Beningbrough Hall

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Beningbrough was recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 as Benniburg and was owned by a man named Asford. Much of the land passed to the Hospital of St Leonard, a religious foundation run by monks, during the 12th and 13th centuries. Following the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1539, St Leonard’s Hospital and its land were surrendered to King Henry VIII. In 1544 the land was sold to John Banester and in 1556, his nephew Ralph Bourchier inherited the estate. Ralph began building a house on a site approximately 300 metres south-east of the present hall and recent surveys suggest that it had a timber frame with fine panelled interiors – some of which were reused in the present hall (Alton, 2011). The building passed down a line of Bourchiers and was eventually inherited by John Bourchier in 1700, aged just 16. The present hall was completed in 1716 and rises out of the flood plain of the River Ouse.

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In 1704 John Bourchier embarked on a Grand Tour of Europe and spending almost two years in Italy, he absorbed the Italianate Baroque architectural style into his plans for a new house at Beningbrough. The command of the classical Renaissance vocabulary that Bourchier admired in Europe played a major role in the planning of the hall and although the building is constructed in the English tradition of brick, much of the exterior detailing is derived from Roman sources. Like Bourchier, many gentlemen scholars undertook Grand Tours as part of the 17th century tradition of the virtuoso. Referred to by Francis Bacon in 1605 as those who “entered into a desire of learning and knowledge, sometimes upon a natural curiosity and inquisitive appetite; sometimes to entertain their minds with variety and delight; sometimes for ornament and reputation”, these men did not receive any formal training in building design. The highly acclaimed English Baroque architect Sir Christopher Wren taught himself “when he turned to architecture” (Downes, 1971). The grammar of the Renaissance was initially learned from the treatises of Alberti and Vitruvius and the illustrated books of Serlio, Palladio, Vignola and Scamozzi with practical experience gained under a great master. Following his grand tour in 1754 and his study of the Baths of Diocletian and Caracalla, the architect Robert Adam declared in his Ruins of Spalatro that “with sword in hand… and reflections on the subject I must own they contributed very much to the improvement of my taste and enlarged my notions of architecture” (Adam, 1757). Essentially public architecture, the baroque country house was almost always built for the gentry or aristocracy. With eternal ideas deriving from antiquity and the desire to emulate their elegance and purity of a better age (Tinniswood, 1991), the 18th century classicists agreed that the buildings of the ancients should “serve as models which we should imitate, and as standards by which we ought to judge” (Adam, 1774).

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The top of a pilaster (Great Hall)

Little is known about the building history of Beningbrough but it is believed that William Thornton, a “joyner and architect” (Tinniswood, 1991) supervised the construction of the hall. Thornton is described as Bourchier’s architect in a list of Yorkshire houses contained in a copy of The Builder’s Dictionary of 1734. Thornton worked at Bramham Park, Wentworth Castle and under Nicholas Hawksmoor at Castle Howard and on the restoration of Beverley Minster. Working to the designs of Bourchier, Beningbrough is a two storey building of double-pile plan and constructed of red brick in Flemish bond with ashlar dressings and cumberland slate roof. The symmetrical facade features a central entrance bay with Doric pilasters supporting an entablature with cornice.

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Solid York stone pilasters (Great Hall)

The Great Hall is a fantastic display of splendour with imposing fluted composite pilasters gracing the double height room that soar to the groined vaults above balconied openings. Resembling the classical grandeur of Baroque palaces in Italy, the Great Hall connects a lot of the ground floor rooms and not only designed to impress, it was used to serve as a busy circulating space. The room is lavishly adorned with monumental portraits of 18th century British monarchs which come from the National Portrait Gallery’s collection. The National Trust acquired Beningbrough in 1958 and when conservators stripped back paint on the plinths supporting the pilasters, they discovered that they were made from solid York stone. The creamy white colour of the stone is what the pilasters have been redecorated with and at the same time, the floor was re-laid with smooth flagstones, as it had originally been (Alton,2011). Often decorating the entrance halls of Roman villas, sculpted portraits also feature at Beningbrough. The impressive bust of Pope Clement XIV (below) is above the fireplace in the Great Hall and was carved in Rome in 1771 by the Irish sculptor Christopher Hewetson. When Mrs Earle, owner of Beningbrough during the 18th century, became pregnant, Pope Clement gave her special permission to stay in a convent during her time in Rome in 1770-1771.

