Nuneham Courtney, Oxfordshire: unexecuted designs for altering the house for the 2nd Earl Harcourt, 1777 (7)
The medieval house, Nuneham Park, was bought in 1712 by Viscount Harcourt the Lord Chancellor (1661-1727), and a new house at Nuneham Courtney was built from 1756 for his grandson, the 2nd Viscount (1714-77, created Earl Harcourt in 1749), by Stiff Leadbetter (d.1766). The interior decoration was undertaken by James 'Athenian' Stuart (1713-88). The site for the eighteenth-century house was chosen specifically to afford a view of Oxford. The 2nd Viscount was succeeded in 1777 by his son - the 2nd Earl (1736-1809) - who immediately consulted Lancelot 'Capability' Brown (1716-83) and the Adam brothers about alterations to the park and house. The Adam designs were not executed as Brown - in partnership with Henry Holland (1745-1806) - took control of both the park and house in 1779 and 1781 respectively. In 1832 the house was enlarged with wings by Sir Robert Smirke (1780-1867) for Archbishop Harcourt (1757-1847), and in 1904 a gallery was added at first floor level across the principal front of the house. Since 1993 the building has housed the Global Retreat Centre administered by the Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University.
Literature: A.T. Bolton, The architecture of Robert and James Adam, 1922, Volume II, Index p. 24; J. Sherwood, and N. Pevsner, The buildings of England: Oxfordshire, 1974, pp. 726-28; G. Worsley, 'Nuneham Park revisited', Country Life, 3 and 10 January 1985, pp. 16-17, 64