Newby Hall was built in c1685-93 in red brick for a coal magnate, Sir Edward Blackett, and possibly to designs by Sir Christopher Wren (1632-1723). Various alterations were undertaken by Richard Weddell prior to his death, but it was William Weddell who made the most significant alterations to the house. In 1764-65 Weddell undertook a Grand Tour, and during this time he amassed a large collection of antique sculpture. The majority was acquired from the antiques dealer Thomas Jenkins (1722-98), including the famous Barberini or Jenkins Venus. Weddell returned to Newby in 1765, and John Carr of York (1723-1807) was commissioned to design two projecting wings on the east side of the house by connecting former service pavilions to the principal block. One wing was for the kitchen, and the other to provide a gallery space for Weddell’s antiquities. There is some disagreement between scholarly texts as to whether Carr’s wings were commissioned before or after Weddell’s Grand Tour. If they were commissioned before, the provision of a gallery space would have been precocious as Weddell was not yet in possession of anything to fill it.
Carr’s proposal for the layout of the gallery was rejected by Weddell, and in 1766 he approached Robert Adam to make designs for this important room. Following his work on the gallery, Adam also made designs to redecorate rooms in the rest of Newby, including the dining room (later the library), the drawing (tapestry) room, the ante room, the staircase, the entrance hall, and Weddell’s study. The works were supervised by the carpenter-cum-architect William Belwood (1739-90), with plasterwork ornamentation by Joseph Rose (1745-99), painted panels by Antonio Zucchi (1726–95), and much of the furniture was acquired from Thomas Chippendale (c1718-79).
In 1772 Weddell purchased a townhouse at 6 Upper Brook Street, and it was probably in the same year that Adam was also commissioned to redesign that house. There are no drawings for this commission within the collection at Sir John Soane’s Museum, but there are a handful of drawings at the West Yorkshire Archive Service.
Newby is well preserved, and much of Adam’s executed interior survives. In c1775, however, William Belwood heightened Carr’s two wings, extending them from one to two storeys. Belwood also built the Newby stables in c1777 – previously attributed to Adam – and he was responsible for various alterations to the interior, including replacing Adam’s bookcases in Weddell’s study in c1790. Further alterations were made to Adam’s interior in 1807 by Lord Grantham, partly to designs by his father for nearby Baldersby Park. At this time a new dining room was built on the north-west corner of the house, and Adam’s dining room on the south front was converted into a library. Bookcases were added to the apses, much in the style of Adam’s library at Kenwood. At the same time Adam’s ante room and stairwell were knocked together. This meant that the door between the ante room and the dining room (library) was blocked, and Adam’s route from the drawing (tapestry) room, through the ante room and dining room (library), into the gallery, was diverted. Finally, at the end of the nineteenth century, in 1892-94, a neo-Jacobean staircase was added to the north end of the house, giving access to a contemporary billiard room above the 1807 dining room, both to designs by Walker and Strong. Newby has passed by descent to the Compton family. It remains their home, and is open to the public for half of the year.
There are 19 Adam office drawings for Newby Hall within the collection at the West Yorkshire Archive Service, Morley, along with five for 6 Upper Brook Street, London, and 456 other drawings dating from c1638-c1900. In 2000 these were sold by the Compton family to the Wakefield Metropolitan District Council for £135,000, with contributions from the Art Fund, the HLF, the Resources/V&A Purchase Grant Fund, the Friends of the National Libraries, and a public appeal.
