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Hatchlands, Surrey: executed designs for interior decoration for the Rt Hon. Admiral Edward Boscawen, 1758-59 (15)

Signed and dated

  • 1758-59


The Rt Hon. Edward Boscawen (1711-61), joined the navy at an early age; was made captain in 1737; and a Lord of the Admiralty in 1749. Details of his career and victories - and particularly the French surrender of Louisburg in 1758 - are recorded in the London Gazette (1739-59), the letters of Horace Walpole to Horace Mann (1750s), and the Naval Chronicle (Volumes 7 & 11). He also served as MP (Whig) for Truro (1742-61). Boscawen married Frances (Fanny) Glanville (1719-1805), an heiress and one of the founding members of the bluestocking circle, on 11 December 1742, and together they had three sons and two daughters. One of their daughters, Elizabeth, was to marry the 5th Duke of Beaufort, another of Adam's patrons.

Hatchlands was bought by Edward and Fanny Boscawen in 1750. Originally a grange of Chertsey Abbey sold at the Dissolution, it had been replaced with a Tudor mansion. The house was rebuilt (1756-57) - prior to Adam's return from the Grand Tour (1758) - by Stiff Leadbetter (d.1766), using prize money from Boscawen's various naval victories over the French. It is a red brick Palladian house with very little ornament beyond the three canted bays, one on the south front and two on the east. Hussey notes that the house is unusual because the fenestration changes from two to three floors on the west front owing to the addition of an internal mezzanine. Within the collection of Adam drawings for Hatchlands there is a survey ground plan, dated 1757, drawn in the distinctive hand of Stiff Leadbetter, and there is also an excellent plan drawn by A.T. Bolton (1922).

In the winter of 1758-59 the Boscawens hired Robert Adam to fit out the interior of the new house. He had probably first been introduced to Admiral Boscawen by his friend Sir Gilbert Elliott of Minto, who just months later assisted Adam in acquiring the commission for the Admiralty Screen at Whitehall. Boscawen himself was much engaged with his naval duties during the construction and decoration of the house, and it was Fanny who supervised the work. Being tired of 'neo-Palladian pomposity', Mrs Boscawen described Adam's style as one 'of simplicity improved by art and care'. The Hatchlands interior is interesting as it provides an early example of Adam's work. It resembles both his work from the Edinburgh office, and is also 'bursting with the enthusiasm of the first return from Italy’. An example of this can be seen in the heavy arabesque ornamentation in the ceiling design for the drawing room. The heaviness of the early Adam style may, in part, be the result of employing unknown and untested English craftsmen. Adam had not yet gathered around him his regular group of artificers such as Joseph Rose, and wrote to his brother James during his time at Hatchlands of his inability to find 'English workmen who will leave their angly Stiff Sharp manner'.

In addition to the Hatchlands drawings there are designs for a ceiling incorrectly inscribed by William Adam (1738-1822) as being for Admiral Boscawen (Adam volumes 54/1/14 and 18, 11/4-5). These have always been attributed as such, and the ceiling makes use of the same early Adam style, but from the bar scales on 11/4-5 we can see that the dimensions of this ceiling were 30 x 30 feet, and there was no room at Hatchlands large enough to accommodate it.

Fanny Boscawen sold Hatchlands in 1770 to William Brightwell Sumner who employed Joseph Bonomi in 1797 to make alterations to the interior. Further changes were made in the nineteenth century, including the demolition of Boscawen's bed room in favour of a new entrance on the east front, and the original colour scheme is now lost. Hatchlands survives and was given to the National Trust in 1945.

See also: St Michael Penkevil, Cornwall; The Admiralty Screen, Whitehall

A.T. Bolton, The architecture of Robert and James Adam, 1922, Volume I, pp. 133-143, Volume II, Index pp. 17 and 63; J. Lees-Milne, The age of Adam, 1947, pp. 89-90; C. Hussey, English country house: mid Georgian 1760-1800, 1956, pp. 49-54; D. Stillman, The decorative work of Robert Adam, 1966, pp. 36, 62, 89-90; I. Nairn, and N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Surrey, 1971, pp. 309-311; G. Beard, The work of Robert Adam, 1978, p. 8; G. Jackson-Stops, 'Hatchlands, Surrey', Country Life, 20 April 1989, pp. 182-187; E. Harris, The country houses of Robert Adam: from the archives of Country Life, 2007, pp. 25-27; G. Worsley, 'Stiff Leadbetter', Ancient Monuments Society Transactions 53, 2009, p. 71

I am grateful to Alec Cobbe for his advice.

Frances Sands, 2011



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Contents of Hatchlands, Surrey: executed designs for interior decoration for the Rt Hon. Admiral Edward Boscawen, 1758-59 (15)