DiCamillo Companion

Cassiobury Park (Cashiobury)

  • Built / Designed For: Arthur Capel, 1st Earl of Essex

    House & Family History: The great 17th century house of the earls of Essex suffered an ignoble end. The interiors began to be dismantled in 1922, when the contents were auctioned off; the house itself was demolished in 1927. This dismemberment occurred under the guidance of Adele, Dowager Countess of Essex, and her stepson, the 8th Earl, who needed to raise large sums to pay death duties. Adele was an American heiress of the Grant Locomotive Works. She was born in New York City in 1866 and married (as his second wife) the 7th Earl of Essex in 1893. A noted society beauty (see "Images" section), she was one of the so-called “Lovely Five,” together with the Duchess of Sutherland, the Countess of Warwick, the Countess of Westmorland, and the Countess of Lytton. In 1902 her husband purchased a Cartier diamond tiara, known as the Essex Tiara, for the countess; the same tiara was worn by Clementine Churchill at the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. The liquidation of the Cassiobury Estate was extremely thorough: 300 tons of old oak and 10,000 Tudor bricks were sold. Much of the masonry was used in the construction of a new Cassiobury House in Bedford, New York, on a 24-acre estate bordering the Beaver Dam River. The Great House at Castle Hill, Ipswich, Massachusetts, a 59-room house built between 1924 and 1928 to the designs of David Adler, has, in its library, paneling removed from Cassiobury's library at the time of its 1927 demolition. The Castle Hill library contains ornamental carving by Grinling Gibbons, as well as fine English bookcases and paneling (see photos in "Images" section). Castle Hill contains other rooms with English paneling and ornamental woodwork; however, these did not come from Cassiobury, but were purchased from W. & J. Sloane, the upscale New York City furniture store, as interiors from "the Hogarth House" at 75 Dean Street in Soho, London. The dining room at Ocean House, Santa Monica, California, designed by Julia Morgan in 1929 for William Randolph Hearst and his mistress, the actress Marion Davies, had Grinling Gibbons wall carvings from Cassiobury. A circa 1677-80 oak, elm, and pine staircase from the house is today in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (see "Images" section). The staircase, attributed to Edward Pearce, was commissioned by the 1st Earl of Essex for Cassiobury. A watercolor of the house and grounds by J.M.W. Turner, circa 1801, is today in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Part of the former estate grounds now form the public Cassiobury Park, but the site of the house is north of this (southeast of the stables), among urban development.

    Collections: The contents of Cassiobury were auctioned between June 12 and June 23, 1922 by Knight, Frank and Rutley in 2,606 lots. At the estate auction on June 8, 1922 the house didn't sell. Further architectural salvage sales occurred up to 1927, when the house was demolished. Some paintings from the Cassiobury collection are today displayed in the Watford Museum.

  • Garden & Outbuildings: The Grade II-listed early 19th century stables were converted into Cassiobury Court, today an old peoples' home. Part of the grounds now form the public Cassiobury Park, which, at over 190 acres, is the today the largest public open space in Watford.

  • Architect: Jeffry Wyatville (Wyattville) (Wyatt)

    Date: Circa 1813
    Designed: Performed work for 5th Earl of Essex after James Wyatt's death. What Wyatville designed is uncertain.

    View all houses

    Architect: Hugh May

    Date: Circa 1677-80
    Designed: House for 1st Earl of Essex

    View all houses

    Architect: Peter Frederick Robinson

    Date: 1836
    Designed: Conservatory for 5th Earl of Essex

    View all houses

    Architect: John Webb

    Date: 1805
    Designed: Consulted on landscaping

    View all houses

    Architect: James Wyatt

    Date: Circa 1800-05
    Designed: Remodeled House for 5th Earl of Essex

    View all houses
  • 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. 135, 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: Vol. II, 1819.

    Country Life: XXVIII, 392, 1910.

  • Title: Biographical Dictionary of British Architects, 1600-1840, A - SOFTBACK
    Author: Colvin, Howard
    Year Published: 1995
    Reference: pgs. 648, 829, 1031, 1119, 1131
    Publisher: New Haven: Yale University Press
    ISBN: 0300072074
    Book Type: Softback

  • House Listed: Demolished

    Park Listed: Grade II

  • "Summer in February" (2013 - the park was used for the woodland walk).
  • Past Seat / Home of: Arthur Capell, 1st Earl of Essex, until 1683; Algernon Capell, 2nd Earl of Essex, 1683-1710; William Capell, 3rd Earl of Essex, 1710-43; William Anne Capell, 4th Earl of Essex, 1743-99; George Capell-Coningsby, 5th Earl of Essex, 1799-1839; Arthur Algernon Capell, 6th Earl of Essex, 1839-92; George Devereux de Vere Capell, 7th Earl of Essex, 1892-1916; Capell (Capel) family here until the 1920s.

    Current Ownership Type: Government

    Primary Current Ownership Use: Visitor Attraction

    Ownership Details: The grounds of the former park are owned by the Watford Council and operated by them as a public park.

  • House Open to Public: Grounds Only

    Website: http://cassioburypark.info

    Historic Houses Member: No