The estate a Bowood had belonged to Sir Orland Bridgeman (c1678-1746), who had begun the house in c1725. Bowood was purchased by the 1st Earl of Shelburne in 1754, following which Henry Keene (1726-76) was employed to remodel the house.
On the 1st Earl's death in 1761, his countess approached Robert Adam to design a mausoleum and monument to her late husband. This was erected by a local mason named John Button, on a wooded ridge to the south-west of Bowood House. It takes the form of a cruciform, domed and pedimented building with catacombs underneath, and Pevsner described it as the 'principal garden ornament' at Bowood. According to Colvin, temple-fronted mausolea were rare in eighteenth-century Britain, and the Bowood mausoleum is 'the most notable example'. The mausoleum contains various monuments, including that of the 1st Earl, also designed by Adam for the Countess, which was carved by Augostino Carlini RA (c1718-90). It takes the form of a white marble sarcophagus ornamented with a medallion showing the mourning, widowed, Countess.
Shortly after she had commissioned the mausoleum, the Countess sold Bowood to her son, the 2nd Earl of Shelburne (later 1st Marquis of Lansdowne) for £15,000. She then returned to Ireland, leaving the construction of the mausoleum to her son's direction. It was completed in 1763, and remains in situ. The Bowood estate remains in the ownership of the Petty-Fitzmaurice family, and was opened to the public in 1976.
Bowood and Lansdowne House
A.T. Bolton, The architecture of Robert and James Adam, 1922, Volume I, Chapter 11, Volume II, Index, pp. 4, 87; J. Lees-Milne, The age of Adam, 1947, p. 103; N. Pevsner, The buildings of England: Wiltshire, 1963, p. 110; D. Yarwood, Robert Adam, 1970, pp. 133, 201-202; G. Beard, The work of Robert Adam, 1978, p. 40; H.M. Colvin, Architecture and the afterlife, 1991, p. 349; D. King, The complete works of Robert & James Adam and unbuilt Adam, 2001, Volume I, pp. 10, 325, 364, Volume II, p. 215; T. Russell, 'Shades of russet and brown', Country Life, 8 October 2008, p. 84; I. Roscoe, A biographical dictionary of sculptors in Britain: 1660-1851, 2009, pp. 202-3
Frances Sands, 2012
Contents of Bowood Mausoleum, Calne, Wiltshire: mausoleum and monument to John Fitzmaurice, 1st Earl of Shelburne, commissioned by Mary Fitzmaurice, Countess of Shelburne, 1761, executed (23)
- Preliminary design and finished drawings for the first scheme for the mausoleum, 1761, unexecuted (4)
- Preliminary design and finished drawings for the second scheme for the mausoleum, 1761, unexecuted (3)
- Preliminary designs and finished drawings for the third scheme for the mausoleum, 1761, unexecuted (6)
- Preliminary designs, designs and finished drawings for the fourth scheme for the mausoleum, 1761, as executed (9)
- Finished drawing for a funerary monument, 1761, as executed (1)