Combe Bank, Sevenoaks, Kent: unexecuted designs for alterations to the house, executed designs for the interior, and an unexecuted design for a bridge for Lord Frederick Campbell, 1767-77, (8)
Lord Frederick Campbell (1729-1816) was the 4th son of John Campbell, 4th Duke of Argyll, and in 1769 he married Mary (d1807), the widow of Lawrence, 4th Earl of Ferrers, executed in 1760 for the murder of his steward. Campbell was a lawyer and politician: he was MP for Glasgow Burghs in 1761-80, and for Argyllshire in 1781-99; Keeper of the Privy Seal of Scotland during 1765; Lord Register of Scotland from 1766-1816; Chief Secretary of Ireland in 1767-68; Rector of Glasgow University in 1772-73; a member of the Board of Trade in 1786-1801; Vice Treasurer of Ireland in 1787-93; a member of the Board of Control for India in 1790-93; and Treasurer of the Middle Temple in 1803. As a political supporter of Lord Bute during the early years of his career, it may have been through this connection that Campbell was initially acquainted with Adam. But Campbell became one of Adam's major patrons, employing him privately on three different houses: Ardencaple, Combe Bank, and Petersham, and in his role as Lord Register of Scotland at the Edinburgh Register House. It would appear from Adam’s obituary in the Gentleman’s Magazine of March 1792 that Adam and Campbell became friends during their long acquaintance, as Campbell was a pall-bearer at Adam's funeral.
Combe Bank was built by Colonel John Campbell (4th Duke of Argyll from 1761) in c1725 to designs by Roger Morris (1695-1749). The original house was composed of a two-storey, three-by-three-bay central block with a pediment across the west front, and a pyramidal roof with a central lantern, and with square corner turrets with pyramidal roofs. The house was illustrated in the fourth volume of Vitruvius Britannicus (1767), prior to Adam's involvement, and according to Pevsner and Newman the house was inspired by Lord Burlington's Tottenham Park, Wiltshire. The 4th Duke gave Combe Bank to his son, Lord Frederick Campbell, who commissioned Adam to make designs for furniture, alterations to the house, and a bridge. The furniture was executed in accordance with Adam's designs, although there is no Adam interior decoration in the house; the alterations to the fabric of the house differ from the surviving drawings; and the unexecuted design for a bridge is entirely uncharacteristic of Adam, and possibly not by him at all. Adam built two north-projecting wings, composed of three-bay links leading to one-bay, domed pavilions with pediments and Diocletian windows. One wing was built in c1775-7, and the other was executed much later. An engraving of 1787 shows the western wing, but at that date the eastern wing was not yet constructed. It was in evidence, however, by the time a sketch was made of the house in 1805.
The Adam wings were demolished, probably during restoration work following a fire of 1807 which killed Campbell’s wife. Campbell sold the estate six years later, in 1813, for 40,000. The house was much altered in the nineteenth century by architects including Daniel Asher Alexander (1768-1846), and the house is now used as a school.
See also: Ardencaple, Helensburgh, Argyll; Petersham Lodge, Richmond
Literature: J. Woolfe, and J. Gandon, Vitruvius Britannicus IV, 1767, pl. 75-77; Gentleman's Magazine, March 1792; A.T. Bolton, The architecture of Robert and James Adam, 1922, Volume II, Index pp. 7, 65; E. Harris, The furniture of Robert Adam, 1963, Index p. 48, pp. 73, 78; N. Pevsner, and J. Newman, The buildings of England: West Kent and the Weald, 1976, pp. 554-55; D. King, The complete works of Robert & James Adam and unbuilt Adam, 2001, Volume I, pp. 213-14, Volume II, p. 216; 'Campbell, Lord Frederick (1729-1816), or Ardencaple, Dunbarton, and Combe Bank, Kent', The history of Parliament online; 'Campbell, Frederick (1729-1816), or Combe Bank, Sevenoaks, Kent', The history of Parliament online