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Bust of Pope Clement XIV above the fireplace in the Great Hall

Providing a link between the Great Hall and the original state apartment (now the Drawing Room) on the ground floor and the Saloon on the first floor, the Great Staircase Hall (below) displays particularly fine craftsmanship. Reserved exclusively for the owners and their guests, the cantilevered wooden staircase would have been climbed in formal procession on special occasions. To the left of the Great Staircase is a small door which opens onto another tiny set of stairs which run alongside their much grander counterpart and were used by the servants. The intricate fretwork of the banister appears to be elaborate wrought-iron work but the spindles are in fact carved in wood – likely to have been crafted by William Thornton, the chief craftsman and master woodworker.

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The Great Staircase Hall

The last in the Bourchier line to hold Beningbrough was Margaret Bourchier. Margaret married Giles Earle in 1761 and they had two sons. Following the death of both sons fighting in the war against Napoleon, when Margaret Earle passed away in 1827 Beningbrough passed to reverend William Henry Dawnay, a close friend of one of her sons. The estate was owned by the Dawnay family between 1827 and 1916 (Alton, 2011).

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Ground floor corridor

The State Apartment and State Dressing Room (below) are on the ground floor adjoining the Dining Room. The original form of the state apartment was lost with the creation of the current Drawing Room so the National Trust has re-created the State Apartment in the south-east part of this floor. The intimate Dressing Room and Closet would have been reserved for use by the occupant of the State Bedchamber with only close friends permitted to enter. These smaller rooms would have provided a cosy retreat to escape the biting cold of the larger rooms during the winter. Kings would have met with their key ministers and advisors in their own closets, also known as cabinet rooms, and is where the origin of the political word cabinet stems. The stepped chimneypiece was specifically designed to display ceramics. Oriental porcelain was the fashion from the late 17th century and the room displays some fine pieces of Delftware on loan from the Ashmolean and Victoria and Albert museums.

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Chimneypiece State Dressing Room

The fabulous Dining Room (below) was originally referred to as the Great Parlour during the mid 18th century and was the main dining room by the 19th century. Rather than hung with fabric, the walls are of panelled wood and although they are painted a pale green colour, the original decor would have been a stony white colour. Inspired by the colours found at Boughton in Northamptonshire, the National Trust chose the current scheme as an ideal colour to complement the gold framed portraits. The walls are ornately covered with portraits of members of the Kit Cat Club. Sharing a commitment to uphold the “Glorious Revolution” (Alton, 2011), Whig politicians founded the most distinguished and influential club of its day – the Kit Cat Club. Meeting regularly in a London tavern, the club took its name from the mutton pies that were served up by the owner of the tavern, Christopher Cat. The custom of presenting a portrait to the club’s secretary, the publisher Jacob Tonson, was introduced by the Duke of Somerset. Sir Godfrey Kneller was an artist and member of the Kit Cat Club and during the first two decades of the 18th century, he painted nearly 40 club portraits. Almost half of Kneller’s Kit Cat portraits are on display at Beningbrough with the remainder at the National Portrait Gallery in London.

‘Hence did th’Assembly’s Title first arise, And Kit Cat Wits sprung from Kit-Cats Pyes’ (The Kit-Cats, A Poem, anon 1708).

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The Dining Room

The Drawing Room (below) is next to the Dining Room and was originally two separate spaces – a bedroom and a withdrawing room that formed part of a state apartment. The dividing wall was likely to have been removed during the 1830’s when the fashion for ground floor bedrooms was superseded by a greater need for large reception rooms. The room features an exquisitely carved wooden frieze depicting shells, vases and palm fronds that is intricately detailed with the initials JMB which stand for John and Mary Bourchier, who the house was originally built for. The magnificent woodcarvings and panelling were moved around during 19th century alterations and again after 1917 when Lady Chesterfield had the woodwork stripped of paint to reveal the pine beneath. Thought to be original features and depicting members of the Bourchier family, some of the portraits in this room were actually bought by the Dawnays in the 1890’s (Alton, 2011).

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The Drawing Room

Originally referred to as the Great Dining Room, the Saloon (below) would have been used for large parties, county balls, family celebrations and banquets. This grand room features gilded pilasters, decorative dentils and a coffered ceiling. Allowing space for celebrations, the Saloon was kept uncluttered with chairs pushed to the edges of the room. There are two 18th century mirrors in this room that come from Holme Lacy. To prevent deterioration, the mirrors were carefully cleaned and treated in 2009 as part of the ongoing conservation work by the National Trust. The elaborate Italianate decoration in the room is another example of William Thornton’s skilful wood craftsmanship and not, as it appears, moulded in plaster.

