The Marble Hill Society

Research Articles 2


  • English Arcadia

  • The Builders of Marble Hill

  • The 1794 Inventory - Household Records

  • The 1794 Inventory - Chinoiserie

  • The Life and Times of Maria Fitzherbert - A Royal Romance (Part One : 1756 to 1785)

    English Arcadia

    Summerson described Bramante's Tempietto in Rome, built in about 1502, as a perfect piece of architectural prose - a statement clear as a bell. This description might apply equally to Marble Hill House by the Thames at Twickenham. It is rightly regarded as the paradigm of the English Palladian villa.

    Although the architecture of the house was based on Palladio's designs, it is not really possible to say which of Palladio’s villas were copied; it is more likely that the architects based Marble Hill on an amalgam of various of his designs. It has the classic fenestration of Palladio’s villas, namely 1-3-1, with a central saloon (or sala) lit by three windows and side rooms lit by one window. According to Lees-Milne, Palladio’s cubic proportions can be found in the elevations and apartments of Marble Hill, right down to the proportion of windows and chimneypieces. The Great Room is indeed a cube (24’ x 24’ x 24’), the rooms on either side are double cubes and the two rooms behind them are single cubes. At the same time, all the windows are 40” wide and all the spaces between the windows laterally and vertically are 40”, 60”, 80” or 120”, giving a design of perfectly controlled symmetry that is expressly based on a Roman Temple front.

    There are deviations: although the hall on the ground floor is clearly based on the Roman atrium, in Italy the atrium was open to the sky. And whereas in Italy there would have been an open loggia, the inhospitable English climate ruled this out at Marble Hill.

    These amendments might be taken to be in the spirit of Palladio. While in general terms he sought to base his designs on the antique, he was also designing a modern villa to meet the practical needs of his patrons - in particular, the villas were designed to be working farmhouses. So too at Marble Hill: while the design was based on Palladio, the function of the rooms fitted English and French usage. For example, the gallery on the second floor was a frequent feature of English sixteenth and seventeenth century houses. (The second floor in Palladio's villas was used as a granary). The fireplace in the Great Room may have been taken from a design by Frenchman, Le Barbet, whose designs were regularly used by Inigo Jones. Above all else, the English Palladian style was not just a duplication of Palladio's designs but an adaptation of these designs to the needs of the English patron and the English climate.

    One reason for the popularity of Palladio’s villas in the sixteenth century was that they were cheap to build, both because of their compact design and the relatively cheap materials, namely stuccoed brick rather than stone. Banal considerations like this also applied in England in the eighteenth century: building a country house was a major financial commitment and, in crude terms, Palladian was cheaper than Baroque. Economy might have appealed to Henrietta Howard, Countess of Suffolk, for whom Marble Hill was built between 1724 and 1729. It is small for a country house, more like a villa, and although a villa is usually a secondary home Marble Hill was Henrietta's principal residence for most of the time that she occupied it.

    So who designed Marble Hill? The answer is almost certainly Henry Lord Herbert, later 9th Earl of Pembroke, and Roger Morris. There is no written evidence of Lord Herbert's involvement, but Horace Walpole, who knew Henrietta well, tells us that she credited him with the design. Roger Morris is regarded as co-architect, rather than just the master builder, for circumstantial reasons: there is a drawing of Marble Hill at Wilton, very similar in style to another unrelated drawing signed by Roger Morris; and his cousin Robert Morris, a leading Palladian theoretician, discussed the ideal Palladian house in his Lectures on Architecture (1734) and acknowledged Roger Morris' help in the introduction.

    Another question is the extent of the influence of Colen Campbell in designing Marble Hill. He was architect to George Prince of Wales and Henrietta was the Prince's mistress, with the Prince in effect financing the building. Marie Draper suggested in Marble Hill and its Owners (GLC 1970) that the drawing at Wilton of Marble Hill, probably by Roger Morris, was done with Campbell's help, but this is unsupported conjecture. The illustration of a house at ‘Twittenham’ in Campbell’s third volume of Vitruvius Britannicus is almost certainly Marble Hill, although there are differences between this design and the house as built (in particular, Campbell's design had a perron but Marble Hill does not) and more significantly Campbell does not name himself (or anyone else) as the architect. Campbell was never slow to promote himself and inscribed Campbell Architectus on all the buildings we know he designed.

    One of these was Pembroke House at Whitehall, built shortly before Marble Hill and very similar in style. It was built for Lord Herbert, and Steven Brindle has convincingly argued that both Lord Herbert and Roger Morris were involved. If that is so, both would have had experience in building a Palladian villa similar to Marble Hill and would also have had the opportunity to work together.

    Taking all this into account, it is unlikely, in my view, that Colen Campbell had any direct influence on the design of Marble Hill. More probably, Lord Herbert gave him the design of Marble Hill so that he could publish it in Vitruvius Britannicus.

    The Georgian, November 2008

    © John Moses


    The Builders of Marble Hill

    If the Cunard family had had their way, you would not be sitting here as this house would have been demolished in 1901 and the park would have been filled with rows of semi-detached houses.  In 1888 the Cunard family had bought this estate with the express intention of developing it. The 'crunch' came in July 1901.  On 4th July a journalist on The Saturday Review, wrote:
    "I was knocked out of sleep this morning by the crash of a tree felled on the grounds of Marble Hill.  Down went, while we are discussing their preservation, another of those green cathedrals that it has taken near two hundred years to build.  The roads and drainage are being rapidly completed,the ground is plotted for villas, and the builders have not the slightest intention of waiting on the leisure of Town and County Councils."

    Fortunately, Marble Hill was saved as part of the well-orchestrated campaign to save the view from Richmond Hill, which included Marble Hill Park. At the end of July 1901, a number of local authorities together with some local charities and individuals agreed jointly to purchase the Marble Hill estate for £72,000.  On 1st August 1902, the estate was formally conveyed to the London County Council, the principal contributor and the park was opened to the public on 30th May 1903.  Although Marble Hill was not saved for its architectural importance, it is actually one of
    the most important examples of the English Palladian style, which dominated English architecture from about 1720 to 1760.  The style took its name from an architect called Andrea Palladio who was born in Padua in 1508 and worked primarily in Vicenza and Venice and died in 1580.

