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Saint Hill House, Sussex, for Gibbs Crawfurd, variant designs for a house, 1785, unexecuted (13)

Signed and dated

  • 1785


Gibbs Crawfurd was born in 1732, the eldest son of John Crawfurd, an advocate from Ardmillan, Ayr and Eleanaor the daughter of Edward Gibbs of Laleham, Middlesex. Crawfurd was educated at Eton and in 1770 he was accepted into Lincoln’s Inn. On 23 December 1760 he married Anna (nee Payne) with whom he had two daughters and two sons. Gibbs Crawfurd succeeded to his father’s estates in 1762. In 1771 he was appointed solicitor of stamp duties and in April 1782 he became clerk of Ordnance with the support of Charles Lennox, 3rd Duke of Richmond. In 1790 he stood as MP for Queenborough which he held until his death on 13 October 1793.

The first reference to the estate of ‘Saynt Hill’ was made in 1567 when it was recorded as part of the lands belonging to one Thomas Nicholas. In 1715 Saint Hill became part of the Crawfurd estate when the property was purchased by Gibbs’ father John. On the site of the present manor John Crawfurd constructed Saint Hill House which was completed in 1733. This earlier building is recorded in a James Lambert watercolour held in the British Musuem’s Burrell collection. In 1792 Gibbs Crawfurd replaced the earlier house with an extensive five-storey ashlar building, employing stonemason Henry Pocock for the purpose. No drawings for the executed building survive and the architect is unknown. It is possible that the house was constructed to Pocock’s designs.

The Adam drawings for Saint Hill date to 1785 when it seems Gibbs Crawfurd first considered the replacement of the earlier manor house. Adam produced a total of four different schemes for the site, presenting the client with both gothic and classical designs. Here Adam demonstrated his ability to successfully adapt both the classical and the gothic styles. The variant schemes were produced consecutively as King notes. SM Adam volume 37/107 contains both a design for the classical house with a preliminary design for the gothic scheme alongside showing that the concept for both schemes was produced simultaneously. The proposed designs for a classical style house included a 64ft principal (north) front, three storeys in height with a porte cochère which King compares to a design produced for the banqueting room at Lowther Castle. King also notes the plan for the principal storey of this scheme to be a replication of the one designed for Strange House, but on a grander scale.

The variant gothic scheme proposed by Adam may have been presented to the client as a cost-effective alternative to the extensive classical scheme. As King observes, the gothic style usually proved the cheaper of the two with its use of rough stone masonry. Adam adapts the classical style design, replacing the dome and staircase with a round gothic tower containing a cantilevered staircase. Additional castle-style elements were introduced to the design, including turrets and tripartite lancet windows which completed the scheme.

Following Gibbs Crawfurd’s death in 1793 the estate passed to his eldest son Charles, and then in 1814 to his grandson Robert. In the nineteenth century the house was extended and altered, and again in the twentieth century when it became the home of the Maharajah of Jaipur. In 1959 it was purchased by L. Ron Hubbard, along with the sixty acre surrounding estate. Saint Hill subsequently became the headquarters of the Church of Scientology and following extensive works in 2011 now forms a museum commemorating Hubbard.

A.T. Bolton, The architecture of Robert and James Adam, 1922, Volume II, Index, pp. 27, 67; D. King, The complete works of Robert and James Adam & unbuilt Adam, 2001, Volume II, pp. 15, 22, 23, 27, 38-39, 80, 138, 140, 144, 158, 164, pls. 20-23; www.saint-hill.uk; ‘Saint Hill Manor’, www.historicengland.org.uk; ‘Gibbs Crawford Esqr, Engraving from the works of Sir Joshua Reynolds’, www.britishmuseum.org; ‘Crawfurd, Gibbs (1732-93), of Sainthill, Easy Grinstead, Sussex’, www.historyofparliamentonline.org (accessed December 2020)

Anna McAlaney, December 2020



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Contents of Saint Hill House, Sussex, for Gibbs Crawfurd, variant designs for a house, 1785, unexecuted (13)