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Rudding Hall, Harrogate, Yorkshire, survey drawing and designs for additions to the house for Alexander Wedderburn, 1st Earl of Rosslyn, unexecuted (4)


Alexander Wedderburn (later Lord Loughborough and 1st Earl of Rosslyn) was born on 13 February 1733, possibly at the Wedderburn family estate of Chesterhall, Haddingtonshire. He was the first son of Peter (d. 1756), an advocate and judge, and Janet, daughter of David Ogilvie. Wedderburn was first educated at Dalkeith School before attending Edinburgh University from 1746, aged just 13. He found himself part of the intellectual circle surrounding David Hume and was a member of the Select Society, founded in 1754. Born into a distinguished legal family, Wedderburn pursued a legal career. He was admitted to Inner Temple in 1753 and was called to the bar in 1757. Wedderburn married his first wife Betty Anne (d. 1781) on 31 December 1767. Betty Anne was the only child and heir of John Dawson of Morley, Yorkshire and is thought to have bought £10,000 to the marriage. Following the death of his first wife, Wedderburn remarried on 12 September 1782. His new bride, the Hon. Charlotte Courtenay, was the daughter of William, 1st Viscount Courtenay. Together they had one child who died in infancy.

In 1761 Wedderburn began his political career and with Lord Bute’s support he secured the seat of Ayr Burghs. He initially sided with the Bute and Grenville administrations and followed Grenville over to the opposition in July 1765. A frequent speaker in the House of Commons, Wedderburn gave his support to Wilkes in 1769. He later made advances towards the North administration and was rewarded with the posts of Attorney General in 1778 and Lord Chief Justice of the Common Pleas in 1780. He later gave his support to Charles Fox, before siding with Pitt the younger upon the outbreak of the French Revolution. Pitt subsequently appointed Wedderburn Lord Chancellor in June 1793, a post he held until he was created 1st Earl of Rosslyn in 1801. Wedderburn gained a reputation for his wavering political loyalties. Murdoch highlights a reference to his character in the Letters of Junius in which it was stated there was ‘something about him which even treachery cannot trust’. He was remembered as a public speaker of some force and ultimately it seems the progress of his legal career took precedence over his political one.

The Rudding estate was first formed in the early eighteenth century, the lands originally being part of the forest of Knaresborough. The original owner is recorded as a Mr Williamson of Wetherby, who sold the estate to a Mr Craddock. The subsequent owner, James Collins, is known to have made significant additions to Rudding Hall along with the introduction of planted avenues. Alexander Wedderburn purchased the estate in 1788. Collins’s heir Thomas Wilson had died ten years before. In 1790 Wedderburn commissioned Humphry Repton to design alterations to the surrounding landscape. Repton produced a Red Book for Rudding, which was sold at Sotheby’s in 1916. Its current whereabouts is unknown and as a result the extent of Repton’s work at Rudding is unknown. Significantly Repton’s presence at Rudding Hall coincides with the 1791 Adam commission for alterations to the house. Four drawings for Rudding Hall survive, recording a three-storey brick house with corner projections.
SM Adam Volume 34/100 provides a survey drawing of the ground storey of the house, and SM Adam Volume 34/99 records proposed internal alterations including the creation of a new hall, staircase and bedrooms. Adam also designed a new seven-bay façade for the south / rear front of the house. A further design (SM Adam volume 34/98) formed part of a separate scheme for a new house at Rudding, which maintains the use of corner projections included in the other designs. As the eighteenth-century house does not survive, we cannot know if any work by the Adam office was ever carried out.

Alexander Wedderburn, 1st Earl of Rosslyn’s died on 2 January 1805 and his estate and title were inherited by his nephew James, the son of his sister Janet. Rudding Hall was promptly sold to the Hon. William Gordon who demolished the earlier eighteenth-century house, possibly following a fire in 1807. The current Rudding Hall was built by Gordon on a different site to the north east of the earlier building. This is a two-storey house of ashlar masonry. Its architect is unknown. When Gordon sold the estate to Sir Joseph Radcliffe in 1824 the house remained unfinished. Rudding Hall remained within the Radcliffe family until the 1970s. It is now a hotel, spa and golf course.

A.T. Bolton, The architecture of Robert and James Adam, 1922, Volume II, Index pp. 27, 91; D. King, The complete works of Robert and James Adam & unbuilt Adam, 2001, Volume II, pp. 133; D. Poole, ‘Rudding Park’, 26 November 2015, www.houseandheritage.org; ‘Rudding Park’, www.historicengland.org.uk; ‘Rudding Park Hotel, Spa & Golf’, www.visitharrowgate.co.uk; ‘Wedderburn, 1st Earl of Rosslyn (Lord Loughborough) (1733-1805)’, www.npg.org.uk; J. Brooke, ‘Wedderburn, Alexander (1733-1805)’, www.historyof parliamentonline.org; A. Murdoch, ‘Wedderburn, Alexander, first earl of Rosslyn (1733-1805)’, September 2004, www.oxforddnb.com (accessed March 2021)

Anna McAlaney, 2021



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Contents of Rudding Hall, Harrogate, Yorkshire, survey drawing and designs for additions to the house for Alexander Wedderburn, 1st Earl of Rosslyn, unexecuted (4)