    As most of you know Marble Hill was built for Henrietta Howard, Countess of Suffolk and the architects were Lord Herbert, later the 9th Earl of Pembroke and Roger Morris.  I propose to consider six points:

    1. What do we mean by the English Palladian Style?
    2. Who commissioned Marble Hill?
    3. Who were the architects of Marble Hill?
    4. The building of Marble Hill including the type of craftsmen working there and the materials used.
    5. Was Colen Campbell was involved in the building of Marble Hill?
    6. Why we have developed an entirely different style in England from the dominant style in continental Europe?

    1. What do we mean by the English Palladian Style?

    The term Palladian is very obviously derived from the name of the architect Andrea Palladio who lived from 1508 to 1580.  Sir John Summerson said that the English Palladian style had three characteristics, which I propose to adopt here.

    a. Loyalty to Vitruvius
    b. Loyalty to Palladio
    c. Loyalty to Inigo Jones

    Vitruvius was a Roman who had lived in the first century BC and had written a treatise called the Ten Books of Architecture in about 25 BC, which is the only complete ancient classical treatise on architecture to survive.  The influence of the chance survival of this treatise can not be underestimated.  Vitruvius strongly emphasised the importance of symmetry in his treatise and was relied upon by most Italian Renaissance architects, particularly Palladio.

    Palladio himself had far greater influence on the development on English architecture than any other Italian Renaissance architect.  He had been actually christened Andrea di Pietra Gondola and had been apprenticed to a stone carver.  He broke his contract of apprenticeship and went to Vicenza where he came into contact with a Vicentine nobleman called Trissino, who took him under his wing and gave him the name 'Palladio'.  He accompanied Trissino to Rome in 1541.  Palladio himself made four journeys to Rome and even wrote a guidebook on the antiquities of Rome in 1556.  It was probably because of his knowledge of antique architecture that Palladio was invited by the distinguished Venetian humanist Daniele Barbaro to do the woodcut illustrations for his Italian translation of Vitruvius.  There is a portrait of Daniele Barbaro by Veronese, on loan to the National Gallery London, showing Barbaro holding a copy of his translation of Vitruvius with woodcuts by Palladio.

    Palladio’s architectural practice covered public buildings, town palaces, villas, bridges and churches.  One of his last commissions was to design a theatre at Vicenza - the Teatro Olimpico.  His influence abroad did not come primarily through his buildings, but through a treatise called The Four Books of Architecture, written in 1570, in which Palladio made very extensive reference to Vitruvius.  The Four Books of Architecture are often known by their Italian name I Quattri Libri.  The First Book covered the five classical orders and the building requirements for both private and public buildings.  However, Book Two was probably the most influential as far as the English Palladian architects were concerned, as Palladio set out details of each of those buildings which he was actually commissioned to build, giving the names of the patrons who had instructed him. Not all were actually executed.  The Third Book concentrated on public buildings including bridges and roads and Book Four, which was by far the largest, illustrated a number of antique Roman buildings. 

    It was Inigo Jones (1573-1652) who brought the Italian Renaissance architecture to England in its pure unadulterated form.  He had spent a year in Rome in 1614, returning in 1615.  In the same year he became the Surveyor of the King's Works.  Probably his two most famous works were the Banqueting House at Whitehall and the Queen's House in Greenwich.  Although Jones used Renaissance Roman Palace designs in building the Banqueting House, there are a number of important borrowings from Palladio such as the use of the cube.  Furthermore, the interiors of both the Banqueting House and the Queen's House use the cube and sub-divisions of the cube based on Palladio.  Jones had obtained a copy of I Quattri Libri when in Rome, which he had carefully annotated and this copy is now in the Bodleian Library, Oxford.  Jones also designed the South
    Front of Wilton House, which was Lord Herbert’s country seat.

    The Palladian style was revived as a national style in about 1715 and I shall be discussing how this came about at the end of the lecture.   In 1715, a Scottish architect Colen Campbell (1676-1729) published the first of three volumes of Vitruvius Britannicus.  The other two volumes were published in 1717 and 1725 respectively.  In 1715, Dubois and Leoni translated into English for the first time a complete  I Quattri Libri, thus making Palladio’s designs more easily available to the English patron.  Most leading Whigs such as Lord Burlington were subscribers to both Vitruvius Britannicus and the English translation of the I Quattri Libri and this was a very important factor in promoting this style.  Campbell in his first book of Vitruvius Britannicus was really as much promoting the architecture of Inigo Jones as much as Palladio.  Wanstead House, one of the earliest examples of his designs, showed the influence of Inigo Jones’s unexecuted 'palace designs', which are very much reflected in Aldrich’s Peckwater Quadrangle at Christchurch, Oxford built in 1706.  Wanstead, built in 1713, was close to London and was very influential.  Campbell also designed Houghton Hall for Sir Robert Walpole, who was Prime Minister in all but name.  The original design is much closer to Inigo Jones’s Wilton.  Houghton was completed by James Gibbs after Campbell died in 1729.

    However, in the third volume of Vitruvius Britannicus Campbell made much more direct reference to Palladio particularly in four villas he designed - Stourhead, Mereworth, Lord Herbert's Villa at Whitehall and Newby in Yorkshire (which has been much altered).   These four villas were more directly based on Palladio’s villa designs than the great country houses like Houghton.  Stourhead was designed for the banker Henry Hoare and built between 1719 and 1722.  The fenestration is 1-3-1 like the front of Palladio's villas.  The front elevation and planning of this is close to the Villa Emo, although Stourhead has an attic above the portico.  Mereworth, built for Colonel Fane in about 1725, was based on Palladio’s Villa Rotonda, although Mereworth is slightly bigger than the Villa Rotondo.

    At Marble Hill, it is not really possible to say which of Palladio’s villas were copied.  It is probably based on an amalgam of the various villa designs by Palladio but the principal sources may have been the Villa Emo and possibly the Villa Pisani.

