DiCamillo Companion
DiCamillo Griffin Logo

Wrest Park

  • Earlier Houses: There was an earlier house that was replaced by the current house.

    House & Family History: In 1639 Thomas Carew wrote his country house poem "To My Friend G.N. from Wrest" that described the old house at Wrest. This house was demolished between 1834 and 1840 and replaced by the current house, which was built between 1834 and 1839 to designs of its owner, Thomas de Grey, 2nd Earl de Grey. Lord de Grey was a dilettante in the best sense of the word: a lover of beauty and design, an amateur architect, the first president of the Institute of British Architects (later the RIBA), and first lord of the Admiralty. During trips to Paris de Grey was inspired by French architecture and became determined to build a French style house on his estate in Bedfordshire. He very likely used as his guide the many French architectural books that were in circulation at the time, such as Jacques-François Blondel's 1752 publication "Architecture Française." Consequently, Wrest has some of the earliest Rococo Revival interiors in England.

    Collections: Raphael's circa 1505 "The Small Cowper Madonna" (see "Images" section), which once hung at Wrest Park, was sold in 1913 by Lady Desborough, granddaughter of the 6th Earl Cowper, to Duveen Brothers. Duveen sold the canvas in 1914 to Peter A.B. Widener of Lynnewood Hall, Elkins Park, Pennsylvania. In 1942 the painting was gifted to the National Gallery of Art, Washington, by Peter's son, Joseph Widener.

  • Garden & Outbuildings: The gardens at Wrest are among the largest and most important in Britain. They were recognized for their importance early on: in 1735 the garden and garden houses were mapped by John Rocquein. The early 18th century garden of 92 acres was very likely designed in the formal, French style for Henry Grey, 1st Duke of Kent, by Henry Wise and George London. Between 1758 and 1760 Capability Brown "naturalized" the garden in his trademark style, including ringing the central formal area with a canal and woodland. The Park today is divided by a wide gravel central walk, which continues as the Long Canal, which, in turn, leads to the famous Archer Pavilion, a domed Baroque pavilion designed by Thomas Archer and completed in 1711. In 1712 Louis Hauduroy, a relation of the Huguenot architect Samuel Hauduroy, created the illusionist architectural paintings inside the Archer Pavilion. The parterre and marble fountains were added in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The 2nd Earl de Grey designed the orangery and the bath house in the 19th century.

  • Architect: Henry Wise

    Date: Early 18th century
    Designed: Formal French style garden for Henry Grey, 1st Duke of Kent.
    (Attribution of this work is uncertain)
    View all houses

    Architect: George London

    Date: Early 18th century
    Designed: Formal French style garden for Henry Grey, 1st Duke of Kent.
    (Attribution of this work is uncertain)
    View all houses

    Architect: Lancelot Brown

    Date: 1758-60
    Designed: Naturalized garden

    View all houses

    Architect: James Clephan

    Date: 1834-39
    Designed: Executant architect for Earl de Grey

    View all houses

    Architect: Henry Flitcroft

    Date: 1749
    Designed: Unidentified work for Philip Yorke and Marchioness Grey

    View all houses

    Architect: Robert Grumbold

    Date: 1693-95
    Designed: Two stone basins in garden and pair of gate piers with heraldic wyverns

    View all houses

    Architect: Batty Langley

    Date: 1735
    Designed: New Dining Room, Greenhouse, and Brewhouse for Duke of Kent (in old house, which was demolished).

    View all houses

    Architect: John Woolfe

    Date: Circa 1790
    Designed: Altered North Façade for Marchioness Grey (demolished circa 1840)

    View all houses

    Architect: Edward Stevens

    Date: 1770
    Designed: Bridge and a classical style cold bath for 2nd Earl of Hardwicke

    View all houses

    Architect: William Oldham Chambers

    Date: Circa 1766
    Designed: Chinese Pavilion for 2nd Earl of Hardwicke. The Roman Temple over the Cold Bath was designed by Chambers.
    (Attribution of this work is uncertain)
    View all houses

    Architect: Thomas Smith

    Date: Circa 1830s
    Designed: Executant architect of Silsoe Church and Silsoe Lodges for Earl de Grey

    View all houses

    Architect: Thomas Philip de Grey (Grey)

    Date: 1834-39
    Designed: Rebuilt House in Louis XV style and designed Orangery for himself. Clephan was executant architect for this work.

    View all houses

    Architect: Thomas Archer

    Date: 1709-circa 1715
    Designed: Domed garden pavilion for Duke of Kent (1709-11). Cain Hill House garden building (circa 1712-15; demolished; this attribution is uncertain).
    (Attribution of this work is uncertain)
    View all houses
  • Vitruvius Britannicus: I, pl. 33, 1715. C. Ivth. Pls. 30-33, 1739.

    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: Vol. II, p. 34, 1853.

    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. I, 1818.

    Country Life: XLII, 112 [Garden Pavilion], 1917. CXLVII, 1250, 1970. CXLVIII, 18, 1970.

  • Title: Biographical Dictionary of British Architects, 1600-1840, A - HARDBACK
    Author: Colvin, Howard
    Year Published: 2008
    Reference: pgs. 72, 243, 257, 382, 451, 495, 631, 958, 985, 1150
    Publisher: New Haven: Yale University Press
    ISBN: 9780300125085
    Book Type: Hardback

  • House Listed: Grade I

    Park Listed: Grade I

  • "Buildings That Shaped Britain" (2006 - TV documentary series by Simon Thurley, episode 4, "The Country House"). "Flyboys" (2006 - as exterior of the French chateau used for barracks). "Belgravia" (2020 - TV series, as the chapel where Sophia Trenchard and Edmund, Lord Bellasis, are faux married). "The Crown" (2019 - TV series, in the episode "Imbroglio" the Archer Pavilion was used for the scene of the funeral of the Duke of Windsor). "Bridgerton" (2022-24 - TV series, as Aubrey Hall's orangery, for the bee sting scene, and as the home of the Fuller family). "Downton Abbey: A New Era" (2022 - when the orangery was used for the party scene at the French Riviera villa).
  • Past Seat / Home of: SEATED AT EARLIER HOUSE: Anthony Grey, 11th Earl of Kent, 17th century; Henry Grey, 1st Duke of Kent, early 18th century. Philip Yorke, 2nd Earl of Hardwicke, 18th century. SEATED AT CURRENT HOUSE: Thomas Philip de Grey, 2nd Earl de Grey, 3rd Baron Grantham, and 6th Baron Lucas, 19th century; Grey family here from 16th century until the early 20th century.

    Current Ownership Type: English Heritage

    Primary Current Ownership Use: Visitor Attraction

  • House Open to Public: Yes

    Phone: 01525-860-152

    Email: [email protected]

    Website: https://www.english-heritage.org.uk

    Historic Houses Member: No


Help preserve Britain’s privately owned country houses by joining Historic Houses. Use code DICAM7 for a £7 discount off a new membership that will give you access to hundreds of historic houses.

Join Now