Little is known of the original house at Wyreside, which was purchased by John Cawthorne in the decade preceding his death. In the late 1780s, John Fenton Cawthorne commissioned Adam to make designs for alterations to the house. Alternative neo-classical and castle-style schemes were produced, and we can see from the extant plans (Adam volumes 36/100 and 46/110) that Adam proposed an L-shaped scheme with the addition of new blocks to the south of the existing house. The neo-classical scheme was preferred, but work was halted in 1796 when Fenton Cawthorne was found to be embezzling money and was expelled from parliament. Fenton Cawthorne’s political career was revived ten years later, but the building work was never resumed. According to an etching of the house made in 1821 for the Lonsdale Magazine, work to reface the entrance front of the original building (the west front) had been completed almost in accordance with Adam’s designs, albeit with a shield rather than an oculus in the tympanum of the pediment, without the sphinx and urn sculptural elements, and lacking the new domed pavilion at the southern end. Indeed, the new southern range was not built, and the older house remained visible. It has been suggested that Adam also provided interior decorative schemes for the house, but this is speculation as there are no known extant drawings and the rooms do not survive.
John Fenton Cawthorne died without children, and the house was sold by his trustees in 1836 to Robert Garnett (1780-1852). Little of Adam’s work at Wyreside survives because in 1843-44 the house was remodelled by Garnett to designs by Edmund Sharpe (1809-77), including the demolition of Adam’s west front. At the same time, the interior was completely changed and redecorated. Further nineteenth- and twentieth-century alterations followed. The house was sold in 1936 and divided into apartments, and in 2012 it was converted into a hotel.
There are three further drawings for Adam’s neo-classical scheme at Wyreside within the collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum.
A.T. Bolton, The architecture of Robert and James Adam, 1922, Volume II, Index pp. 53, 65; A. Rowan, Designs for castles and country villas by Robert & James Adam, 1985, pp. 82-83; A. Rowan, Robert Adam: catalogue of architectural drawings in the Victoria and Albert Museum, 1988, pp. 99-101; D. King, The complete works of Robert & James Adam and unbuilt Adam, 2001, Volume I, p. 179, Volume II, p. 165; C. Hartwell, and N. Pevsner, The buildings of England: Lancashire: north, 2009, pp. 276-77; ‘Fenton Cawthorne, John (1753-1831), of Wyreside, Lancs.’, History of Parliament online; ‘Wyreside Hall, Coach House, and Ice House, Nether Wyresdale’, British Listed Buildings online
Frances Sands, 2015
Sir John Soane's collection includes some 30,000 architectural, design and topographical drawings which is a very important resource for scholars worldwide. His was the first architect’s collection to attempt to preserve the best in design for the architectural profession in the future, and it did so by assembling as exemplars surviving drawings by great Renaissance masters and by the leading architects in Britain in the 17th and 18th centuries and his near contemporaries such as Sir William Chambers, Robert Adam and George Dance the Younger. These drawings sit side by side with 9,000 drawings in Soane’s own hand or those of the pupils in his office, covering his early work as a student, his time in Italy and the drawings produced in the course of his architectural practice from 1780 until the 1830s.
Browse (via the vertical menu to the left) and search results for Drawings include a mixture of Concise catalogue records – drawn from an outline list of the collection – and fuller records where drawings have been catalogued in more detail (an ongoing process).
Contents of Wyreside Hall, Nether Wyresdale, Dolphinholme, Lancashire: alternative designs for alterations to the house for John Fenton Cawthorne, 1786-92 (6)
- Preliminary design and design for a castle-style house, 1786-90, unexecuted (2)
- Preliminary design, design and drawings for publication for a neo-classical house, 1786-92, party executed (4)