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Harewood House, Yorkshire: designs for alterations to the church and house; for the interior decoration; and for a greenhouse and gateway for Edwin Lascelles, 1759-1782 (121)

Signed and dated

  • 1759-82


The estate at Harewood originally belonged to Harewood Castle, which was abandoned in favour of Gawthorpe Hall in the seventeenth century, but survives as a ruin. Harewood and Gawthorpe were acquired in 1739 by Henry Lascelles (1690-1753), who had made his fortune as a director of the East India Company, and by owning enslaved people working on his Caribbean sugar plantations, most notably in Jamaica and Barbados. On his succession in 1753, Henry's son Edwin Lascelles (1712-1795) used the family's fortune from the Caribbean sugar trade to replaced Gawthorpe Hall with a large Palladian villa. However, he evidently maintained the family's Caribbean concerns, being listed in the Jamaican Quit Rent books for 1754 as the owner of 324 acres of land in St Thomas-in-the-East and 18 acres of land in St Dorothy. In 1792 he owned 109 enslaved people in St Ann, Jamaica.

Lascelles was created Baron of Harewood in 1790 after a lengthy career as an MP (Whig) for Scarborough (1744-54), Northallerton (1754-61; 1780-90), and Yorkshire (1761-80). Christopher Hussey has suggested that in building Harewood Lascelles was emulating his political leader, the Marquess of Rockingham, at Wentworth Woodhouse. Lascelles married twice, first to Elizabeth Dawes in 1746 (d.1764), and second to Jane Coleman in 1770 (d.1813), but he died in 1795 without issue and the Barony expired. The estate was inherited by his nephew who was created the 1st Earl Harewood in 1812.

William Chambers (1722-1796) had designed stables for the Lascelles family, but his designs for a new house were rejected in favour of those by John Carr (1723-1807), a local mason and distant relative of the Lascelles family. Carr was engaged in 1759. Earlier, in June 1758 Lady Lindores had introduced Robert Adam to Edwin Lascelles, and in 1759 Lascelles approached Adam to make alterations to the fourteenth-century church at Harewood. These alterations were not executed. Soon, however, Adam was given the opportunity to ‘tickle up’ Carr’s designs for the house, proposing spectacular lunette-shaped courts, new facades, and a new internal arrangement. Both architects were retained, affording Lascelles both Carr’s traditional Palladian approach and Adam's neo-Classical innovation. The engravings of Harewood in Vitruvius Britannicus V (1771) are attributed to Carr alone, obscuring the dual authorship of the house. One of Adam's lunette-shaped courts had been constructed in 1760, but only two years later the curved wall was found to be structurally unsound, and it was replaced with conventional straight walls. Further to the plans within the Soane drawings collection and in Vitruvius Britannicus there are excellent plans, showing the various phases of the design, illustrated by A.T. Bolton.

In the autumn of 1765, when the structure of the house was complete, a second commission came to Adam for fitting up the interior of the ground-floor rooms. Adam's interior was largely complete by 1771 - with a few exceptions including the caryatid chimneypiece - and Lascelles took up residence in that year, and demolished Gawthorpe Hall. Lascelles's new house at Harewood had initially been called Gawthorpe Hall - presumably as it was to directly replace the older building - but in 1767 this name was changed to Harewood House. As such, many of the inscriptions on Adam's drawings correspond with this, but as there are a great number of drawings inscribed in the later hand of William Adam (the youngest Adam brother), when he arranged the drawings into folios, observation of the use of 'Gawthorpe' or 'Harewood' is not always an accurate means of dating the drawings. This was Adam's largest commission, consisting of seventeen rooms, and various scholars have noted the numerous alternative designs provided for many of these rooms, indicating Lascelles's interference. Harewood is not Adam's most successful interior, however, owing to considerable disjunction between the architecture and the interior, as well as the interior and the furniture, most of which was designed by Thomas Chippendale (c.1718-1779). Eileen Harris notes that both the style of the furniture, and the lack of surviving Adam drawings for Harewood furniture, suggests that he was not involved with its design. Thomas Chippendale worked for Lascelles until his death, and the furniture was completed in 1797 by his son. Adam's plasterwork for Harewood was executed by Joseph Rose (1744-99), and most of the chimneypieces were provided by John Devall (1728-94), the King's master mason.

