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Eaton Hall, Cheshire, unexecuted designs for a menagerie and banqueting house, and for alterations and additions to the house for Baron Grosvenor (later 1st Earl Grosvenor), c1766-68 (19)

1766-68
The Grosvenor family acquired the estate at Eaton in the fifteenth century. The first house built on the current site dated from 1675-82, and was built by William Samwell (1628-76) for Sir Thomas Grosvenor, 3rd Baronet. In 1717 this house appeared in the second volume of Vitruvius Britannicus.

The 7th Baronet (1731-1802) had been friends with Robert Adam since his youth. He had been born at Eaton Hall; succeeded his father in 1755; was MP (Tory) for Chester (1754-61); was Mayor of Chester in 1759; was created Baron Grosvenor in 1761; was made a fellow of the Royal Society in 1771; was created Earl of Grosvenor in 1784; and died in 1802 with gambling debts of £150,000. Unfortunately he is best remembered for his disastrous marriage to Henrietta Vernon (1745-1828, m. 1764), by whom he had four sons. Henrietta famously conducted a love affair with Henry Frederick, Duke of Cumberland, the brother of King George III, which was discovered in 1769. Grosvenor sued Cumberland for 'criminal conversation' with his wife, and was awarded £10,000 in 1770. As an adulterer himself, Grosvenor could not sue for divorce, but separated from Henrietta immediately, pensioning her off with £1,200. At the beginning of this marital turmoil, in 1768, Robert Adam sent designs for making alterations and additions to the house. None of this came to fruition, most probably because of the break-down of the Grosvenor marriage.

In 1804-12, the 2nd Earl (later created 1st Marquess) rebuilt the house in the Gothic style, to a design by William Porden (1754-1822). This was altered in 1846-51 by William Burn (1789-1870) for the 2nd Marquess, and the whole was once again rebuilt in 1870-83 by Alfred Waterhouse (1830-1905) for the 3rd Marquess (later 1st Duke of Westminster). During both World Wars the house was used as a hospital, and then as an officer cadet training school until 1958. In 1961 the house was largely demolished, and replaced by a new building, which itself was refaced and remodelled in the 1990s.

Literature:
C. Campbell, Vitruvius Britannicus, Volume II, 1717, p. 2; A.T. Bolton, The architecture of Robert and James Adam, 1922, Volume I, p. 45, Volume II, Index p. 10; J. Cornforth, and G. Acloque, 'The eternal Gothic of Eaton - I', Country Life, 11 February 1971; N. Pevsner, and E. Hubbard, The buildings of England: Cheshire, 1971, pp. 207-209; A.A. Tait, The creative mind: from the sketch to the finished drawing, 1996, p. 46; D. King, The complete works of Robert & James Adam and unbuilt Adam, 2001, Volume II, pp. 124-25, 218

Frances Sands, 2012
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