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The Saloon

Enid Edith Wilson was a wealthy shipping heiress and became Lady Chesterfield following her marriage to Edwyn Francis Scudamore-Stanhope, 10th Earl of Chesterfield, in 1900. The Chesterfield’s furnished Beningbrough with lavish furniture and pictures from Holme Lacy, in Herefordshire, where they lived until 1909. They finally came to Beningbrough in 1917 and completely redecorated the house. Lord Chesterfield died in 1933 and making way for servicemen from nearby RAF Linton On Ouse, Lady Chesterfield temporarily moved to Home Farm in 1941. She returned after the war in 1947 and remained at Beningbrough until her death in 1957 aged 79. As there were not enough assets to cover the death duties, Beningbrough was offered to the Treasury and in June 1958, it was acquired by the National Trust. Lady Chesterfield transformed her closet into a luxurious modern bathroom (below) in the 1920’s. A very extravagant touch are the taps above the bath which can be shut away in their own cupboards to create a more finished look to the room.

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Lady Chesterfield’s Bathroom

On the top floor of the building are galleries (below) that combine the National Portrait Gallery’s 18th century collections with interactive technology. Supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, the galleries are the result of collaboration between the National Trust and the National Portrait Gallery who have been in partnership at Beningbrough Hall since 1979. Hosting a vibrant programme of touring exhibitions and long term loans, this Baroque mansion is an appropriate historical setting to display the fine 18th century portraits. Launching a new initiative in 2006, the Gallery and the Trust refurbished and restored the rooms on this floor and opened the galleries to the public for the first time. Bringing the 18th century portraits and sculptures to life, the interactive galleries are home to Making Faces – 18th Century Style, Visiting Portraits, Portrait Explorer, Family Matters, Portraits Tell Stories, Getting the Picture and Turning Heads exhibitions. The touch-screen computers in the IT study room on this floor enable visitors to search the entire National Portrait Gallery Collection. The ‘Virtual Portrait’ computer in the Getting the Picture room lets you commission your own 18th century style portrait which can even be emailed home. The new very definitely meets the old on this floor!

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Top floor galleries

Most of the trees in the parkland at Beningbrough were planted between 1830 and 1870. The Head Gardener at this time was Thomas Foster and he was responsible for over 300 acres of parkland as well as the gardens. The various owners at Beningbrough have all left their traces on the landscape surrounding the house. Lewis Payn Dawnay, who inherited Beningbrough in 1891, planted 11,000 trees, extended the lawn to the south and replanted the north avenue with broadleaved lime trees. The accomplished artist and watercolourist William Sawrey Gilpin was hired by the Dawnay family to advise on the landscaping of the parkland. His influence on many areas of the parkland was extensive and thankfully, his sketches and notes have survived at Beningbrough. Restoration of Beningbrough began in 1977 and the National Trust redesigned the two small formal gardens, the Walled Garden and continued to develop a range of new planting schemes. The gardens are overlooked by the Victorian Conservatory (below) and feature an Italian Border which was recently replanted to reflect John Bourchier’s Italian interests. The South Lawn was inspired by a sketch dating to 1720 by the 18th century printmaker and engraver Samuel Buck which shows how the gardens might have looked at the time.

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The Stable Block (below) is now home to offices and a display area. Built in the 18th century for the Bourchier’s, and with 19th century additional wings built for the Dawnay’s, the stables are constructed of brick with stone dressing. The Stable Block main range features a central pediment with a sundial adorning the tympanum and a cast-iron mind vane above. The central three bays project forward and feature a round arched arcade with three windows above. The Latin inscription over the sundial had faded when the National Trust acquired Beningbrough and was only discovered in an old photograph. Having been repainted it reads TEMPUS EDAX which means time is voracious. The Stable Block is Grade II Listed.

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The Stable Block

The Walled Garden was restored by the National Trust in 1995 and included the recreation of the original paths and the planting of over 120 fruit trees. Among the varieties planted were those known to have grown in the York area during the early 19th century. One of the most famous varieties is the Ribston Pippin which was a Victorian favourite and first grown at Ribston Hall near Knaresborough. The beautiful parkland surrounding Beningbrough is a wonderful landscape and well worth exploring.

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The primary status of architecture over the other fine arts is evident when 18th century Britain is compared to 16th century Italy. Seen as the consequence of a widespread improvement in taste and the awakening of a ‘national genius’, the progress in Britain was considered the result of “the study of what is elegant and beautiful, sensibility, discernment, and a correctness of eye… The genius of native artists has been called forth into new and laudible exertions” (Bryant, 1992).