    2. Who commissioned Marble Hill?

    As most of you know, the house was built for Henrietta Howard, Countess of Suffolk.  In 1714, Henrietta had become a woman of the Bedchamber to Princess Caroline, the Princess of Wales, when George I became King.  I propose to touch on her life briefly because although most of you know it, there may be a few who do not.  Henrietta had been born in 1689, the daughter of Sir Henry Hobart of Bickling Hall, Norfolk, a house which now belongs to the National Trust.  He was killed in a duel in 1696 and her mother died three years later.  It appears that Henrietta went to live with her kinsman the Earl of Suffolk possibly in 1702, but the facts are uncertain.  In 1705, she married Charles Howard, the third son of the Earl of Suffolk and their only child Henry was born in 1706.  However, it was a disastrous marriage.  As Henrietta learnt too late, her husband was addicted to drinking gambling and whoring.  In 1713, after several years in penury, Henrietta persuaded Charles to accompany her to Hanover to ingratiate themselves into the home of Sophia, Electress of Hanover, because under the Act of Settlement 1702, Sophia would succeed to the English throne when Queen Anne died.  But in the event, Sophia died in June 1714, less than two months before Queen Anne.  As all Queen Anne’s children had predeceased her this meant Sophia's son George became King.

    In 1717, the King had an almighty row with his son, Prince George, the then Prince of Wales.  First the King put him under house arrest and then expelled him from St. James's Palace.  Charles stayed with the King having a minor post in the King’s Household, but when Henrietta followed her mistress the Princess of Wales, Charles ordered her to remove her possessions from their rooms at St. James's.  The Prince of Wales’s town house was in what is now Leicester Square and his country retreat was Richmond Lodge in Richmond Old Deer Park, which he leased in 1718. About then Henrietta began a relationship with the Prince of Wales.  In 1722 he agreed to pay her about £11,500 in stock and an annual pension of £2,000, a very substantial sum then.  Tracy Borman in her book King’s Mistress, Queen’s Servant has put forward a very interesting theory why the Prince of Wales paid this sum.  Henrietta wisely put this money into property and in 1724 started building Marble Hill.  She was formally separated from her husband in 1727, but this did not prevent her from becoming the Countess of Suffolk, when he became the Earl of Suffolk in 1731.  Her husband died in 1733 .  She obtained permission to leave the Court and married Captain Berkeley in 1735, who died in 1746 and Henrietta died in 1767.

    3. Who were the architects of Marble Hill?

    As I have mentioned already, the two architects were Lord Herbert and Roger Morris who was originally a carpenter by trade.  Strictly speaking there was no such profession as an architect at this date.  Anyone who was involved in building could describe himself as an architect and often did.  The architectural profession as we know it really started to develop at the end of the 18th century when Chambers and Soane and some of their contemporaries started charging scale fees and taking pupils.

    Lord Herbert was known as the 'Architect Earl'.  His country seat, Wilton House, is still the family seat today.  The state rooms there included the famous Double Cube Room and Single Cube Room and were almost certainly designed by Inigo Jones with the assistance of his relative John Webb.  The south front had to be rebuilt after a fire in 1647.  He was born in 1689 and had held the usual posts such as a leading nobleman would expect to do that time, but he was also elected a member of the Royal Society in 1743, which very much reflected his intellectual interests.  Being an aristocrat did not mean automatic entry into the Royal Society.  He had a keen interest in archaeology visiting Stonehenge on a number of occasions.  He was known to be an outstandingly good swimmer, boxer and runner and he was also known for his appalling bad temper.  Unusually for the 18th century, he was a vegetarian, and was apparently seen walking on one occasion in Paris munching watercress and beetroot from a haversack.  Lord Herbert had taken an early interest in architecture.  When he had been an undergraduate at Christchurch, Oxford, Dr Aldrich was the Dean and had been responsible for designing the Peckwater Quadrangle at Christchurch, based both on Palladio’s architecture and Inigo Jones’ palace designs.  Lord Herbert contributed £20 towards building the Peckwater Quadrangle.  It was built in 1706, nine years before Colen Campbell published his Vitruvius Britannicus and was thus one of the earliest examples of the revival of the English Palladian style.

    Lord Herbert had a town house, later known as Pembroke House, designed by Colen Campbell in the Palladian style and completed in 1724. Pembroke House was demolished in 1913.  He was very likely to have been personally involved in designing his town house at Whitehall given his subsequent work as an architect.  Apart from Marble Hill, Lord Herbert designed a number of works with Roger Morris including the White Lodge in Richmond Park for George II, again in the Palladian style, which was completed in 1728, a year before the completion of Marble Hill.  The wings were added later.

    Later on Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough commissioned Lord Herbert and Roger Morris to design the column of Victory at Blenheim Palace and also Wimbledon House, for which they got little thanks.  This house was burnt down in 1785.  Lord Herbert and Roger Morris also worked together in redesigning some of the state rooms at his home at Wilton.  However, probably their most famous joint enterprise there was the building of the Palladian Bridge, completed in about 1737, based on Palladio’s bridge design in his I Quattri Libri, but generally considered to be superior to Palladio’s own design.  Lord Herbert, who had become the ninth Earl of Pembroke in 1733, died in 1750.

    Roger Morris, was born in about 1690 and may have been Colen Campbell’s assistant at some point, possibly in the building of Pembroke House, Whitehall and this is where he may have met Lord Herbert.  Apart from Marble Hill and other commissions with Lord Herbert, Morris also built a number of other important houses including Adderbury House, Oxfordshire, Whitton Park, Middlesex and Inveraray Castle, Argyllshire all for the Duke of Argyll.  He also built Clearwell Castle, Gloucestershire and Combe Bank, Kent.  Morris had described himself as a carpenter when he took a lease of a house on Lord Harley’s Marylebone estate in 1724, but he was clearly intent on being 'upwardly mobile'.  He already had an account at Hoare’s Bank and shortly after this he was describing himself as being employed as a surveyor.  Surveying had been recognised as a profession since the 16th century.  When building Covent Garden theatre in 1731, Morris described himself as an architect.  By 1730s he was living in a house, which he built, in Oxford Street and was now describing himself as a 'gentleman'.  In 1731 he had married Elizabeth the daughter of Sir Philip Jackson, as his second wife.  He had previously married a girl called Mary, about whom we know really nothing about.  He appears to have been successful in developing and speculating in land and obtained the office of Master Carpenter to the Office of Ordnance and also Surveyor of the Mint.  These various posts brought him in a sizeable income and he died a rich man in 1749.