Harewood was remodelled - receiving an additional storey to the central block and pavilions - and was largely redecorated by Sir Charles Barry (1795-1860) in the 1840s, and again by Sir Herbert Baker (1862-1946) in 1929 and 1930 when the Princess Royal married the 6th Earl. Though elements of Adam's interior decorative scheme did survive Barry's alterations of the 1840s, the only rooms that remain almost intact are the music room and old library. Happily, in 1988 the 7th Earl began a programme of restoration, which included work on a number of Adam features. These included returning the caryatid chimneypiece to the gallery and reinstating original colour schemes.

Further to the Adam drawings for Harewood House held at the Soane Museum there are miscellaneous drawings held at the West Yorkshire Archive Service in Leeds, including a design for ironwork for the lodge and gates, dated 17 May 1782, and various others in a mixed folder with drawings by John Carr, John Muschamp, Sir Charles Barry, and accounts from Joseph rose. There is an unexecuted design for an iron balustrade and lamp standard held at the V&A, as well as an alternative design for the caryatid chimneypiece for the gallery. There is another drawing for the caryatid chimneypiece included in John Harris's A catalogue of British drawings for architecture, decoration, sculpture and landscape gardening 1550-1900 in American collections. In addition there are five Adam drawings belonging to the Harewood House Trust: a plan and elevation for the gateway and lodges (an alternative to Adam volume 35/26); a quarter washed duplicate of drawings Adam volume 11/150 and Adam volume 11/151 for the ceiling for the state dressing room (now the Spanish library); an unexecuted part plan for the ornamentation to the soffit to the landing in the great staircase (corresponding to Adam volume 11/154); a chimneypiece design for the gallery (similar to Adam volume 22/199); and a chimneypiece design for Edwin Lascelles’s bed chamber (similar to Adam volume 22/190).

A. T. Bolton, The architecture of Robert and James Adam, 1922, Volume I, pp. 157-177, Volume II, Index pp. 16-17; J. Lees-Milne, The Age of Adam, 1947, pp. 92-94; C. Hussey, The English country house: mid-Georgian 1760-1800, 1956, pp. 61-62, 68-69; E. Harris, The Furniture of Robert Adam, 1963, p. 27; D. Stillman, The Decorative Work of Robert Adam, 1966, pp. 70-71, 80, 85, 91, 100, 102-103; J. Harris, A catalogue of British drawings for architecture, decoration, sculpture and landscape gardening 1550-1900 in American collections, 1971, p. 6; A. Rowan, Robert Adam: catalogues of architectural drawings in the Victoria and Albert Museum, 1988, pp. 52, 102; M. Mauchline, Harewood House: one of the treasure houses of Britain, 1992, chapters 1-4; E. Harris, The genius of Robert Adam: his interiors, 2001, pp. 132-155; D. King, The complete works of Robert & James Adam and unbuilt Adam, 2001, Volume I, pp. 237-242, Volume II, p. 24; E. Harris, The country houses of Robert Adam: from the archives of Country Life, 2007, pp. 85-90; P. Leach, and N. Pevsner, The buildings of England: Yorkshire West Riding, 2009, pp. 296, 298, 299, 302-303; Wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_East_India_Company_directors; Legacies of British Slavery database, UCL: www.ucl.ac.uk/lbs

With grateful thanks to the Harewood House Trust for information regarding their Adam drawings collection.

Frances Sands, 2011



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

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Contents of Harewood House, Yorkshire: designs for alterations to the church and house; for the interior decoration; and for a greenhouse and gateway for Edwin Lascelles, 1759-1782 (121)