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Bowood House (Bowood Park)

  • Built / Designed For: Bridgeman family

    House & Family History: Bowood Park was once part of the royal forest of Chippenham. The 2nd Earl of Shelburne (elevated as 1st Marquess of Lansdowne in 1784 by George III for his role for successfully negotiating the Treaty of Paris, which ended the American War of Independence) purchased the estate and the unfinished house in 1754 from the Bridgeman family and completed its construction shortly thereafter, engaging Robert Adam to improve the house. Adam designed the mausoleum and the Diocletian Wing, which includes the laboratory where Joseph Priestley discovered oxygen gas (originally called de-phlogisticated air) on August 1, 1774. Priestly was a friend of the 1st Marquess and tutor to his sons; the laboratory was later used by Dr. Jan Ingenhousz, who discovered the process of photosynthesis in plants and worked on an inoculation against smallpox. On September 3, 1783, Lord Shelburne, then prime minister, conceded independence to the United States in the Treaty of Paris, drawn up in the round room at Lansdowne House in London; the earl was created 1st Marquess of Lansdowne in 1784 in recognition of this accomplishment. The 1st Marquess was a controversial figure, called "the Jesuit of Berkeley Square," and attacked by Horace Walpole, who described him as "a fictitious violin, which is hung out of a music shop to indicate in what goods the tradesman deals; not to be of service, nor to be depended on for playing a true note. He was so well known that he could only deceive by speaking truth." He had his admirers as well, among them Jeremy Bentham, who described him as "one of the pleasantest men to live with that ever God put breath into; his whole study seems to be to make everybody about him happy." Lord Lansdowne was noted for working for the rights of Nonconformists, and for his efforts to settle American loyalists in Canada after the American Revolution (the town of Roseway in Nova Scotia changed its name to Shelburne in recognition of his work in this regard; Lord Lansdowne was Earl of Shelburne at this time). He also befriended and entertained a wide group of people, including Reynolds, Johnson, Goldsmith, Hume, Mirabeau, Turgot, and Benjamin Franklin. In addition, he was a great admirer of George Washington. Benjamin Disraeli called the 1st Marquess "the ablest and most accomplished statesman of the 18th century." The 3rd Marquess restored Bowood and commissioned C.R. Cockerell to alter Adam's library and to design the chapel. During World War II the big house was taken over by Westonbirt School, and later by the Royal Air Force. By 1955 the big house had become so dilapidated and riddled with dry rot that the 8th Marquess took the decision to have it demolished. The only room to survive the destruction is Adam's dining room, which is today the board room at Lloyd's of London. The house and grounds were opened to the public in 1975.

    Collections: Through Emily de Flahault, wife of the 4th Marquess, a collection of Napoleonic treasures came into the family. Her father, the Comte de Flahault, was Napoleon's aide-de-camp. The library contains vases by Josiah Wedgwood that were inspired by engravings in William Hamilton's 1776 book "Antiquites Etrusques Grecques et Romaines." By 1815 the 3rd Marquess of Lansdowne owned Rembrandt's 1645-48 "The Mill" (see "Images" section). The canvas hung at Bowood until it was sold in 1911 by 5th Marquess of Lansdowne to the dealer Arthur J. Sulley & Co., London, from whom it was purchased by Peter A.B. Widener of Lynnewood Hall, Elkins Park, Pennsylvania. In 1943 Peter's son, Joseph Widener, bequeathed the Rembrandt to the National Gallery of Art, Washington. The sale of "The Mill" was controversial in Britain. Lord Lansdowne, a trustee of the National Gallery, was expected to give the gallery a discount on the purchase price to enable the painting to remain in Britain. Peter Widener, who outbid everyone, paid $400,000 for the Rembrandt; neither the National Gallery nor the UK government would or could match Widener's price, so the canvas was displayed publicly for two days at the National Gallery in London (during which over 20,000 people came to say goodbye) before "The Mill" was shipped to Philadelphia under protest.

  • Garden & Outbuildings: The sculpture garden includes some of the famous collection of Lansdowne Marbles. More than 2,000 acres of grounds were landscaped between 1762 and 1768 by Capability Brown, including the pinetum, the arboretum, and the Doric Temple (the 4th Marquess built the east terrace and moved the Doric Temple from the pleasure grounds to the edge of the lake). The cascade was designed by Hamilton of Painshill, circa 1785. In 1764 Robert Adam completed the mausoleum, considered one of his finest early classical style buildings. Sir Charles Barry built the clock tower and the golden gates. The orangery was used as a military hospital during World War I.

    Chapel & Church: There is a fine chapel designed by C.R. Cockerell with armorial glass designed by Louisa, wife of the 3rd Marquess.