    4. The building of Marble Hill including the type of craftsmen and the materials used

    Now let us look at Marble Hill, which was probably begun in 1724 and completed in 1729 and a very important example of English Palladian architecture.  In style it is more like a villa than a country house.  Although a villa is usually a secondary home, Marble Hill was Henrietta's principal residence for most of the time that she occupied it.  Marble Hill has the 'classic' fenestration of Palladio’s villas, namely 1-3-1, with a central saloon (or sala) lit by three windows and side rooms lit by one window.  In building Marble Hill, it seems probably that Roger Morris had obtained assistance from his cousin Robert Morris (1703-1754) who was the leading Palladian theoretician and had written a book about an ideal Palladian house in his Lectures on Architecture (1734) in which he acknowledged Roger Morris' help in the introduction.  He had written an earlier book called, An Essay In Defence of Ancient Architecture in 1728.  This is the illustration of an ideal house set out in this book, which is very close to Marble Hill in design.

    Robert Morris pointed out in his Lectures on Architecture (1734) that Palladio had based his design of his buildings on the cube and the proportions of the cube and also that there should be seven basic ratios in designing a house.  Robert Morris said that he agreed with Palladio that there should be seven ratios but said he would have used different ratios to Palladio.  Lees-Milne in The Earls of Creation said that all these proportions could be found in the elevations and apartments of Marble Hill down to the proportion of the windows and chimneypieces.  The windows on the principal floor are emphasised as they are in Palladio’s villas.  However, the gallery is on the second floor is not derived from Palladio and was a frequent feature of English sixteenth and seventeenth century houses.  The second floor in Palladio's villas was used as a granary as the villas had been designed to be working farm houses as well as country villas.  The Great Room here was almost certainly based on the Single Cube Room at Wilton and the fire place is probably based on Le Barbet’s fire place designs in Livre d’architecture d’autels et de cheminees (1633) a book which we know Inigo Jones used.

    In building Marble Hill, Lord Islay acted as Henrietta's agent.  Henrietta, being a married woman could not act on her own.  He may have retained Roger Morris on the recommendation of his brother, the Duke of Argyll.  Lord Islay had to buy up the land to build the house, which he did on a piecemeal basis as the present park was owned by several different people.  Some of plots were quite small.

    First he bought 11 acres from three different owners on a plot called Marble Hill shot.  This plot apparently appeared on a plan dated 1350 as 'Madelhylle', so the present name Marble Hill may have been derived from 'Mardelhylle'.  By 1750 all the land of sixty-six and half acres, which comprises the present park, had been bought.  The exterior of Marble Hill is brick with stone facings in the centre and around the windows.  We know what the house looked like in 1749 from a print by Heckell of that date.  The whole exterior was coated with stucco, although we do not know if it had stucco when the first built, as the first patent for stucco was patented in 1737 by a paint manufacturer, Alexander Emerton.

    We do not know the number of craftsmen actually involved at Marble Hill, but we do know the workmen involved in the building of the Maids of Honour Row, Richmond, a building project almost as big.  Similar types of craftsmen would have been used here.  Dr Sally Jeffery (The Georgian Journal 2010) has shown that the Row was built as a speculation in 1717 and set out a list of craftsmen in the appendix.  Looking at this list, the word 'Deal' meant wood from Scandinavia.  Laths were the prepared pieces of wood put in before plastering – usually oak.  Tilers were set out separately.  Three of the workers were women.  One, Anne Harris, was the plumber.

    When work actually started on a house, the carpenters would have erected the skeleton of the house as well as scaffolding for the brick work. However the carpenters and brick layers would have been working closely together.  The carpenters would have been responsible for laying the joists, rafters and the floorboards.  Most of work would have been done at their home in their own workshop.  The sections were marked with Roman numerals.

    The bricks would often be made on site.  We know that at Ham House when the Duke and Duchess of Lauderdale were remodelling the house, one and half million bricks were baked on site, but we do not know definitely if the brick making was done on site at Marble Hill, but it probably was.  The further away the brick kiln was from the site the higher the cost to the client.  In the London area, clay unlike stone was readily available and there would have likely to have been available clay nearby.  The clay would have been dug in the autumn so that the winter frosts made the material more malleable.  The bricks would have been made in hand made in wooden moulds and heated in a specially set-up kiln.  The law laid down that bricks made within 15 miles of the City of London, as here at Marble Hill, had to be 9” x 4½" x 2¼".  These were known as statute bricks.  The bricklayers would have also made bricks of a higher quality to be placed around the surrounds of doors and windows, known as gauged or rubbed bricks.  A good brick layer could lay as much as 1,000 bricks in one day.  Stone masons would have been needed at some point for the stone facings. 

    For the more decorative work such as the Ionic volutes, the builders would have used a special hand made cement and I am sure that you would like to have a go at making this when you get home, so here is the recipe taken from Richard Neve’s The City and Country Purchaser published in 1703.  He says to make cold cement:

    "One should take a half pound of Cheshire cheese, peel grate very small, put into a pot.  Then take a pint of cow’s milk let them stand all night.  Then get white of 12 to 14 eggs, then a ½ lb of best unslaked quick lime, and then sift it through a fine-hair sieve into a mixture all well together.  This cement will be white – add dust if brick colour required."

    Once the work had reached a fairly advanced stage, the joiners would have been brought in.  As a general rule, the joiners worked on site and were concerned with finishing the woodwork of the interiors and the timber detailing on the outside.  Joiners were involved in the more delicate woodwork.  They played a key role in the construction of the windows, which I shall be dealing with in some detail shortly.  Both carpenters and joiners worked in wood and inevitably there were disputes as to what was carpentry work and what was joinery, which led to the issue coming before the court of Aldermen in the City of London in 1632 to arbitrate as what was joinery and what was carpentry.  In their decision, they set out a clear distinction as to what the two trades could do.

