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Knebworth House (Knebworth Place)

  • House & Family History: Knebworth has been the home of the Lytton family since 1490. Constance Lytton, the suffragette, and Robert Lytton, Viceroy of India, both lived here in the 19th century. Robert Lytton proclaimed Queen Victoria Empress of India at the Great Delhi Durbar of 1877. One of the most famous residents of Knebworth was Lord Lytton, whose full name was Edward George Earl Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Baron Lytton. Born in 1803, Lytton is mostly remembered today as an anachronistic and flowery author whose name is associated with bad writing. In fact, since 1982 the English Department at San Jose State University has held an annual Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest for bad writing, in which contestants are required to supply the openings of bad imaginary novels. The contest was inspired by Bulwer-Lytton's novel "Paul Clifford," which opens with the famous line "It was a dark and stormy night" (made most famous by the character of Snoopy in the comic strip "Peanuts"). Bulwer-Lytton is also noted for a variety of other famous phrases: "pursuit of the almighty dollar," "the great unwashed," and "the pen is mightier than the sword." Bulwer-Lytton was the youngest son of General William Earle Bulwer of Heydon Hall and Elizabeth Barbara Lytton, daughter of Richard Warburton Lytton of Knebworth. In 1838, at the height of his popularity, he was created a baronet by Queen Victoria. In 1843 he inherited the Knebworth Estate and, under the terms of his mother's will, added Lytton to his surname. In 1866 Bulwer-Lytton was raised to the peerage as Baron Lytton. He wrote in an exceptionally wide variety of genres, including science fiction, historical fiction, occult, mystery, and romance. Among his noted books are "Godolphin" (1833), "The Pilgrims of the Rhine" (1834), "The Last Days of Pompeii" (1834), and "Harold: Last of the Saxon Kings" (1848). "The Last Days of Pompeii" is probably the only one of his books still regularly read today; the novel was inspired by the painting on the same subject by the Russian painter Karl Briullov (Carlo Brullo), which Bulwer-Lytton saw in Milan. He also wrote "The Haunted and the Haunters" (1857), also known as "The House and the Brain," which was included by Isaac Asimov in his 1989 anthology "Tales of the Occult." Bulwer-Lytton's "The Coming Race" is an occult novel that is considered one of the seminal works in the creation of science fiction (there is a school of thought that considers the book a cornerstone in the formation of Nazi mysticism). It was during Lord Lytton's time that the interiors were redone by John Hardman and John Crace, the latter being one of the most noted interior designers in Victorian England (he worked with Pugin on the interiors of the new Palace of Westminster). Queen Elizabeth I, Charles Dickens, and Sir Winston Churchill all visited the house. Knebworth is used frequently for the filming of movies and television programs. In 2013 approximately 120,000 visitors toured Knebworth House.

  • Garden & Outbuildings: Gertrude Jekyll designed the herb garden. As of 2014, the Knebworth Estate stands at 2,000 acres. Beginning in 1974, Knebworth become famous for hosting rock concerts in the grounds of the house. The first concert was a festival fronted by Van Morrison and The Doobie Brothers and attracted 60,000 fans. The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, and Queen have all performed at Knebworth (Queen performed its last concert with Freddie Mercury here in 1986). In 2003, in what was then the largest performance in Britain, approximately 375,000 people (over a three-day period) attended a Robbie Williams festival at Knebworth.

  • Architect: George Devey

    Date: 1870s
    Designed: Servants' Wing (demolished 1950)

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    Architect: John Thomas Lee

    Date: 1878
    Designed: Additions

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    Architect: Henry Edward Kendall

    Date: Circa 1844
    Designed: Tudor style alterations for Sir Edward Bulwer-Lytton

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    Architect: John Buonarotti Papworth

    Date: 1817
    Designed: Mausoleum for Elizabeth Bulwer-Lytton (executed by Whitelaw)

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    Architect: John Biagio Rebecca Jr.

    Date: Circa 1815-20
    Designed: Tudor-Gothic façade and other alterations for Elizabeth Bulwer-Lytton

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    Architect: John C. Crace

    Date: 19th century
    Designed: State Drawing Room

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    Architect: Edwin Landseer Lutyens

    Date: 1907
    Designed: Entrance Hall, Dining Parlour, Library

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    Architect: Gertrude Jekyll

    Date: 1906-07
    Designed: Herb Garden

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  • 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. 130, 1852.

    John Preston (J.P.) Neale, published under the title of Views of the Seats of Noblemen and Gentlemen in England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland, among other titles: 2.S. Vol. I, 1824.

    Country Life: I, 694, 1897. XIX, 522, 1906.

