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Mitcham Grove, Surrey: unexecuted designs for buildings in the park, domestic offices, and a mirror frame for John Stewart, and unexecuted designs for alterations to the house for Alexander Wedderburn, c1770-74 (11)

1770-74
Mitcham Grove, a house about which little is known, was given to Robert, 1st Baron Clive of Plassey, the conqueror of India, by Lord Loughborough as a show of political affiliation. From c1770, however, it was in the possession of John Stewart (c.1723-81), a partner in his father, Archibald Stewart's wine merchant business. From 1764 he was active in the East India Company. He helped to manage the Caribbean business of his friends Sir Goerge Colebrooke and Sir James Cockburn, and with them in 1765 he co-invested in an unidentified property in Dominica. He also had a speculative investment with Lauchlin Macleane, suggesting that he was the same ‘John Stuart’ in a syndicate of 1769 with Macleane, Sir Thomas Charles Bunbury, Clotworthy Upton and George Ridge, which owned shares in 7 plantations in Grenada and Balamonly and 11 other estates in Dominica. It is unlikely that Adam's designs for John Stewart were executed as he sold Mitcham Grove to Alexander Wedderburn in 1773.

Alexander Wedderburn (1733-1805), was Solicitor General in 1771-78, Attorney General in 1773 and 1778-80, Lord Chancellor in 1793-1801, and was created Earl of Rosslyn in 1801. Wedderburn had been Lord Clive's principal legal adviser on his return from India, and may have been familiar with Mitcham Grove prior to its possession by Stewart. Moreover, through his legal and political career he had become acquainted with his fellow Scotsman, the 3rd Earl of Bute, who was Adam's patron at Luton Hoo and Berkeley Square, and it may have been through this connection that Wedderburn became acquainted with Adam. In 1774 Wedderburn commissioned Adam to make designs to enlarge and regularise the house. These alterations were not executed, and a more modest scheme, including a loggia on the south front, was implemented after Adam's designs. It is, however, unclear whether Adam was involved with these reduced alterations.

The house later belonged to the banker, Henry Hoare, from 1786, and it was demolished in the 1840s.

Literature:
E. Fitzmaurice, Life of William, Earl of Shelburne, afterwards first Marquess of Lansdowne, 1912, Volume I, Chapter 10; A.T. Bolton, The architecture of Robert and James Adam, 1922, Volume II, Index pp. 23, 88, 91; E. Harris, The furniture of Robert Adam, 1963, Index p. 51; D. King, The complete works of Robert & James Adam and unbuilt Adam, 2001, Volume I, pp. 386-87, Volume II, pp. 132, 223; 'Stewart, John (c.1723-81), of York Bldgs., Buckingham St., London and Mitcham, Surr.' in History of Parliament online; Legacies of British Slavery database, UCL: www.ucl.ac.uk/lbs

Frances Sands, 2012
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