    To make matters more complicated, outside London the same person was often both a joiner and a carpenter.  At Marble Hill, the joiners would have been responsible for the famous mahogany staircase.  The wood comes from Honduras, which was then a Spanish colony and the wood was a gift from George II.  It is said that the naval captain, who was instructed to get the timber, cut the trees down in Honduras with so little ceremony that there was almost a war with Spain.  The floor, though also mahogany in this room, would have probably done by the carpenters. The rich wood carving in the house was done by James Richards who was a pupil of Grinling Gibbons.  Richards had been appointed Master Sculptor in Wood to the King on the death of Grinling Gibbons in 1721.

    Dan Cruickshank and Peter Wyld have convincingly argued that in the 18th century the overall design was controlled by the placing of the windows and based in the width of the window (London: The Art of Georgian Building).  This was particularly important in a Palladian building with its emphasis on symmetry.  In antique classical architecture, the module was based on the diameter of the column.  At Marble Hill the width of every window here is about 40" and the whole of the design of the exterior is based on proportions of this module of 40" both vertically and horizontally.

    The windows here are counter-balanced sash windows, which had almost become universal in new buildings in England by the 1720s.  It was an English invention probably invented probably by Thomas Kinward, who was master joiner to the Crown in 1660s, working in the King’s Surveyors office.  The earliest surviving sash window was discovered in the remains of the Prince’s lodgings at Newmarket dated about 1667 and a half sized copy is at Ham House in the basement.  In fact, the earliest major installation of sash windows may have been at Ham House, when twenty-six sash windows were installed in the ground floor for the Duke of Lauderdale, a leading member of the Court, when Ham was extensively remodelled in the 1670's.  The present sash windows were put in by John James in the 1730s.  Apart from Ham House, the earliest references to counter balanced sash windows are generally from the records of the Royal Palaces. The earliest complete set of sash windows, which still survive are in the King’s apartments at Hampton Court, put in by Wren in 1690s.

    The installation of the sash windows would have been done by joiners, glaziers and plumbers.  The plumbers would have been used because they were responsible putting in the lead and at this date the counter-balance weights are made of lead.  The joiners would have been responsible for the glazing bars.  Special tools were made to make the glazing bars for the sash windows as sash windows became more and more popular such a specialists moulding planes.  Initially the glazing bars were too thick, but improved quality of joinery enabled the glazing bars to be made much narrower.

    There were three types of glass - cylinder glass, crown glass and plate glass.  The type most frequently used was crown glass and it would probably have been used here.  Plate glass was prohibitively expensive at that date.  Wren used both crown glass and plate glass at Hampton Court.  He estimated that he spent £2,200 on eighty-four windows using plate glass for the Royal Apartments, compared with £800 for 250 windows elsewhere in the palace.  The same technique for plate glass was used for mirror glass.

    To make Crown glass, the glass maker blew the heated liquid glass into a balloon shape with a blow pipe and then transferred this globule of molten glass to the end of a rod, called a pontil rod.  He would then spin the rod until centrifugal force caused the glass globule to flash into a circular disc.  After it had been slowly cooled under a process called annealing, the glass was cut up into sections leaving the bull’s eye in the centre which often used in shops as it was cheaper.

    The final stage would have been the plastering and painting and installing wallpaper, where wallpaper was put up.  Rough plaster would have been applied, probably mixed in with lime and animal hair, and then light smooth plaster would have been applied for delicate plaster work.  At the top end, plasterers were artists in their own right, such as the two Swiss-born plasterers, Guiseppe Artari and Giovanni Bagutti who helped James Gibbs at the Octagon Room Orleans House.  Sometimes up to a year was given to allow the plaster to dry before painting or putting up wallpaper.  The method of gilding would have probably been water gilding similar to the method of applying gold background in a mediaeval altar-piece.  Basically the method was to put on a red pigment from a red clay called bole and when this was completely dry, water was applied to the area to be gilded.  In the Middle Ages gold leaf came from gold coins which were beaten to produce the wafer thin gold leaf.  The gold leaf had to be applied very delicately and when it was dry, it would be rubbed with a tool called an agate burnishing tool.

    We know that Chinese wallpaper was installed in the Dining Parlour and this was probably the most valuable wallpaper in the house.  The original has been lost.  The present wall paper was installed by English Heritage in 2006, but we also know from the surviving 18th century accounts that Henrietta Howard installed Chinese wall paper here in about 1751.  There is correspondence between Bromwich, a well-known upholsterer, and Henrietta’s steward in which Bromwich had said that if payment of 42 guineas is not made for this wallpaper, to a Mr Hallett, who had installed the paper, he would have to “sue her Ladyship” for this sum.  In the 18th century an upholsterer was responsible for the overall work, the closest modern equivalent being an interior designer. When English Heritage installed this wall paper, they ensured that the same techniques were used as their predecessors would have done in the 18th century.  English Heritage commissioned the leading expert De Gournay who used their studio in China using Chinese artists.  Paper used here is composed of white mulberry paper backed with another layer of mulberry paper.  All the painting is done with two brushes, one to hold the paint and the other to hold water.  Before hanging the wallpaper, the wall was lined with battens of timber. Superfine unprimed linen was stretched over the battens and the wallpaper was then pasted to the linen.  It was decided to use the bird and flower decoration, here, which was based on an amalgam of different styles from Chinese wall paper in various English country houses of the early and mid 18th century.

    5. Was Colen Campbell was involved in the building of Marble Hill?

    A more difficult point is the extent of the influence of Colen Campbell in designing Marble Hill.  He was the architect to George Prince of Wales and Henrietta was the Prince's mistress.  The Prince in effect financed the cost of the building.  Campbell almost certainly illustrated this house in the third volume of Vitruvius Britannicus, in his illustration of a house at 'Twittenham', although there are differences between this design and this house as built.  In particular, Campbell's design had a perron, but Marble Hill does not.  However, in this design Campbell more significantly did not name himself or anyone as the architect.  In all the buildings which we know he designed, he had put 'Campbell Architectus'.  Campbell was never slow to promote himself.  Indeed he probably published Vitruvius Britannicus as a promotion to obtain commissions.  Both Lord Herbert and Roger Morris had already had experience in designing Palladian style villas in their involvement with Lord Herbert’s own villa Pembroke House, Whitehall.  Roger Morris could and probably did call on his cousin Robert Morris for help.  I would therefore argue that it is unlikely Campbell had any direct influence on the designs of Marble Hill.  I would also suggest that Lord Herbert might have given the design of Marble Hill to Colen Campbell, in order that Campbell could publish this plan in the third volume of Vitruvius Britannicus.  Lord Herbert had been an important client of Campbell’s.  At this date Campbell was overwhelmed with commissions.

