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Moor Park, Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire: designs for the house and park, for Sir Lawrence Dundas, 1763-66 (28)

1763-66
Sir Lawrence Dundas (1712-81) was the second son of Thomas Dundas of Fingask, a moderately successful draper. In 1738 he married Margaret Bruce, the daughter of Alexander Bruce of Kennet, Clackmannanshire. They had one son, Thomas Dundas (1750-94, created 1st Baron Dundas of Aske, and father of the 1st Earl of Zetland). Sir Lawrence began his career as a wine merchant, but was to amass a great fortune working as Commissary-General and contractor to the army during the Seven Years War. This enabled him to purchase estates all over England, Scotland, and Ireland, to forge a political career, and buy his way into the Whig elite. Dundas served as MP for Linlithgow Burghs in 1747-48, for Newcastle-under-Lyme in 1762-68, for Edinburgh in 1768-80 and 1781, and for Richmond in 1780-81. He was also a governor of the Royal Bank of Scotland in 1764-77. In addition to this, Sir Lawrence successfully negotiated a baronetcy in 1762, having made a considerable loan to the Earl of Shelburne.

In 1763 Sir Lawrence purchased Moor Park, Hertfordshire, for £25,000. The original house at Moor Park was a manor arranged around a courtyard, built from c1426, on a nearby site for Archbishop Neville of York. This later came into the possession of Cardinal Wolsey, and then King Henry VIII. In 1679-84 the fifteenth-century house was replaced by James Scott, 1st Duke of Monmouth (1649-85), with a fabric executed to designs by Hugh May (1621-84). The estate was purchased in 1720 by Benjamin Styles, who had made a great fortune from the South Sea Bubble. Styles immediately employed Sir James Thornhill (c1675-1734), to make substantial alterations, encasing the house in Portland stone, extending it to either side, and adding two large office buildings connected by quadrant links. This work is regularly, but incorrectly attributed to Giacomo Leoni (c1686-1746), but as Colvin has pointed out, the plates showing Moor Park in the fifth volume of Vitruvius Britannicus (1771), are inscribed with Sir James Thornhill's name. Moor Park was then purchased by George, 1st Lord Anson (1697-1762) in 1754, who added a landscape by Lancelot 'Capability' Brown (1716-83), and employed Matthew Brettingham (1699-1769) to make alterations to the house. Anson died in 1762, and his brother, Thomas, sold the estate to Sir Lawrence Dundas.

As at his townhouse on 19 Arlington Street, Sir Lawrence commissioned Robert Adam to make designs to alter and refit Moor Park. According to Arthur Bolton, during the years 1763-68 Sir Lawrence spent £9,000 on the architectural works at Moor Park and 19 Arlington Street. During this time Adam made designs for the interior of the house, some of which were executed, and designs for buildings in the park, including his executed designs for the Batchworth Lane entrance screen and rustic tea pavilion, and his unexecuted designs for an alternative entrance gateway, farm offices, and kennels.

Following Sir Lawrence's death in 1781, Moor Park was sold by his son Thomas in 1785 to Thomas Bate Rous (d1799), who was responsible for the demolition of Sir James Thornhill's south-east service wing. Dundas's contents were dispersed to their townhouse, 19 Arlington Street, and another Dundas property, Aske Hall, Richmond, Yorkshire. Various items of Moor Park furniture were sold at Sotheby's in 1936 when 19 Arlington Street was demolished. Moor Park was further altered during the nineteenth century to designs by Thomas Cundy (1790-1867), and William Burn (1789-1870), and is currently a golf club.

See also: 19 Arlington Street, London

Literature:
J. Woolfe, and J. Gandon, Vitruvius Britannicus V, 1771, pls 50-55; 'Moor Park - I-II. Hertfordshire: the seat of Lord Elbury', Country Life, 6-13 January 1912, pp. 26, 62; A.T. Bolton, The architecture of Robert and James Adam, 1922, Volume I, pp. 44, 54-55, Volume II, p. 205, 298-300, Index pp. 23, 34; F. Kimball, 'The Moor Park tapestry suite of furniture by Robert Adam', The Philadelphia Museum Bulletin, March 1941, pp. 2-11; J. Lees-Milne, The age of Adam, 1947, p. 63; E. Harris, The furniture of Robert Adam, 1963, pp. 51, 91-92; Editorial, 'The Nabob of the North', Apollo, September 1967, pp. 168-69; J. Harris, 'The Dundas empire', Apollo, September 1967, pp. 176-77; D. Yarwood, Robert Adam, 1970, p. 190; N. Pevsner, and B. Cherry, The buildings of England: Hertfordshire, 1977, pp. 251-52; M. Hanson, 'Yen for golf', Country Life, 18 February 1988, p. 82; D. King, The complete works of Robert & James Adam and unbuilt Adam, 2001, Volume I, p. 225, Volume II, pp. 183, 223, 247, 248, 346-47; E. Harris, The country houses of Robert Adam: from the archives of Country Life, 2007, pp. 184-87; J. Harris, Moving rooms: the trade in architectural salvages, 2007, pp. 216, 240; 'Dundas, Sir Laurence, 1st Bt. (c.1710-81), of Kerse, Stirling and Aske, nr. Richmond, Yorks.', History of Parliament online, 2012

Frances Sands, 2012
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