A.T. Bolton, The architecture of Robert and James Adam, 1922, Volume II, pp. 132-145, Index pp. 23, 91; J. Lees-Milne, The age of Adam, 1947, pp. 114-117; E. Harris, The furniture of Robert Adam, 1963, pp. 51, 80; D. Stillman, The decorative work of Robert Adam, 1966, pp. 71-72, 79; D. Yarwood, Robert Adam, 1970, pp. 135, 204-205; G. Beard, The work of Robert Adam, 1978, pp. 46, 61-62; J. Cornforth, ‘Newby Hall, North Yorkshire III-III’, Country Life, 14-21 June 1979, pp. 1918-1921, 2006-2009; R. Middleton, ‘The sculpture gallery at Newby Hall’, AA files, Autumn 1985, pp. 48-60; C. Picón, ‘Two neo-attic pedestals at Newby Hall’, The Burlington Magazine, October 1985, pp. 706-713; J. Low, 'Newby Hall: two late eighteenth-century inventories', Furniture History, 1986, pp. 135-165; J. Ingamells, A dictionary of British and Irish travellers in Italy: 1701-1800, 1997, p. 986; ‘Review’, National art collections fund, 2000, p. 97; E. Harris, The genius of Robert Adam: his interiors, 2001, pp. 213-231, 356-358; D. King, The complete works of Robert & James Adam and unbuilt Adam, 2001, Volume I, pp. 225, 245-248, 411, Volume II, p. 121; ‘The Jenkins Venus’, Christie’s sale catalogue, 13 June 2002; E. Harris, The country houses of Robert Adam: from the archives of Country Life, 2007, pp. 104-111; R. Guilding, ‘Newby Hall’s magnificent sculpture glows again’, Country Life, 3 September 2008; P. Smith, ‘A house by Sir Christopher Wren? The second Newby Hall and its gardens’, The Georgian Group Journal, 2008, pp. 5-30; P. Leach and N. Pevsner, The buildings of England: Yorkshire West Riding: Leeds, Bradford and the north, 2009, pp. 600-604; ‘Weddell, William (1736-92), of Newby, Yorks.’, History of Parliament online
I am grateful to the staff of the West Yorkshire Archive Service for providing access to their Adam office drawings for Newby and 6 Upper Brook Street. I am also grateful to Eric Nunns, a longstanding guide at Newby, who provided me with privileged access to the house.
Frances Sands, 2014
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 Newby Hall, Ripon, North Yorkshire: designs for the house and interior for William Weddell, 1766-84 (52)
- Preliminary design, design and finished drawing for the interior layout of the house, c1766-67, executed with alterations (3)
- Design for alterations to the principal (east) front, 1776, unexecuted (1)
- Record drawings for the dome and flats of the ceiling for the gallery, 1767, as executed (2)
- Preliminary designs for the pavement for the gallery, 1772, unexecuted (2)
- Design showing laid out wall elevations for the great dining room, c1767-69, executed with minor alterations (1)
- Finished drawing and record drawing for a chimneypiece for the dining room, 1769, as executed (2)
- Design and working drawing for a pier table for the dining room, 1775, executed status unknown (2)
- Preliminary design, finished drawing and record drawing for a sideboard table for the dining room, c1775-76, as executed (3)
- Preliminary design for a candlestick for the dining room, 1776, as executed (1)
- Variant finished drawing and record drawing for a tripod for the dining room, c1775-83, Adam volume 6/56 as executed (2)
- Preliminary design, design and finished drawing for a sideboard table and wine cistern for the dining room, 1783, as executed (3)
- Alternative preliminary design and finished drawings for a plate warmer for the dining room, 1784, executed status unknown (5)
- Finished drawing for the ceiling for the hall, 1769, as executed (1)
- Alternative preliminary design, finished drawing and record drawing for the chimneypiece for the hall, 1772, Adam volume 22/261 as executed (3)
- Record drawing for a pavement for the hall, 1772, unexecuted (1)
- Preliminary design and record drawing for the ceiling for the drawing room, 1769, as executed (2)
- Preliminary design and record drawing for a carpet for the drawing room, 1775, executed with minor alterations (2)
- Variant preliminary design and finished drawings for a chimneypiece for the drawing room, 1770, Adam volume 22/259 as executed (3)
- Record drawing for the ceiling for the study, 1769, as executed (1)
- Record drawing for a chimneypiece for the study, 1769, unexecuted (1)
- Preliminary design and finished drawing for the ceiling for the staircase, 1771, as executed (2)
- Design for a chimneypiece for the ante room to the principal bedchamber (now the Homer bedroom), 1774, as executed (1)
- Design for a chimneypiece for the bedchamber, 1780, executed with minor alterations (1)
- Preliminary designs and finished drawings for items of furniture for unknown locations, 1770-83, executed status unknown (5)
- Record drawings for friezes, ND, most as executed (2)