    6. Why we have developed an entirely different style in England from the dominant style in continental Europe?

    The final question, which I would like to pose, is why did English Architecture follow an entirely different course from most of Western Europe in the first half of the eighteenth century.  At time of Inigo Jones, Palladianism had really been a court style, rather than a national one and this style went out of fashion when Sir Christopher Wren (1632-1723) became the King’s Surveyor in 1669 and continued in this post until 1718.  He had built his principal buildings, such as St Paul’s Cathedral, the east side of Hampton Court and the Royal Naval Hospital Greenwich in the Baroque style.  He had spent almost a year in Paris in 1665 and had been very impressed by French Baroque architecture, particularly the use of the dome.  The Baroque was based on the classical antique, but Baroque architects interpreted classical design much more freely than the Palladians and there was greater emphasis on grandiose and rhetorical designs such as Wrens St Paul’s and Hampton Court and Vanbrugh’s Blenheim.

    The first sign of a reaction to the style used by Wren was in a famous open letter written by the third Earl of Shaftesbury in 1712 to Lord Somers.  He said:

    "Thro’ several reigns we have patiently seen the noblest publick Buildings perish (if I may say so) under the Hand of one single Court-Architect; who, if he had been able to profit from Experience; wou’d long since, at our expence, have prov’d the greatest Master in the World.  But’, I question whether our Patience is likely to hold much longer . . . Hardly as the Publick now stands shou’d we bear to see Whitehall treated like Hampton Court or even a new Cathedral like St. Paul’s."

    Shaftesbury suggested the country should have a new national style, but did not suggest any particular new style.  This was left to others and the English Palladian style could be said to date from 1715.  In the introduction the first volume of Vitruvius Britannicus, Campbell, praised the leading Italian Renaissance architects, such as Palladio, but was damning the about the Italian Baroque and said:

    "How affected and licentious are the works of Bernini and Fontana? How wildly extravagant are the designs of Borromini, who has endeavoured to debauch mankind with his odd and chimerical beauties, where the parts are without proportion, solids without true bearing, heap of materials without strength, excessive ornaments without grace and the whole without symmetry?"

    Four examples of the continental Baroque, which incurred Campbell’s wrath, were Versailles, Vaux-le-Vicomte, Palazzo Carigno and S. Ivo alla Sapienza.

    Campbell then continued in this Introduction as follows:

    "It is then with Renowned Palladio, we enter the lists to whom we oppose the famous Jones." 

    Indeed the title Vitruvius Britannicus is really implicitly dedicated to Inigo Jones.  John Webb, Jones's cousin and his principal assistant, called him the 'English Vitruvius'.

    What Campbell was seeking to introduce in the first volume was the style used by Inigo Jones.  The Whig Aristocracy now adopted the Palladian style as the national style, because they could possibly see that Inigo Jones had used or adapted Palladio’s architecture in his own designs.  The English upper classes sought to emulate classical values in almost every way and liked to call themselves the Augustans thus harking back to the early Roman Empire.  Both Campbell and Burlington considered that Palladio’s designs should be followed as they believed that Palladio’s style was based on this purer classical style.  What the English Palladians were seeking was a purer classical style and a rejection not only the relatively restrained examples of the English Baroque but the even more highly rhetorical styles which then dominated continental European architecture with their very free interpretation of the antique.  A further attraction was Palladio’s woodcut designs, in his I Quattri Libri, were easy to follow.

    However, what was particularly important here was that Jones was English.  It was an age of patriotism.  In 1713, we had just finished fighting the French in the War of the Spanish Succession and the French used the Baroque style so criticised by both the Earl of Shaftsbury and Colen Campbell and they chose to overlook the fact that Inigo Jones had actually introduced an entirely foreign (Italian Renaissance) style to this country.

    Finally, it might be said that the porticoes of Palladio's villas were not really suitable for the English climate.  Though there is no portico at Marble Hill, there are in many Palladian buildings.   Let Alexander Pope in his Epistle to Lord Burlington in 1731 have the last word:

    "Proud to catch cold at a Venetian Door
    Conscious they act the true Palladian part.
    And if they starve, they starve by rules of art."

    Talk to the Marble Hill Society
    Sunday 3rd March 2013

    © John Moses 2013


    The 1794 Inventory - Household Records

    On New year’s day 1764, Henrietta organised a party for her niece Henrietta Hotham who had been staying at Marble Hill House since 1761 and was now aged 11 years.  Lady Temple and Horace Walpole - amongst others - were invited and Horace give us a vivid account of the happy occasion.  Little Henrietta had already been excited by the gift of a new coat but was even more excited when she spied on Henrietta Howard’s dressing table a small round box containing a heart diamond ring and a small piece of paper on which Lady Temple had written a special poem.

    Everyone there made a fuss of little Henrietta and enjoyed seeing her receiving her presents.  In 1767, Henrietta Howard died leaving little Henrietta with some happy memories such as the 1764 party.  As part of the Execution of the Will an extensive inventory was made in 1767 covering most of the rooms in the House.  In a room unspecified were stored a large number of books and records.  By my calculation the total number was 682 items.  Some of this number would have been books to be read, but 248 come under the heading of Folios (quarto / octavo etc) which can technically refer to account ledgers.  Following the invention of double entry book keeping in renaissance times, account entries would be spread over two consecutive pages – debit items on one side and credit items on the other - with the same reference number/title applying to both pages.  Historically this has come to define one of the meanings of folio.

    Of these 248 folios 44 of them were not yet bound implying that some of them were still being used.  These records – financial and otherwise – would have been created by the Steward, Housekeeper, Butler and others including Henrietta herself.  Given Henrietta Howard’s financial problems after 1760, a competent steward would have needed a basic understanding of balancing the debits against the credits to establish the true financial position.