Taken from Tract I by Christopher Wren:

“There are natural Causes of Beauty. Beauty is harmony of Objects, begetting Pleasure by the Eye. Natural beauty is from geometry, and geometrical figures are universally agreed ‘as to a Law of Nature’ to be the most beautiful.”

Beningbrough Hall is Grade I Listed.

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Hanbury Hall

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Hanbury Hall stands in stunning parkland in the district of Wychavon in Worcestershire. Hanbury was acquired by the Vernon family, rich lawyers, in 1631 and was expensively rebuilt by Thomas Vernon in the 1690’s. A talented lawyer at the Courts of Chancery, Thomas Vernon was supplied with designs for the hall by three men – William Rudhall, James Withenbury and John Chatterton. Closest to what was built is the designs of William Rudhall who came from Henley In Arden. The building is constructed of red brick in Flemish bond with ashlar dressings and features prominent wings which flank a recessed central entrance beneath a deep pediment. The two storey hall also features a central octagonal cupola which is said to “rise like a Dutch gallant with a weak chin” (Jenkins, 2003). Little changed from the original plans from the end of the 17th century until it was acquired by the National Trust in 1953. Showing considerable signs of wear and tear, Hanbury has, thankfully, continually been conserved since it came into the care of the Trust.

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Thomas Vernon commissioned the artist Sir James Thornhill to create the wall and ceiling paintings that lavishly adorn the interior. Thornhill was the only British large scale painter of the time and his work on the cupola of St Paul’s Cathedral is his most famous. Entering the main hall (above), you are immediately greeted with an assembly of classical deities. Representing an open-air gallery, the fabulous wall paintings are set within architectural surrounds and depict the story of the Greek hero Achilles. At the time of building Hanbury, a painted staircase was a statement of wealth and with an increased interest in classical civilisations, the story of Achilles and the Trojan War was a fitting mythological theme to be depicted. The Great Staircase is cantilevered and features turned and fluted balusters. The panelling on the walls is finely carved and grained to represent walnut although it is actually made of pine. 

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Although adapted in the 18th century, the downstairs rooms are of a conventional 17th century house. The upstairs rooms are furnished with four-poster beds, porcelain and paintings. Flanked by wild Baroque doorcases, the Gothick Corridors are so named after the wallpaper that decorates the walls. Inspired by wild nature and emphasising strong colours, the Gothick style relates to the art forms prevalent in Northern Europe from the 12th to the 15th centuries.

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Hanbury was a parish belonging to the church of Worcester at the time of the Domesday survey in 1088. From the Norman Conquest onwards, Hanbury was within the boundaries of the Royal Forest of Feckenham and with harsh forest laws, only chosen officials could hunt in such designated areas. After Feckenham lost its royal status in 1629, local families, including the Vernons, bought up land to increase their estates.

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The Formal Garden at Hanbury is part of the grand plans from George London which were laid out for Thomas Vernon in circa 1700. Consisting of intricate and symmetrical parterres and different areas divided by clipped hedges or walls, work to restore the Formal Garden, made up of six parts, began in the early 1990’s. During the late 18th century, London’s work at Hanbury was replaced with the more informal landscaping style of Lancelot Capability Brown. The old stables and farm buildings were demolished at the same time with the kitchen garden removed to a new walled enclosure away from the house.

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In 1865 Thomas Bowater Vernon commissioned R.W.Billings to design a new forecourt with elaborate brick gate piers, archways and railings with gazebos at the corners. Although they are Victorian interpretations, they echo the original pavilions seen in early 18th century drawings. With the aid of generous bequests and a European Union grant, the Formal Garden and the avenues leading into the park have been returned to their original splendour.

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“A fayre Parcke, which though in thys paryshe is styled Feckenham Parcke, sooting in name with the Kynges vast forest, reaching in former ages far and wyde. A large walke for savage beastes, but nowe more commoudyously changed to the civill habitations of many gentell-men, the freehoulds of wealthy yeoman and dwellings of industrious husbandmen.” Thomas Habington (1560-1647)

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Hanbury Hall is Grade I Listed.

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Ickworth House

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Ickworth House is located within extensive tranquil parkland near Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk. The House was started in 1795 by the Irish architect Francis Sandys to the designs of the Italian architect Mario Asprucci. Completed in 1821, the House was built for the 4th Earl of Bristol to replace an earlier house which was demolished in 1710. Constructed of stuccoed brick, the building was designed to house the treasures collected on tours of Europe.

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The House features a central rotunda with curved corridors (as above) to the south east and south west of the building.

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The Pompeian Room (above) features exquisite wall paintings and decoration.

