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Newby Hall, Ripon, North Yorkshire: designs for the house and interior for William Weddell, 1766-84 (52)

1766-84
William Weddell (1736-92) was the second son of Richard Elcock Weddell, who had purchased the Newby estate from the Blackett family in 1748 for £9,530. Weddell began a career as a lawyer at Gray’s Inn in 1753, but his older brother died in 1756, and Weddell succeeded his father in 1762. He inherited Newby Hall, North Yorkshire and a townhouse on Stratton Street, London. Weddell served as MP for Kingston-Upon-Hull in 1766-74 and Malton in 1775-92. In 1771 he married Elizabeth Ramsden (d1831), the eldest daughter of Sir John Ramsden, 3rd Baronet. Elizabeth’s brother, Sir John Ramsden, 4th Baronet, was another of Adam’s patrons at Byram Hall, West Yorkshire in c1780. Her half-sister was Lady Rockingham, and unsurprisingly, Weddell was a consistent follower of Rockingham throughout his career. Having no heir, Weddell was succeeded in 1792 by his cousin, Thomas Robinson, 3rd Lord Grantham (later Earl de Grey).

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.

Literature:
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
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