A 19th century lithograph of the House from "Burke's Visitation of Seats"
Earlier Houses: There was a monastic building on the site, followed by a 16th century house, which was replaced by the current house.
Built / Designed For: Sir John Chester, Bt.
House & Family History: In the Middle Ages Chicheley was a monastic property of the Roman Catholic Church. During the Reformation it was sold to Anthony Cave, who erected a new house. His daughter married William Chester, who established the first sugar refinery in England. Chicheley was sacked during the Civil War due to the Chester's support of the Royalists. During World War II the House was used as a training center for the military. In the 1950s it was used as a school. The 2nd Lord Beatty (the 1st Earl Beatty was a famous naval hero of World War I) bought the House in 1952 from John Chester's descendants. The front door is modeled on an engraving of the Chapel of the Holy Crucifix in the Vatican by Bernini. The center windows on the main facade were based on a doorway of one of Rainaldi's Palazzes; the windows on each side of the front door were inspired by St. Catherine of Siena by Soria. Between 1720 and 1724 over 955,000 bricks were used in the construction of the House, the wings, and the garden. The staircase design is unusual in that each step has three types of baluster (corkscrew, spiral, and straight) and small Corinthian columns at the corners. The Library has the rare feature of pilasters that are actually hinged panels that open to reveal cupboards. (There is a similar room at Blithfield, home of the Bagot family). The Jacobean Room is the only room that contains remnants of the 16th century house. For many years it was mistakenly believed that Chicheley was the work of Thomas Archer; it is now known, through surviving documents, that it was designed by Francis Smith of Warwick. In June 2007 the Hall and 75 acres were listed for sale, for only the second time in its history, by Lady Nutting and her son, the 3rd Earl Beatty, for £9 million, dropping to £7 million in October. Chicheley was purchased by the Royal Society for £6.5 million, funded in part by Fred Kavli (the contents were distributed among family members). The Royal Society spent £12 million renovating the House and adapting it to become the Kavli Royal Society International Centre, a venue for science seminars and conferences.
Comments: Chicheley is considered one of the least altered and finest early 18th century houses in England. Marcus Binney, writing in "The Times" (London), called Chicheley "one of the dozen finest and loveliest English country houses that will ever come on the market."
Garden & Outbuildings: George London designed the Gardens in 1700 (20 years before the House was built). There are very fine Stables by Francis Smith, 1723-25.
Chapel & Church: The Church is primarily from the 14th century. Between 1704 and 1705 the Chancel was rebuilt by Sir John Chester.
Architect: John ChesterDate: 1719-23
Architect: Burrell MassingberdDate: 1719-23
John Bernard (J.B.) Burke, published under the title of A Visitation of the Seats and Arms of the Noblemen and Gentlemen of Great Britain and Ireland, among other titles: Vol. I, p. 94, 1852.
Country Life: XVII, 594, 1905. LXXIX, 482, 508, 534, 1936. CLVII, 378, 434, 498, 1975. Apr 21, 2004. Jun 6-7 (sale), 2007. Jun 21, 2007. Oct 4, 2007.
Title: Biographical Dictionary of British Architects, 1600-1840, A - SOFTBACK
Author: Colvin, Howard
Year Published: 1995
Reference: pg. 887
Publisher: New Haven: Yale University Press
Book Type: Softback
Title: Glory of the English House, The
Author: Esher, Lionel
Year Published: 1997
Publisher: London: Barrie & Jenkins
Book Type: Hardback
House Listed: Grade I
Park Listed: Grade II
Possible Seat of: Home of the Kavli Royal Society International Centre, a venue for residential events.
Past Seat of: SEATED AT EARLIER HOUSE: Pagnell family, 16th century. SEATED AT CURRENT HOUSE: Anthony Cave, 16th century. Sir John Chester, 18th century. David Field Beatty, 2nd Earl Beatty, 20th century. Lady Diane Nutting, 20th-21st centuries.
Current Ownership Type: Charity / Nonprofit
Primary Current Ownership Use: Conference Center
Ownership Details: Owned by the Royal Society, who operate it as the Kavli Royal Society International Centre.
House Open to Public: By Appointment
Historic Houses Member: No