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Ugbrooke, Chudleigh, Devon: unexecuted designs for the interior of the house for the 4th Baron Clifford, 1763-71 (22)

Signed and dated

  • 1763-71


The Ugbrooke estate is listed in Domesday, and until the Dissolution was in the possession of Exeter Cathedral, being the official residence of the Precentor to the Bishop. Following the Dissolution the estate passed to the Courtenay family, and then, in the sixteenth century it passed through marriage to the Clifford family. The 1st Baron Clifford of Chudleigh was created in 1672.

The house at Ugbrooke was remodelled from 1763 by Hugh, 4th Baron Clifford of Chudleigh (1726-83), to designs by Robert Adam. The 4th Baron had succeeded in 1732, and in 1748 he married Lady Anne Lee (d1802), fifth daughter of the 2nd Earl of Lichfield. Adam redesigned Ugbrooke in the castle style, and it is the earliest executed example of his work in this genre. The 4th Baron was financially cautious, and work proceeded slowly. According to Rowan, Adam's first scheme for Ugbrooke was reminiscent of the magnificent cryptoporticus of the Emperor Diocletian’s Palace at Spalatro. This was not executed, however, as the 4th Baron wanted a simpler, relatively inexpensive house. The only ornaments to the exterior of the fabric are the battlements, the window hood mouldings, the string course, and the cornice. The house has been refaced and some of these ornamentes have since been lost. Although much of the original house was demolished during Adam’s remodelling, parts of it - especially around the courtyard - were reused within the new structure for the sake of economy. And in accordance with the 4th Baron’s frugal attitude, the majority of the Soane Museum's surviving drawings for the interior decoration show more elaborate ornamental details than those executed.

The Cliffords were Roman Catholic, and as contemporary law did not allow freestanding Catholic churches, it was necessary to incorporate a private chapel into the house by the addition of a projecting wing, built in 1767-68. This wing includes an arch supporting a conservatory, and a library, which is Adam's most characteristic interior at Ugbrooke. Although still relatively simple, this room does make use of some typical Adam ornamental motifs, and as it was the last element of Adam's work to be executed at Ugbrooke; perhaps the 4th Baron finally felt able to loosen his purse strings a little. The chapel was converted into a Greek cross-shape in the 1840s, with a cupola over the crossing.

The park landscape was remodelled by Lancelot 'Capability' Brown (1716-83) in 1761-80. During the nineteenth century the northern range of the house was demolished, and other areas were extended. The majority of these later additions were demolished during restoration work in 1957. Although the house remains in the possession of the Clifford family, it was requisitioned as a school during the Second World War, and later used as a grain store. From 1957 the 13th Lord Clifford returned to the house and began an extensive programme of restoration which has been continued by his son, the 14th Baron. Brown's landscape was replanted in 1994.

Six Adam drawings survive at the house, including designs for the hall, great drawing room, and great eating room, and elevations for two fronts of the house. Significantly, these are the only extant drawings for the exterior, and only that for the west front is as executed.

A.T. Bolton, The architecture of Robert and James Adam, 1922, Volume II, Index pp. 30, 66; A. Rowan, 'Ugbrooke Park, Devon - I-III', Country Life, 20, 27 July and 3 August 1967; G. Beard, The work of Robert Adam, 1978, pp. 16, 45; B. Cherry, and N. Pevsner, The buildings of England: Devon, 1989, pp. 880-81; D. King, The complete works of Robert & James Adam and unbuilt Adam, 2001, Volume I, pp. 8, 12, 156-59; Ugbrooke House & gardens, 2011, pp. 4-24

Frances Sands, 2012



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 Ugbrooke, Chudleigh, Devon: unexecuted designs for the interior of the house for the 4th Baron Clifford, 1763-71 (22)