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Burghley House, Lincolnshire: designs for the interior of the house, partly executed, and unexecuted designs for a boathouse and gateway for the 9th Earl of Exeter, 1765-79 (16)

1765-79
Burghley House was purchased by the Cecil family in the 1520s, and was vastly extended into an E-shaped Elizabethan prodigy house by the 1st Baron Burghley from the 1550s to the 1580s. The interior was redecorated, probably by William Talman (1650-1719), in c1688-90, for the 5th Earl of Exeter, and much of this interior survives. The next large-scale alterations to the house were commissioned by Cecil Brownlow, 9th Earl of Exeter (1725-93), who was a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, a Fellow of the Royal Society, and had been MP for Rutland in 1747-54, when he succeeded to his father's earldom, and entered the House of Lords. He made plans for alterations to the house from as early as 1755, employing Lancelot 'Capability' Brown (1716-83) in 1756-78 to construct the stables, the greenhouse, the bathhouse, the bridge, the park landscape, and to modernise the south front of the house. Minor alterations were also proposed by Robert Adam.

In 1748 the 9th Earl of Exeter had married Letitia (d 1756), the daughter of the Hon. Horatio Townshend, the 3rd son of Viscount Townshend, and the older brother of Lieutenant-Colonel Roger Townshend (1731-59), whose monument in Westminster Abbey had been designed by Robert Adam in 1760. Although Letitia had died by this time, it may have been through this family connection that Adam came to the 9th Earl's attention. Initially Adam only made designs for the interior of the house, and his design for the ceiling of the north hall was executed in 1767. Till has argued that Adam's unexecuted design for the Hell Staircase was speculative, but that the local surveyor, Thomas Lumby (d 1804), who executed the staircase in 1780-82, did so after Adam's design. A decade later Adam made unexecuted designs for a boathouse and a gateway for the western entrance to the park. These were both built later in a neo-Jacobean style for the 9th Earl's heir and nephew, the 1st Marquess of Exeter.

The interior of the courtyard was remodelled in 1828 by John Peter Grandy-Deering (1787-1850) for the 2nd Marquess of Exeter, but otherwise the house largely remains as in the 9th Earl's time. Since 1961 the house has been owned by a charitable trust established by the Cecil family, and is open to the public.

Literature:
A.T. Bolton, The architecture of Robert and James Adam, 1922, Volume II, Index pp. 5, 70; N. Pevsner, The buildings of England: Bedfordshire, Huntingdon and Peterborough, 1968, pp. 190-93, 217-219, 223-25; E. Till, 'Capability Brown at Burghley', Country Life, 16 October 1975, p. 985; H. Colvin, 'Burghley House, Lincolnshire - I-II', Country Life, 23, 30 April 1992, p. 58; M. Richardson, 'A 'fair' drawing: a little known Adam design for Burghley', Apollo, Volume CXXXVI, Number 306, August 1992, pp. 87-88; J. Ingamells, A dictionary of British and Irish travellers in Italy 1701-1800, 1997, p. 343; D, King, The complete works of Robert & James Adam and unbuilt Adam, 2001, Volume I, pp. 381-82, Volume II, pp. 207, 236, 243, 275

Frances Sands, 2012
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