Wotton House is near Aylesbury. It was home to the Grenvilles and later the Dukes.
The south front and clock lodge in July 2003
Did Elizabeth Wilbraham design Wotton House?
In the Architect’s Journal for 11 November 2010, John Millar identifies Elizabeth Wilbraham (1632-1705) as the architect for Wotton House. Millar attributes around 400 buildings to Wilbraham, including Uppark.
He concludes “Given the situation of a woman acting as an architect during a period in history when that was socially unacceptable, there will never be clear documentation of Wilbraham’s authorship of any building, other than for her family. However, I am convinced that what little evidence exists points to Wilbraham being the architect of Wotton.”
The Grenvilles and Wotton
The Grenvilles have been associated with Wotton since at least 1166, when Gerald de Grenville held three knights fees (VCH Bucks).
Work on a new house at Wotton began in 1704 and was completed in 1714 by Richard Grenville (1646-1719). It was a statement of the growing wealth and ambitions of the Grenvilles. While the design owes much to John Sheffield's Buckingham House in London, built about the same time, the designer of Wotton is unknown. The architect of Buckingham House was William Wynde or Talman with Wynde supervising construction. It is not known if either of these men were involved at Wotton (Pevsner). One suggestion is that the Buckingham House design was imitated by Sir James Thornhill who later added many embellishments to the house (see his sketch below). The house was described in Magna Britannica in 1806:
Wotton-house has been from time immemorial the seat of the Grenvilles. The present mansion was built in 1705, after the model of Buckingham-house; the staircase and saloon were painted by Sir James Thornhill, who was paid £1000. a year during three years, for his professional labours at Wotton. This mansion was the principal and favourite residence of the Right Hon. George Grenville, first lord of the Treasury, and chancellor of the exchequer, in the early part of the reign of his present majesty: it is now the occasional residence of Lord Temple, the Marquis of Buckingham's eldest son. (Magna Britannia: Buckinghamshire, Lysons S and Lysons D, 1806.)
In July 1804, the Diarist Elizabeth Wynne took a walk around the grounds:
Wotton, 22nd July. Sunday. I took the entire round of the gardens, three miles and was much delighted with the walks, which are much more natural than those at Stowe. Lady Buckingham seems to be very partial to this place, where she spent the first years of her marriage. We were invited by Lord Bm. into the Boat who was rowed about the lake by his two sons, and were some time upon the water. (Wynne Diaries III, page 126)
The Marquis of Chandos (later the second Duke) moved into Wotton in 1819 but the house was destroyed by a fire in October 1820 and only the detached wings containing the stables and kitchen remained untouched. Rebuilding began immediately and Sir John Soane built a new house over the next three years (see Saving Wotton).
When I tell you that I have just heard of my poor old house at Wotton being last night burnt to the ground you will not expect a long letter from me. I thank Almighty God that my Son, his Wife & Child are safe. The fire broke out at 2 in the morning in the room next the Nursery. The Child  was in imminent danger & saved by a Servant. God is merciful. With my feelings for that old place you will not wonder at my already having taken steps for the rebuilding it. (Richard Temple to William Henry Fremantle, 30 October 1820; BRO D-FR/46/11/36)
Lord B begins to be cheerful again in arranging plans for your new House. I think you have judged so wisely in taking possession of the Kitchen Wing as that will enable you to visit Wotton sometimes & to watch over your Garden & the progress of the new building. I long to hear Mr Soane's report he went down so sanguine as to preserve the old Walls. (Anna Eliza Brydges to Mary Campbell, 2 November 1820; HEH STG Correspondence Box 50 (40))
Despite Temple's assertion that the house "burnt to the ground" the main walls survived, albeit cracked by the heat. A more accurate description of the damage was given by Soane's assistant, James Cook:
The Roof floors and all the Bond timbers are Completely destroyed by the fire — and some of the party walls are in a shattered state — the workmen are Busily employd in clearing away the Rubbish over the groins and different parts of the Building — there is fire breaking out in different parts of the basement at present. (Cook to Soane, 31 October 1820; Quoted in Saving Wotton, page 45).
The costs of rebuilding were high:
I leave this on Wednesday for Wotton when the rebuilding commences and I mean to keep the fellows at work... You have no idea of what my losses have been with poor old Wotton. Now I begin to collect bills, & pay, it comes I can assure you very hard, and I fear it will be long 'ere the new house can be properly furnished & completed. However one must bear up & weather the difficulties. (Richard Temple to Percy Grace, 19 February 1821; HEH STG Correspondence Box 5 (17))
In 1929, Aylesbury MP Michael Beaumont purchased Wotton, having rented it for some time, for £90,000. He employed A.S.G. Butler to remodel the house, covering up much of Soane's work. Beaumont decided to live in Kildare and Wotton was sold for £110,000 to the Charity of Henry Herbert Wills for Chronic or Incurable Sufferers. The house and the estate declined. In the early 1950s, the house was briefly a school and the decline continued. It was purchased by Buckinghamshire County Council and was about to be demolished, when Elaine Brummer purchased the house along with the clock pavilion in April 1957. She began work with architects Donald Insall & Associates to restore or recreate Soane's original designs. Wotton is now owned by Mr David Gladstone, who is continuing the restoration (see Saving Wotton).
A sketch of Wotton by Sir James Thornhill (1675-1734) (Records of Bucks, Volume 10, 1916)
A document in the Huntington Library gives a report on work on a private road and bridge, and plans for two lodges at Wotton. With invoice. The cost to be shared between the parish and Chandos. (HEH STG Correspondence Box 382 (23); 28 April 1825).
 Later the Third Duke.
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