apartment gated development, known as the Banstead Wood Estate. The original house is now known as Shaw House. Following the 1938 fire and conversion to flats, it has no surviving period interiors.

Descent: built 1884-86 for the Hon. Francis Henry Baring (1850-1915); sold 1893 to C.H. Garton (d. 1934); to Banstead Wood Hospital Trust; requisitioned 1939-48; to National Health Service; sold 2005 to Try Homes.

Woodlands House, West Meon, Hampshire

Woodlands House, West Meon: entrance front
A former farmhouse, perhaps built in 1887-89 by A.W. Blomfield for William Nicholson's Basing Park estate, was enlarged in 1995 into a substantial country house for Lord Northbrook. Unfortunately the building was extensively damaged by fire in 2005, and a rather successful new house was built immediately to the south of its predecessor in 2009-10 to the designs of Christopher Smallwood. This is built of red brick interspersed at wide intervals with glazed headers. It has a symmetrical east-facing entrance front of nine bays and two storeys under a hipped roof with dormers. The central three bays are slightly recessed between giant Tuscan pilasters and rise without a break into an implied segmental pediment enclosing an oculus at attic level. A semi-circular porch supported on Ionic columns shelters the central front door. The porch has a lead half-dome roof which is picked up by the lead barrel-vault roofs ending in semi-domes of the single-storey wings which project from the two bays at either end of the facade. The facade has a faintly Baroque character, with considerable movement, but in the final analysis is not quite sufficiently coherent. 

Woodlands House, West Meon: garden front.
The west-facing garden side is in that sense more successful, but is also more conventional. It is treated in effect as an eleven-bay front, and has a similar centrepiece to the entrance side, with shallow bows of a more Regency character on the three end bays. Inside, the principal staircase rises around an oval space, and the four reception rooms form a sequence along the garden front.

Descent: William Nicholson (1824-1909); to son, William Graham Nicholson MP (1862-1942); sold c.1913 to Francis Arthur Baring (1882-1947), 4th Baron Northbrook; to son, Francis John Baring (1915-90), 5th Baron Northbrook; to son Francis Thomas Baring (b. 1954), 6th Baron Northbrook.

Continue to Part Two of this post


Burke's Peerage and Baronetage, 2003, pp. 2931-34; J. Woolfe & J. Gandon, Vitruvius Britannicus, vol. 4, 1767, pls. 52-55; J. Britton, T. Allom, W.H. Bartlett and E.W. Brayley, Devonshire and Cornwall Illustrated, 1832, p. 67 and plate; D. Stroud, George Dance, architect, 1741-1825, 1971, pp. 200-04; B. Cherry & Sir N. Pevsner, The buildings of England: London - South, 1982, p. 426; J.M. Robinson, The latest country houses, 1984, pp. 142-43; J. Harris, 'A digression on John Sanderson and the Rococo', Furniture History, vol. 26, 1990, pp. 101-03; G. Worsley, 'The "Best Turned" house of the Duke of Bedford', Georgian Group Journal, vol. 6, 1996, pp. 63-73; M. Bullen, J. Crook, R. Hubbock & Sir N. Pevsner, The buildings of England: Hampshire - Winchester and the north, 2010, pp. 246-48; G. Tyack (ed.), John Nash: architect of the Picturesque, 2013, pp. 58-67; H. Meller, The country houses of Devon, 2015, pp. 317-18, 882-84; ODNB entries on Sir Francis Baring, 1st bt., Rt. Rev. Charles Baring, and 1st Baron and 1st Earl of Northbrook;;

Revision and acknowledgements

This post was first published 26 May 2019.


  1. May I ask where you acquired your information regarding Woodlands House?

    1. My account is my own assessment based on a diverse range of sources including press reports from The Times and the British Newspaper Archive and papers available online from the local planning authority concerning the new house.


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