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The staircase is flanked by paired scagliola Ionic columns and numerous family portraits adorning the walls.

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The main state rooms were used only for occasional entertaining and remain in superb condition. Ickworth House is Grade I Listed.

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The grounds of Ickworth have the country’s earliest remaining Italianate Garden which was installed at the beginning of the 19th century by the first Marquis. The layout echoes the floor plan of the House complete with corridors and rooms. The garden rooms include the Stumpery, a Spring Garden, Magnolia Garden and the Mediterranean Temple Garden.

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Riga: Latvijas Nacionālā Opera

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Located on Aspazijas Bulvāris next to the city canal is the Latvijas Nacionālā Opera – Latvian National Opera House. Built between 1860-1863, the building was the design of the Russian architect Ludwig Bohnstedt. Originally called the German Theatre of Riga, the building is known locally as the White House.

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The Neo-Classical entrance facade is dominated by six Ionic columns which support the pedimented portico. Sculpted figures of the Greek god Apollo adorn the tympanum with two female figures separated by a lyre ornamenting the roof. The central part of the building features hanging arches around the exterior. In 1887, the first power station in Riga was established in the annex of the building.

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Kimbolton Castle

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Located in the village of Kimbolton is the medieval castle now home to Kimbolton School. Grade I listed, the castle was heavily rebuilt by Sir John Vanbrugh and Nicholas Hawksmoor in the early 18th century. Constructed of ashlar faced in Weldon and Ketton stone, the west front (above) was not rebuilt by Vanbrugh but incorporated into his design with the addition of battlements and uniform windows.

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The Tudor chapel was remodelled during the Great Rebuilding. Featuring a West gallery designed by Vanbrugh, the chapel courtyard wall is stonework thought to have been brought from the ruined Higham Ferrers in 1523 by Sir Richard Wingfield.

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The courtyard was remodelled in 1690-95 by the 4th Earl of Manchester, Charles Edward Montagu. Featuring an ornamental doorway which leads into the Great Hall, the courtyard is a mixture of brick and stone, ornamented lead rainwater pipes and the 17th century small pane sash windows are some of the earliest surviving examples in England.

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The Gatehouse was built in 1764- 1766 and was the work of the British architect Robert Adam. Constructed of red brick with Ketton stone ashlar, the Gatehouse is flanked by two single storey ranges with gable end pediments. The Gatehouse is also Grade I Listed.

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The achievement of arms of the 4th Earl of Manchester formerly surmounted the exterior iron gates. After careful restoration, it is now on display in the Heritage Room.

Treviso: Chiesa di San Leonardo

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Located on Piazza San Leonardo is Chiesa di San Leonardo – the Church of St Leonard. Dating back to the 14th century, the original church took its name from the hospital of the same name. The present church is the result of a reconstruction in 1657 with later alterations. The main facade (above) is the work of architect Luigi Candiani which was carried out in the 1930’s.

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The facade features tripartite corinthian pilasters on plinths with a decorative frieze, a rose window above the entrance and pinnacled roof. A sculpture holding a cross (above) sits in a niche above the pedimented doorway.

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A side altar with an image of the crucifixion sits within a richly decorated stone surround.

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The side entrance of the building reveals a bricked arch above the pedimented doorway providing traces of a former opening.

Kedleston Hall

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The large country house estate of Kedleston Hall was the design of the English architects Matthew Brettingham, James Paine and Robert Adam. The buildings of the hall are constructed of red brick faced in ashlar and render with a rusticated basement, piano nobile and attic storeys. The main north front (above) features a Corinthian portico over a basement of five round arches. The central building has a lead dome and the buildings were constructed between 1758-1765.

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The south elevation (above) features a projecting central bay with four corinthian columns and pedimented sash windows. The curved stairs lead up to a pedimented entrance doorway flanked by sculpted figures set in recessed niches.

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The richly decorative Marble Hall has two rows of pink Nottinghamshire alabaster corinthian columns supporting the ornate frieze and coved ceiling. The floor is hoptonwood stone with inlay and was designed by Adam. Niches in the walls contain antique sculptures and detailed stucco decorates the coved ceiling.

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The blue and gold drawing room provides an opulent setting with mythical mermaids adorning the luxurious sofas complimenting the blue damask walls.

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The music room, library and drawing room are on the eastern side of the building.

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On the western side, the rooms for entertaining and hospitality can be found including the dining room and state bedroom.

Ked1Lord Curzon held the position of Viceroy of India between 1899 and 1905 and many of the furnishings were collected during this time. Kedleston Hall is Grade I Listed.