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Castle Ashby, Northamptonshire: survey plans and unexecuted designs for the great hall, and a stable court for the 7th Earl of Northampton, 1759 (9)

1759
The 7th Earl of Northampton (1737-63) met Robert Adam in 1757 in Padua during his Grand Tour, and it was then that he promised Adam work at Castle Ashby. Adam was to survey the house in 1759, make plans to structurally alter and decorate the great hall, and design a stable court. Northampton succeeded his uncle in 1758 and was nominated as a Deputy Lieutenant for Northamptonshire in 1759. In September 1759, shortly after his return from the Grand Tour, he married Lady Ann Somerset, eldest daughter of the 4th Duke of Beaufort, and in 1761 he was appointed Ambassador Extraordinary to Venice, arriving in October 1762. In April 1763 the Countess travelled to Naples for the benefit of her health, but died on her first day in the city; Northampton himself died in December of the same year at Lyons on his way home from Venice.

Castle Ashby was begun by the 11th Baron Compton in 1574. It was assumed to have been of typical Elizabethan E-shaped plan, but Jackson-Stops noted that a first-floor plan, found in 1980 (now in the Norfolk Records Office), showed a quadrangular house. By 1635 a screen had certainly been added as a southern range forming an enclosed courtyard. The death of Northampton and his Countess was most likely the cause that none of Adam's designs were executed. In 1771 the 8th Earl commissioned John Johnson (1732-1814) finally to rebuild the great hall.

Literature:
A.T. Bolton, The architecture of Robert and James Adam, 1922, Volume I, p. 34, Volume II, Index p. 6; J. Fleming, Robert Adam and his circle, 1962, p. 260; D. Stillman, The decorative work of Robert Adam, 1966, pp. 22, 62; B. Cherry and N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Northamptonshire, 1973, p. 140; G. Jackson-Stops, 'Castle Ashby, Northamptonshire', Country Life, 30 January 1986, p. 248; J. Ingamells, A dictionary of British and Irish travellers in Italy: 1701-1800, 1997, p. 713; C. Mosley (ed.)., Burke's peerage, baronetage & knightage, 2003, p. 2927

Frances Sands, 2011
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