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Chillington Hall, Staffordshire: (executed) alterations and additions, (unexecuted) chapel, for Thomas Giffard, 1785-1790 (25)

1785
The Giffards have lived at Chillington since in or about 1187. Soane's client was Thomas Giffard who inherited the house in 1776 at the age of 12. His grandfather (Peter Giffard) had begun the rebuilding of Chillington by employing Francis Smith of Warwick to design additions including a south front, 1724.

In the 1760s, Peter Giffard's son Thomas Giffard senior employed Capability Brown to re-design the park; the village was swept away, a 66-acre lake with bridge designed by James Paine c.1770 was introduced. There also seems to have been an unexecuted commission from the office of Robert and James Adam for building an entirely new house and alternatively re-modelling the old one. There are six Adam drawings for Chillington in the Soane Museum. These are: south and north elevations and ground floor plan dated 1 July 1772 for a new house (SM volume 44/47-9); undated ground and first floor plans for alterations and additions retaining the 1724 building (SM volume 44/45-6). A sketch design in Robert Adam's hand for a table (SM volume 5/37) seems not to have been executed.

In 1785, the younger Thomas Giffard, now 21 years old, gave Soane his first commission for the remodelling of a substantial country house. Giffard's marriage in 1788 may have speeded up the building programme.
In his Plans, elevations and sections of buildings erected in the counties of Norfolk and Suffolk ... 1788 (1789) Soane devoted plates 12-17 to Chillington. Plate 12 is a plan of the ground floor 'with the alterations and additions' and Soane notes that the 'Saloon was intended for the chapel...'. Plate 13 is a plan of the first floor (there is none among the surviving drawings). Plate 14 is a perspective of the east 'Entrance front, as executed' that corresponds with drawing 9. Plate 15 is an elevation for the entrance front 'as proposed': two storeys and eleven bays wide with a four-column Ionic portico it differs from the built design by having a central dome, pairs of Ionic pilasters on the end bays and a continuous roofline without the attics at each end that, as executed, related to the three-storey 1724 building to the south. It may represent a design for an entirely new house. Plate 16 is a 'Section of the Great Room or Saloon as proposed', that is, not as executed. 'Plate 17 is a plan and elevation of an intended bridge', which was not built and for which there are no surviving drawings.

Thirteen 'journeys' (site visits) by Soane are recorded between 6 September 1785 and 24 January 1790 in the office 'Journal'. On 29 September 1792, Soane sent in his bill (Ledger A) and was paid in full on 18 September 1794 the sum of £526.6.0.

Soane exhibited at the Royal Academy 'Elevation of bridge for a gentleman in Staffordshire' in 1786. The following year he exhibited 'The great room at Chillington built in the year 1786' and 'Entrance front to Chillington erected in the year 1786'.

Literature. A. Oswald, 'Chillington Hall, Staffordshire' in Country Life, 13, 20 and 28 February 1948; D. Stroud, Sir John Soane, architect, 2nd ed., 1996, p.130; P.Dean, Sir John Soane and the country estate, 1999, pp.40-53; P. Dean, 'Chillington Hall, Staffordshire', Country Life, 30 September, 1999
Typed selective transcript of extracts from 'Journal No 1' relating to Chillington, compiled by Christopher Woodward, 1998, in SM green information files.

Jill Lever, December 2009
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