  • Architect: Henry Keene

    Date: 1755-61
    Designed: Completed unfinished House, added South Portico for 2nd Earl of Shelburne.

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    Architect: Charles Robert Cockerell

    Date: 1821
    Designed: Chapel and altered Library for 3rd Marquess of Lansdowne

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    Architect: Robert Smirke

    Date: 1817-18
    Designed: Upper Terrace for 3rd Marquess of Lansdowne

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    Architect: George Kennedy

    Date: 1851
    Designed: Lower Terrace

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    Architect: Robert Adam

    Date: 1761-70
    Designed: Diocletian wing, altered portico, interiors for 2nd Earl of Shelburne

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    Architect: Lancelot Brown

    Date: 1762-68
    Designed: 2,000 acres of grounds and Doric temple for 2nd Earl of Shelburne

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    Architect: Robert Adam

    Date: 1761-64
    Designed: Mausoleum in memory of 1st Earl of Shelburne

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    Architect: Charles Barry Sr.

    Date: 1834-38
    Designed: Clock Tower and Golden Gates for 3rd Marquess of Lansdowne

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  • John Bernard (J.B.) Burke, published under the title of A Visitation of the Seats and Arms of the Noblemen and Gentlemen of Great Britain and Ireland, among other titles: 2.S. Vol. I, p. 92, 1854.

    John Preston (J.P.) Neale, published under the title of Views of the Seats of Noblemen and Gentlemen in England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland, among other titles: 2.S. Vol. II, 1825.

    Country Life: XV, 738. XXXIV, 324. CXXVII, 159. CLI, 1448, 1546. CLIX, 964. CLXVI, 273. VII, 432. XVII, 126. CLI, 1610. CLII, 546.

  • Title: Privilege and Scandal: The Remarkable Life of Harriet Spencer, Sister of Georgiana
    Author: Gleeson, Janet
    Year Published: 2006
    Reference: pg. 46
    Publisher: New York: Three Rivers Press
    ISBN: 9780307381989
    Book Type: Softback

    Title: Bowood Guidebook - 1976
    Author: NA
    Year Published: 1976
    Reference: pgs. 20, 22
    Publisher: Norwich: Jarrold & Sons
    ISBN: NA
    Book Type: Light Softback

    Title: Vases and Volcanoes: Sir William Hamilton and His Collection
    Author: Jenkins, Ian; Sloan, Kim
    Year Published: 1996
    Reference: pg. 60
    Publisher: London: British Museum Press
    ISBN: 0714117668
    Book Type: Softback

    Title: Debrett's Peerage and Baronetage, 1990
    Author: Kidd, Charles; Williamson, David (Editors)
    Year Published: 1990
    Publisher: London: Debrett's Peerage Limited (New York: St. Martin's Press, Inc.)
    ISBN: 0312046405
    Book Type: Hardback

    Title: Bowood House Guidebook - 1998
    Author: NA
    Year Published: 1998
    Publisher: Norflok: Jarrold Publishing
    ISBN: NA
    Book Type: Light Softback

    Title: Country Life Cumulative Index: Volumes I to CXCIII to December 1999
    Author: NA
    Year Published: 2000
    Publisher: London: IPC Magazines Limited
    ISBN: NA
    Book Type: Light Softback

    Title: Biographical Dictionary of British Architects, 1600-1840, A - SOFTBACK
    Author: Colvin, Howard
    Year Published: 1995
    Reference: pg. 880
    Publisher: New Haven: Yale University Press
    ISBN: 0300072074
    Book Type: Softback

    Title: Disintegration of a Heritage: Country Houses and their Collections, 1979-1992, The
    Author: Sayer, Michael
    Year Published: 1993
    Publisher: Norfolk: Michael Russell (Publishing)
    ISBN: 0859551970
    Book Type: Hardback

  • House Listed: Grade I

    Park Listed: Grade I

  • "Robin Hood" [aka "Robin of Sherwood"] (1984 - TV series, episode 1.1, "Robin Hood and the Sorcerer," using Hamilton's cascade for the staff fight between Robin and John). "Northanger Abbey" (1987 - BBC TV Screen Two movie, with grounds and cascade used during the Beechan Cliff walk and rowboat scenes).
  • Current Seat / Home of: Charles Maurice Petty-FitzMaurice, 9th Marquess of Lansdowne; Petty-Fitzmaurice family here since 1754.

    Past Seat / Home of: Bridgeman family, until 1739. Richard Long, 1739-54.

    Current Ownership Type: Individual / Family Trust

    Primary Current Ownership Use: Private Home

  • House Open to Public: Yes

    Phone: 01249-812-102

    Fax: 01249-821-757

    Email: [email protected]

    Website: https://www.bowood.org

    Awards: HHA/Christie's Garden of the Year Award 2014.

    Historic Houses Member: Yes