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Bishopthorpe Palace, North Yorkshire: unexecuted designs for an urn and a table for Archbishop Robert Hay-Drummond, 1768 (2)

Signed and dated

  • 1768


The Hon. Robert Hay-Drummond (1711-16) was the second son of the 8th Earl of Kinoull, a member of the Society of Dilettanti, and Royal Chaplain from 1736, and he became Bishop of St Asaph in 1748, and Bishop of Salisbury and Archbishop of York in quick succession in 1761. Horace Walpole described Hay-Drummond as ‘a sensible worldly man, but much addicted to his bottle'.

It appears that following his appointment as Archbishop of York in 1761 Hay-Drummond sought to improve his local family seat at Brodsworth Hall, an estate which had been purchased by his father in 1713. For Brodsworth Adam made designs to rebuild, and then simply to enlarge the house, but neither was executed as Hay-Drummond's focus had been drawn to the renovations of the Archbishop of York's official residence at Bishopthorpe Palace. This work was carried out by Thomas Atkinson (c1729-98) in 1763-69. Atkinson was responsible for the Gothic gatehouse, and remodelling the entrance front and interior of Bishopthorpe in the Gothic style. It appears that the expense of two concurrent building projects at both Bishopthorpe and Brodsworth was too great for Hay-Drummond, and his official residence quickly took priority.

These two designs, for an urn and a sideboard table both dated 1768, have previously been attributed as being for Brodsworth. This is unlikely, however, as by this date Atkinson's gatehouse at Bishopthorpe was complete, and his works on the palace were underway, absorbing all of Hay-Drummond's money and attention. Unfortunately there is no archival evidence that Adam produced designs for interior fittings for Bishopthorpe in the Bishopthorpe archive at the Borthwick Institute, York. Moreover, these two designs by Adam may have been speculative, and never commissioned by Hay-Drummond at all.

Atkinson's work at Bishopthorpe seems to assert the medieval origins of the palace as an affirmation of Hay-Drummond's patronage. This does not result in 'Gothic fantasy' but rather is - in part - by the architecture of York Minster itself. Both of the designs made by Adam are thoroughly Classical, but many of Adam's interiors for Gothic, or 'castle style' buildings are Classical, and examples can be seen in the designs for Mellerstain, Culzean Castle, and Ugbrooke. In this instance, however, there is no evidence that Adam's designs were executed.

Bishopthorpe Palace remains the official residence of the Archbishop of York.

See also: Brodsworth Hall, South Yorkshire

A.T. Bolton, The architecture of Robert & James Adam, 1922, Volume II, Index pp. 5, 92; E. Harris, The furniture of Robert Adam, 1963, pp. 48, 69; N. Pevsner, and E. Radcliffe, The buildings of England: Yorkshire West Riding, 1967, pp. 107-108; J. Ingamells, A dictionary of British and Irish travellers in Italy: 1701-1800, 1997, p. 477; Yale, Horace Walpole’s Correspondence, 2011, Volume 28, p. 316

Frances Sands, 2012



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Contents of Bishopthorpe Palace, North Yorkshire: unexecuted designs for an urn and a table for Archbishop Robert Hay-Drummond, 1768 (2)