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Shardeloes, Buckinghamshire: designs for exterior alterations, interior decoration, domestic offices, a gateway, and a banqueting house for William Drake, 1759-63 (43)

Signed and dated

  • 1759-63


William Drake (1723-96) went on the Grand Tour (1742-46), married Elizabeth Raworth (1747), and was MP for Amersham (1746-96). Shardeloes had come into the Drake family through marriage in 1632. The original Elizabethan house was largely replaced by Stiff Leadbetter (d.1766) with a quadrangular Palladian house (1758-66). This was the second Leadbetter house that was given an Adam interior, the first being Hatchlands, and he would go on to precede Adam at Syon. Eileen Harris notes that Adam's involvement at Shardeloes was more extensive than that at Hatchlands as he also enlivened the exterior by adding a Corinthian portico to the north-east front, and pedimented windows within relieving arches in the end bays; and built domestic offices and an orangery. As at Hatchlands, Castle Ashby and Thistleworth, the designs for the interior decoration at Shardeloes are in Adam's early style, with heavy ornament, albeit with hints of his more delicate mature style, as in the low relief ceiling in the drawing room (Adam volume 11/66). Bolton described Shardeloes as 'the germinating stage of a new manner'. Plans for Shardeloes can be seen in Leadbetter's survey plan of the house (Adam volume 31/101), and in Bolton, Volume I, p. 146.

During the 1770s additions and alterations were made to the interior by James Wyatt (1746-1813). The only element of Adam's interior decorative scheme that did not receive any alteration was the library ceiling. In 1939 Shardeloes was volunteered as a maternity hospital, in 1957 the contents were sold, and in 1958 it was divided into twenty flats, but happily the eighteenth-century interior is well preserved.

As well as the Adam drawings for Shardeloes held at Sir John Soane's Museum there are also six drawings in the RIBA Drawings Collection which were donated in 1960 by a member of the Tyrwhitt-Drake family: a plan and laid out wall elevations for the great parlour (1761); a plan and laid out wall elevation for the dressing room, with a plan and section of the ceiling on an attached fly leaf (1761); a plan and section of the portico (1764); a ground plan of the domestic offices (N.D.); a first-floor plan of the domestic offices (1761); and an elevation of the domestic offices (1761). There is also a collection of uncatalogued Adam drawings for Shardeloes belonging to the Tyrwhitt-Drake family.

A.T. Bolton, The architecture of Robert and James Adam, 1922, Volume I, pp. 145-156, Volume II, Index p. 28; J. Lees-Milne, The age of Adam, 1947, p. 90; J. Harris, 'Shardeloes: a lasting tribute to a remarkable restoration', The Connoisseur, December 1961, pp. 268-275; E. Harris, The furniture of Robert Adam, 1963, pp. 100, 103-104; D. Stillman, The decorative work of Robert Adam, 1966, pp. 47, 62-63, 90, 91, 97-98; Catalogue of the drawings collection of the RIBA, 1968, pp. 16-17; D. Yarwood, Robert Adam, 1970, pp. 101-102; N. Pevsner, and E. Williamson, The buildings of England: Buckinghamshire, 1994, pp. 617-619; D. King, The Complete Works of Robert & James Adam and unbuilt Adam, 2001, Volume I, pp. 184-185; E. Harris, The country houses of Robert Adam: from the archives of Country Life, 2007, pp. 29-31; G. Worsley, 'Stiff Leadbetter', Ancient Monuments Society Transactions 53, 2009, pp. 60, 76

I am grateful to William Tyrwhitt-Drake for information regarding the family's collection of Adam drawings for Shardeloes.

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 Shardeloes, Buckinghamshire: designs for exterior alterations, interior decoration, domestic offices, a gateway, and a banqueting house for William Drake, 1759-63 (43)