  • Title: Tatler (magazine)
    Author: NA
    Year Published: NA
    Reference: Aug 2014, pgs. 118, 120, 121
    Publisher: London: Tatler Publishing Company Ltd.
    ISBN: NA
    Book Type: Magazine

    Title: Biographical Dictionary of British Architects, 1600-1840, A - HARDBACK
    Author: Colvin, Howard
    Year Published: 2008
    Reference: pg. 777
    Publisher: New Haven: Yale University Press
    ISBN: 9780300125085
    Book Type: Hardback

    Title: Movie Locations: A Guide to Britain & Ireland
    Author: Adams, Mark
    Year Published: 2000
    Publisher: London: Boxtree
    ISBN: 0752271695
    Book Type: Softback

  • House Listed: Grade II*

    Park Listed: Grade II*

  • "Anastasia" (1956). "The Avengers" (1968 - TV, episode 7.16, "Invasion of the Earthmen," as Alpha Academy). "Decline and Fall of a Bird Watcher" (1968). "The Misadventures of Mr. Wilt" (1969). "Here Come the Double Deckers!" (1970 - TV, episode 1.5, "Happy Haunting"). "Horror Hospital" (1973). "Keep it Downstairs" (1976). "Trial by Combat" [aka "Dirty Knights Work"] (1976). "Hi! Summer" (1977 - TV family series, episode 1.8). "The Big Sleep" (1978 - as Sternwood House). "The Benny Hill Show" (1979 - TV series, in the "Wondergran Meets Dracula" segment). "Sir Henry at Rawlinson End" (1980). "The Monster Club" (1980). "The Great Muppet Caper" (1981 - as the Mallory Gallery). "Monty Python's The Meaning of Life" (1983). "The Shooting Party" (1985 - as house and grounds of Nettleby). "Hammer House of Mystery and Suspense" (1986 - TV, episode 1.7, "Black Carrion"). "Haunted Honeymoon" (1986). "Lair of the White Worm" (1988). "Batman" (1989 - as exterior of Wayne Manor). "Ruth Rendell Mysteries" [aka "Inspector Wexford"] (1990 - TV series, episode 4.1, "Some Lie and Some Die," part 1, for the pop festival scenes). "The Canterville Ghost" (1996 - TV movie, as Canterville Hall). "Jane Eyre" (1997 - TV production, as the interiors of Thornfield Hall). "A Dance to the Music of Time" (1997 - TV mini series). "The Wings of the Dove" (1997). "Wilde" (1997). "Eyes Wide Shut" (1999). "Sacred Flesh" (2000). "A History of Britain" (2000 - TV documentary series). "Gypsy Woman" (2001). "Possession" (2002). "Foyle's War" (2004 - TV series, episode 3.2, "Enemy Fire," as Digby Manor hospital exteriors & some interiors). "Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London" (2004). "Miss Marple: 4.50 From Paddington" [aka "Marple: What Mrs. McGillicuddy Saw"] (2004 - TV series, as Rutherford Hall exteriors). "Batman Begins" (2005). "Attack of the Zombie Vampires" (2008). "Jonathan Creek" (2009 - TV series 5, episode "The Grinning Man," as Metropolis). "St. Trinian's 2: The Legend of Fritton's Gold" (2009 - as St. Trinian's School). "The Queen" (2009 - TV mini series, as Buckingham Palace picture gallery, Windsor Castle library, Kensington Palace dining room and gardens). "Any Human Heart" (2010 - TV mini series). "The King's Speech" (2010). "Marple: The Secret of Chimneys" (2010 - TV series, as Chimneys, Lord Caterham's home). "Agatha Christie's Poirot" (2010 - TV series, Series XI, in the episode "Three Act Tragedy," as exterior of Melfort Abbey). "Midsomer Murders" (2012 - TV series, as as Quitewell Hall, the de Qutteville family home, in season 15, episode 1, "The Dark Rider"). "Marple: Greenshaw's Folly" (2013 - TV series, as Greenshaw's Folly). "Doctor Thorne" (2016 - Amazon TV series, as Sir Roger Scatcherd’s bedroom at Boxall Hill and as Lady Arabella’s bedroom at Greshamsbury Park). "Victoria and Abdul" (2017 - as Windsor Castle). "Paddington 2" (2017). "The Crown" (2019 - TV series, as the interior of Balmoral Castle, and as the exterior of Prime Minister Harold Macmillan's country house in the episode "Olding"). "Pennyworth" (2019 - TV series). "The Gentlemen" (2024 - TV series).
  • Current Seat / Home of: Henry Lytton-Cobbold; Lytton-Cobbold family here since 1492.

    Past Seat / Home of: Sir William Lytton, 17th century; Edward George Earl Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Baron Lytton, 19th century.

    Current Ownership Type: Individual / Family Trust

    Primary Current Ownership Use: Private Home

  • House Open to Public: Yes

    Phone: 01438-812-661

    Fax: 01438-811-908

    Email: [email protected]

    Website: https://www.knebworthhouse.com/

    Historic Houses Member: Yes