A 1782 engraving of the house before its rebuilding by Holland. From "Watts' Seats of the Nobility and Gentry."
Earlier Houses: The core of the current house is an earlier 18th century Palladian house built for George Byng, who purchased the Southill Estate in 1693 (in 1721 he was created the 1st Viscount Torrington in reward for his success as an admiral). Byng erected a house here in the early 18th century that for years was assumed to have been designed by Isaac Ware, something that has recently been disproved by dating the house to 1726, before Ware began practicing. Byng very likely demolished an earlier house on the site to make way for his new house.
House & Family History: By the end of the 18th century the Byngs had fallen on hard times; in 1795 the Southill Estate was sold by the 4th Viscount Torrington for £93,000 (approximately £117 million in 2016 inflation-adjusted values using the labour value commodity index) to Samuel Whitbread I, founder of the famous brewery. Mr. Whitbread died a year later, so it was his son, Samuel Whitbread II, who hired Henry Holland to rebuild the house. Holland recreated the exterior in Totternhoe limestone, erected a new service wing to the east, and redecorated the interiors in his trademark elegant, minimalist French Neoclassical style. Southill has been the subject of two 20th century books: "Southill: A Regency House" in 1951, and the 1995 "Southill and the Whitbreads, 1795-1995."
Collections: Rather remarkably, Southill's interiors have remained unaltered since their creation (though there was a restoration in the 1990s) and contain all of the furniture designed for the house, including pieces by Henry Holland himself.
Comments: John Martin Robinson called Southill "...the key monument to the first and most elegant phase of Regency architecture..."
Vitruvius Britannicus: C. IVth. pls. 84, 85, 1739.
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. V, 1829.
Country Life: LXVI, 665 [Furniture], 841 [Furniture], 1929. LXVIII, 42, 63 [Pictures], 80 plan, 108, 595 [Furniture], 1930. July 19, 1930. Nov. 8, 1930.
Title: Regency Country House From the Archives of Country Life, The
Author: Robinson, John Martin
Year Published: 2005
Reference: pgs. 132, 136, 137
Publisher: London: Aurum Press
Book Type: Hardback
Title: Biographical Dictionary of British Architects, 1600-1840, A - SOFTBACK
Author: Colvin, Howard
Year Published: 1995
Reference: pgs. 505, 592
Publisher: New Haven: Yale University Press
Book Type: Softback
House Listed: Grade I
Park Listed: Grade II*
Current Seat / Home of: Whitbread family
Past Seat / Home of: SEATED AT EARLIER HOUSES: George Byng, 1st Viscount Torrington, 1693-1727; Pattee Byng, 2nd Viscount Torrington, 1727-47; Major General George Byng, 3rd Viscount Torrington, 1747-50; George Byng, 4th Viscount Torrington, 1750-95. Samuel Whitbread I, 1795-96; Samuel Whitbread II, 1796-1800. SEATED AT CURRENT HOUSE: Samuel Whitbread II, 1800-15.
Current Ownership Type: Individual / Family Trust
Primary Current Ownership Use: Private Home
House Open to Public: No
Historic Houses Member: No