    Moving forward to 1794, an older and no doubt wiser Henrietta Hotham was at long last entitled to her life interest in Marble Hill House under the terms of Henrietta Howard’s Will.  Asserting her new status, a new inventory was made in 1794 which stated:

    A compleat inventory of every Article removed from Marble Hill House to Marble Hill Cottage by Miss Hotham 24th January 1794. To prevent all misunderstanding or disputes after the decease of Miss Hotham there is marked on each article so removed and written in each (relevant) book these words - ‘removed from Marble Hill House'. The number of volumes of books consist of five hundred and eleven books consisting of folios, quartos, octavos and duodecimos. Many sets of the books were found by Miss Hotham imperfect. 

    It is obvious that this figure of 511 does not agree with the 1767 figures. There may be some good reasons for this; one being that Henrietta and the Suffolk family may have removed some of the reading books to populate other family libraries in London and elsewhere.  Some of the house records may have been created post 1767.  It is also clear that storage of the old records did not ensure their safety because of dampness, pests and general neglect.  So some may have been damaged - reflecting the comment ‘imperfect’ on the inventory.  Taking them to Marble Hill cottage (Little Marble Hill) and putting them in a similar unsuitable storage space may have been the reason for their final demise. The cottage was situated by the riverside and possible flooding could have destroyed them.

    There is a description of the cottage in 1760 in which it is described as being ‘small, but the extreme neatness of the outside, which is perfectly white makes it a striking and pleasing object from the river.  There is a large room with a fine bow window to the water, hung with buff colour and adorned with prints, cut out and elegantly disposed’.  Henrietta lived there until 1805 when she moved to Richmond. As to the fate of the books, we hear nothing more.  Despite searches in the Norfolk record office where most of her documents are now held, a few handwritten notes are all that survive in the Norwich archives of the household records.

    Did bad storage or flooding lead to their demise? Or did it reach a point that that it was felt the household records were of little value? They did mean something to Henrietta Hotham but she died in 1816, leaving us without any clues. Their survival would have been invaluable to today’s historians and lovers of social history.

    Bruce Gordon Smith




    The 1794 Inventory - Chinoiserie

    ‘……Chinoiserie is western, it is a purely European vision of China; a fantasy based on a China of the imagination, the fabulous Cathay invented by the medieval world.’ [1]

    The story of the development of Chinoiserie in the West is a curious one originally based on misconceptions brought about by early travellers’ tales, some true but embroidered, and some highly fictitious, but believed by a credulous European audience. The very word ‘Chinoiserie’ is misleading and was often used as an umbrella term for goods which came from countries such as India, Japan and Persia, as well as China, but whose origins frequently became lost in translation. The term literally means ‘decoration in the Chinese taste, [2] but was actually a case of ‘European things in an oriental style.’ [3]  Most of the goods described as being Chinoiserie were never actually used by the Chinese, but were made solely for the European export market by Chinese craftsmen, who created objects that they thought would appeal to the western mind, thinking that this was what was wanted. The Europeans, in turn, mixed up the oriental style with western styles current at the time, such as rococo and gothick, thereby creating a hybrid style showing a confused understanding of what Chinoiserie actually was.

    The arrival of Chinoiserie from China imported by the East India Company added a welcome new burst of colour to Georgian rooms and therefore became very popular. The variety of shapes and sizes could fit any space as required and was very pleasing to the eye.  The attraction of chinoiserie was increased by the fact that imported items could be bought from the East India warehouses in the old city of London - in person or through the services of an agent. Auctions of goods were also held at the East India docks when their ships returned from the east.

    The imported goods included porcelain, Chinese style wallpaper, lacquer furniture and other Chinese style objects. Later on with the 18th century discovery of Cornish Kaolin, English Potteries such as Derby and Worcester were able to create Porcelain items in the style of Chinoiserie for the home market.

    The Collection

    From her contacts at the Royal Court Henrietta Howard would have felt a desire to set up her own collection which she could love and admire. The Chinese items purchased by Henrietta would have been made during the Qing dynasty but there is nothing to say that Henrietta could not have found an agent to purchase older items on her behalf.  No wonder then that Henrietta Howard wished to fill her new Palladian Villa –Marble Hill - with pieces that brightened up her rooms and created a sense of style for herself and her guests.  Such was her enthusiasm for collecting that in 1739 she had to build a china room in the form of a small two storey cottage close to the House in order to create extra display and storage space.  In 1745, this china room was incorporated into a new Servants quarter but the entry to the room remained private and separate.  This china room survived till 1909 when the servants’ quarters were declared redundant and demolished.  No photograph survives of the interior.  

    The 1767 inventory, although comprehensive, declined to describe the contents of the china room.  Here in the inventory of 1794, we are given some clues as to its contents.  The descriptions of these items are somewhat vague and may reflect the level of knowledge of the person making the inventory.  Where articles are ‘broke’, it implies that some of the articles were actually used by the household or damaged by careless housemaids.

    What is clear from the inventories – both 1767 and 1794 - is just the significant number of oriental wares held at Marble Hill House. In retrospect Henrietta Howard’s most flamboyant gesture was her exotic Dining room Chinese wallpaper – usually reserved for bedrooms and now recreated by English Heritage.

    In 1794 Henrietta Hotham, the great-niece of Henrietta Howard and the author of the Inventories, was choosing sufficient items to fill her new home at Little Marble Hill, having finally come into her inheritance under her aunt’s Will in 1793.  She was in the process of letting out the House to create an income for herself.

    The Inventories

    Inventory One

    A complete inventory of every Article removed from Marble Hill House to Marble Hill Cottage by Miss Hotham 24 th January 1794.  To prevent all misunderstanding or disputes after the decease of Miss Hotham there is marked on each article so removed and written in each (relevant) book these words - ‘removed from Marble Hill House’.  Later to be known as little Marble Hill.

