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Tusmore, Baynard's Green, Oxfordshire: executed designs for ceilings for William Fermor, 1770 (5)

Signed and dated

  • 1770


Tusmore began as a Saxon hamlet, and from 1606 to 1828 was the home of eight generations of the Fermor family, who also owned the nearby Somerton estate. This was a branch of the Fermor family of Easton Neston, Northamptonshire, later the Earls of Pomfret. In 1746 Tusmore was inherited by a sixth generation of this branch of the Fermor family, the nine-year-old William Fermor (1737-1806), the son of Henry Fermor. Thanks to the financial care of his father, and a long minority, Fermor was able to rebuilt Tusmore House in 1766-70 to designs by Robert Mylne (1733-1811). The Fermors were Catholics and therefore restricted from holding public office, and his house appears to have been William Fermor's principal life's work.

As Mylne's fabric was nearing completion in 1770, Robert Adam was commissioned to make designs for the ceiling of the two principal reception rooms, the drawing room and the dining room. Both of these ceilings were executed in accordance with Adam's designs (drawings 3-5), and survived in situ until the demolition of the house in 1961. It is not known if Adam also designed chimneypieces for these rooms as there are no extant drawings for them, and the original eighteenth-century chimneypieces were removed from the house in the nineteenth century.

Fermor's son, also William, died in 1828, and left Tusmore to his adopted daughter, Maria Turner Ramsay. In 1857 Maria sold the house to Henry Howard, 2nd Earl of Effingham, who commissioned substantial alterations to the house in 1858 to designs by William Burn (1789-1870). Effingham's grandson, the 4th Earl, also Henry Howard, sold the house in 1928 to Vivian Hugh Smith, a banker who was created 1st Baron Bicester in 1938. The 2nd Lord Bicester demolished Mylne's house in 1961 - along with Adam's ceilings - and rebuilt on the same plot to designs by Claude Phillimore. The house was sold by the Smith family in the 1987 to Wafic Said, who rebuilt the house again in 2000 to designs by Sir William Whitfield (b 1920) as a copy og Mylne's design, and in 2004 this won the Georgian Group's 'best new building in the Classical tradition' award.

The gentleman's magazine and historical review, Volume 97, January-June 1827, p. 580; A.T. Bolton, The architecture of Robert and James Adam, 1922, Volume II, Index pp. 54, 70; A. Oswald, 'Tusmore, Oxfordshire: the seat of Lord Bicester - I-II', Country Life, 30 July - 6 August 1938, pp. 108-13, 132-36; J. Sherwood, and N. Pevsner, The buildings of England: Oxfordshire, 1974, p. 820; D. King, The complete works of Robert & James Adam and unbuilt Adam, 2001, Volume I, p. 423; J. Martin Robinson, 'Tusmore Park, Oxfordshire', Country Life, 8 December 2005, pp. 51-52

Frances Sands, 2013



Digitisation of the Drawings Collection has been made possible through the generosity of the Leon Levy Foundation

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Sir John Soane's collection includes some 30,000 architectural, design and topographical drawings which is a very important resource for scholars worldwide. His was the first architect’s collection to attempt to preserve the best in design for the architectural profession in the future, and it did so by assembling as exemplars surviving drawings by great Renaissance masters and by the leading architects in Britain in the 17th and 18th centuries and his near contemporaries such as Sir William Chambers, Robert Adam and George Dance the Younger. These drawings sit side by side with 9,000 drawings in Soane’s own hand or those of the pupils in his office, covering his early work as a student, his time in Italy and the drawings produced in the course of his architectural practice from 1780 until the 1830s.

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Contents of Tusmore, Baynard's Green, Oxfordshire: executed designs for ceilings for William Fermor, 1770 (5)