The first Countess of Derby held considerable sway over Robert Adam’s works for Lord Derby. From 1773-75 Adam made considerable alterations to Lord Derby’s (then Lord Stanley) townhouse at 23 Grosvenor Square in preparation for his marriage to Lady Elizabeth. Furthermore, to celebrate his marriage in 1774, Derby commissioned designs for a temporary pavilion for the park at The Oaks, the country home of his uncle and aunt, General John and Lady Charlotte Burgoyne. Derby was later to inherit this estate and commission Adam to make designs for alterations to the house. It was presumably through his aunt, Lady Charlotte Burgoyne, that Derby came to be acquainted with Adam as she was his patron at 10 Hertford Street, London, from 1769. It is also vaguely feasible that Derby came to know Adam through his wife's maternal uncle, the 6th Earl of Coventry, whom had married the other Gunning sister, and who was Adam’s patron at Croome Court, Worcestershire, and Coventry House, Piccadilly
Prior to inheriting from his grandfather in 1776, Derby had already started to remodel the park at Knowsley to designs by Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown (1716-83). The Knowsley estate had come into the possession of the Stanley family through marriage in 1385, and has been their principal estate since 1702. The older of two ranges comprising the extant house was built in 1731-37 for the 10th Earl of Derby to designs by Henry Stephen (c1686-1756). On his succession, Derby commissioned Adam to make designs for lodges, a dairy for Lady Charlotte, and to enlarge and improve the house, with the intention of using it for large-scale entertaining. Adam’s scheme for the house comprised a U-shaped building: making use of the pre-existing range, with the addition of a mirroring range, and a new central block between the two. Lady Charlotte’s dairy was executed in 1776-77, but then demolished. The lodges were not executed, and nor was that for the house, both because it was far too ambitious and expensive for Lord Derby, but also because when Lady Charlotte deserted him in 1778, he lost all interest in building projects, and his subsequent efforts were focused on sporting activities – principally horse racing – instituting the Epsom Oaks, and the Derby Stakes.
Derby did not make alterations to Knowsley until 1810-22 – long after Adam’s death – to designs by John Foster junior (c1787-1846). The old wing (running east to west) was retained, and a second wing was built (running north to south), resulting in an L-shaped building. Later, there were various nineteenth- and twentieth-century alterations to the house, including neo-Georgian improvements in 1908-12 to designs by W.H. Romaine-Walker (1854-1940), and reductions in 1953-54 to designs by Claud Phillimore (1911-94). Knowsley remains in the possession of the 19th Earl of Derby. The estate contains a safari park founded by the 13th Earl, and part of the house is leased for events.
See also: 23 Grosvenor Square, London; The Oaks, Surrey.
A.T. Bolton, The architecture of Robert and James Adam, 1922, Volume II, Index pp. 20, 68; J.M. Robinson, ‘Knowsley Hall, Lancashire – II’, Country Life, 24 June 1999, pp. 130-133; S. Astley, Robert Adam’s castles, 2000, p. 7; E. Harris, The genius of Robert Adam: his interiors, 2001, p. 295; D. King, The complete works of Robert & James Adam and unbuilt Adam, 2001, Volume I, pp. 342-345, Volume II, pp. 157, 163, 210, 221, 245; R. Pollard, and N. Pevsner, The buildings of England: Lancashire: Liverpool and the south west, 2006, p. 217; ‘Stanley, Edward Smith, twelfth earl of Derby (1752-1834)’, Oxford dictionary of national biography online; ‘Stanley, Edward, Lord Stanley (1752-1834)’, History of Parliament online
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 Knowsley Park, Lancashire: unexecuted designs for a lodge, and alterations and additions to the house, and executed designs for a dairy, for the 12th Earl of Derby, 1776-77 (9)
- Preliminary design, design and finished drawing for alterations and enlargments to the house, 1776, unexecuted (3)
- Preliminary design and designs for a dairy, 1776-77, as executed (3)
- Alternative preliminary design, design and finished drawings for a gateway and lodges, 1776-77, unexecuted (3)