    Removed from the House

    An Inlaid cabinet
    Two large Japan cabinets
    Two smaller Japan cabinets
    A pair of Ivory pagodas (now on display at Blickling Hall)
    A small Japan figure of a drummer
    Six leaved lacquer screen - now back in House.
    Ten pictures of different sizes

    Removed from the China Room

    A pair of old Japan bottles on ( bocks ?)
    A pair of tall beakers blue and white – one of them broke
    A pair of smaller ditto – one of them broke
    A pair of large blue and white Jars
    A pair of smaller ditto
    A pair of small blue and white Jars
    A blue and white bottle – broken
    A pair of blue and white bottles rather large
    An exceedingly large blue and white Jar
    Two large coloured Japan basons (basins) – not fellows (i.e. not identical)
    (Perhaps the China room had become storage space for damaged pieces)

    Inventory Two 

    Inventory Two relates to the ‘articles’ taken by Miss Hotham from the late Earl of Buckinghamshire’s house in Bond Street on 6 th May 1794. This was not Henrietta Howard’s house so this inventory is not strictly relevant.  These items also were destined for Little Marble Hill or possibly she was providing some alternative items for Marble Hill House prior to letting it out.

    If, as a result of this article, you wish to see similar ceramics and furniture as listed, visit the House and take a closer look at the porcelain and furniture on display.  If not, google Qing or Qianlong ceramics export ware and see the variety of illustrations.

    Bruce and Diana Gordon-Smith 

    May 2016

    1. Dawn Jacobson, Chinoiserie, 1993, p27.

    2. De Gournay, Chinoiserie Collection Designs, 2006, p1.

    3. Oliver Impey, Chinoiserie: the impact of oriental styles on Western and decoration,1977, p9.



    The Life and Times of Maria Fitzherbert - A Royal Romance (Part One : 1756 to 1785)

    In her heyday Maria Fitzherbert was one of the most famous women of the 18th century.  She was a lady at times shrouded in controversy, energising the town broadsheets to portray her in words and pictures and indulge in much speculation.  What caused the speculation was a relationship with the heir to the throne - the handsome Prince George, later to become George IV.  Two more unlikely lovers would be hard to imagine, who engaged on a romantic journey full of extraordinary incident and drama.  Add to this her physical attractions - her golden hair, her immaculate complexion and an attractive figure.  She was a lady who spurned the use of lead on her face and powder on her hair.  She had a natural lovely look about her.  No wonder George was transfixed by her as were the public at large.

    Maria Anne was the eldest child of William Smythe of Brambridge, Hampshire - a family of aristocratic Catholic descent - and was brought up a strict catholic.  In 1775, she was married to Edward Weld, 16 years her senior and a rich Catholic landowner.  Maria soon became a widow as Weld died just three months later after falling from his horse.  She married a second time, three years later to Thomas Fitzherbert of Swynnerton, Staffordshire.  She was ten years younger than him.  They had a son who died young.  This was a happier and more compatible marriage but he got injured protecting Catholic homes during the Gordon riots.  As a result he moved with Maria to the south of France to recuperate but died of his injuries on 7 May 1781.  She inherited a residence in Park Street, Mayfair and an annual income of £2,500.

    By August 1782 she had made her way back to Brighton.  According to her first biographer W H Wilkins (who published his book Mrs Fitzherbert and George IV in 1905) Maria was attracted to the size and situation of Marble Hill and took out a lease on the property - probably in late 1782 or early 1783.  Here she lived quietly the life of a grieving widow.  Then Prince George crossed her path – literally. In the spring of 1783 she was taking the air along the Richmond riverbank towards Kew when she spotted a party of elegantly dressed people - a party she guessed from Kew Palace.  She saw a handsome young man coming towards her.  He stopped and gave her the most elaborate bow that she had ever seen.  She responded with a bow and walked on but thought she knew who he could be.

    Early in 1784 her family friend Lady Sefton persuaded her to come to London for the season.  The Morning Herald announced that ‘a new constellation has made an appearance in the fashionable hemisphere…..Mrs F H T has in her train half our young nobility’.  One particular night she went to the theatre with Lady Sefton only to find that a certain young prince was in the box opposite.  Rather than looking at the stage, he gazed endlessly in her direction obviously trying to attract her attention - she did not respond.  The audience witnessed the encounter but not the Prince’s frantic efforts to follow her back to Park Street. It soon became clear to aristocratic hostesses that to ensure the attendance of the Prince, Maria also had to be invited.  So she could not escape his attentions which she did not take seriously.  Not so for the Prince who was in deadly earnest - a fact she realised only belatedly.

    There is a famous saying “If you cannot stand the heat, keep away from the fire”.  When the season was almost over, she fled back to Marble Hill to escape his attentions.  Quite simply Maria was quite another calibre to the ladies whom he had previously honoured with his attentions.  During those remaining summer months the young Prince made frequent trips to Marble Hill to press his suit.  Of course she knew that any marriage would be by law invalid and to be his mistress was not an option.  Back in London, George decided that desperate measures were called for.  The problem for George was that the more he was rejected, the more determined he became, ignoring her tears and entreaties to leave her alone.  In early July 1784 George commenced his plan of action.  A messenger appeared at Maria’s door in Park Street saying that the Prince had attempted suicide and was asking for her.  Maria solicited the help of the Duchess of Devonshire and together they went to Carlton House.  There they discovered a scene worthy of a theatrical melodrama.  The Prince was lying on his bed, pale and with blood on his cuffs. He said he would stab himself again if she did not marry him.

    She relented and agreed to some ceremonial words which purported to say they were married.  A document was prepared to make it look legal but was it? Maria was no fool.  She realised quickly that the document was worthless and took desperate measures on her own account.  Before George could react, she was on a boat to Europe and stayed there for a year shadowed by George’s agents/ private detectives.  Only when he had promised her a proper valid wedding ceremony did she return.  On December 15th 1785 they were married at Park Street.  Someone kept watch whilst the Reverend Robert Burt performed the secret ceremony.  His reward was the parish of Twickenham where he became Vicar in 1788.

    In the short term there was a happy ending to this story.  The Prince at last felt himself a husband and paraded her proudly in London society.  Hostesses were requested to issue joint invitations to events, but were they coming as husband and wife or man and his mistress? - nobody knew the answer to that and the broad sheets were speculating feverishly.  Deliberately, she did not live at Carlton House but at Park Street.  Remarkably George was a changed man - affable to everyone and always in her company.  For the first time in his life he was really in love.

    Bruce Gordon-Smith