DiCamillo Companion

Luton Hoo (Luton House)

  • Earlier Houses: There has been a house on, or near, the site of the current house since the 13th century.

    House & Family History: The de Hoo family probably took their name from the land they owned (Hoo is a Saxon word meaning the spur of a hill). The last de Hoo was created Lord Hoo and Hastings in 1448. James I visited Luton Hoo in 1611 and knighted Robert Napier, whose seat the house then was. John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute and prime minister to George III, bought the estate for £94,700 in 1762 (equivalent to approximately £13 million in 2008 values using the retail price index). Robert Adam was engaged by the 3rd Earl to rebuild the old house (Adam considered the Library his chef d'oeuvre). Dr. Johnson, visiting with Boswell in 1781, was particularly complimentary about Luton Hoo. After a severe fire in 1843 the Butes sold Luton to John Shaw Leigh. Sir Julius Wernher purchased the estate from the Leigh family in 1903. Wernher made a fortune in South African diamond mines, was a friend of Cecil Rhodes, and was, at the time of the purchase of Luton Hoo, one of the richest men in the world. The interiors were remodeled in Edwardian style for Sir Julius by Mewes & Davis, the designers of the Ritz Hotel in London. In 1891 Mary of Teck, later Queen Mary, consort of George V, accepted, at the age of 24, an offer of marriage at Luton from Prince Albert, Duke of Clarence, the heir to the British throne (a mere six weeks after the engagement was announced the Duke of Clarence died of pneumonia and the following year Mary became engaged to the new heir, the duke's brother, George). During World War I Luton Hoo was used as a military convalescent home for officers, while World War II saw the house serving as Eastern Command Headquarters. When Harold Wernher's wife, Anastasia Romanov (Lady Zia), died in 1977, the estate passed to her grandson, Nicholas Phillips, a godson and nephew of the Duke of Edinburgh (the queen and Prince Philip spent their wedding night here). Mr. Phillips died at age 43 on March 1, 1991; in 1997 Luton Hoo was put on the market by his widow with an asking price of £25 million. The mansion house and part of the estate sold in 1999 for approximately £10 million to a Canadian-backed group, Elite Hotels. Elite spent years obtaining planning permission to convert the house and stables into a five-star hotel, and to build ancillary buildings, all of which opened in 2007, after a £60 million transformation.

    Collections: Luton Hoo once contained a large collection of possessions of the Russian imperial family, including a significant collection of the works of Carl Faberge. The collection of Faberge came to Luton Hoo through Lady Zia Wernher, who inherited it from her parents, Grand Duke Michael of Russia and the Countess Torby. One of the most important pieces of Faberge in the collection was a freedom box in nephrite with red and green gold mounts and the lid surmounted by the Russian eagle in matte and polished gold; this piece was given to the 14th Earl of Pembroke by Tsar Nicholas II in 1896 during a visit to Balmoral to visit Queen Victoria. Luton Hoo was the home of the Wernher Collection (largely accumulated by Sir Julius Wernher), once one of the finest collections of art in Britain. (The collection was given to the nation, and, since June 2002, has been housed at Ranger's House, London, a property of English Heritage). The Wernher Collection includes world-class collections of Medieval ivories, German silver gilt, Italian majolica, Renaissance jewels, and Limoges enamels. Outstanding individual pieces from the collection include "Lady Caroline Price" by Joshua Reynolds, the Sevres service of Catherine the Great, and the altarpiece of St. Michael by Bartholomew Bermejo, considered the finest example of 15th century Spanish painting in Britain. Albrecht Altdorfer's "Christ Taking Leave of His Mother" was sold to the National Gallery in 1981 for £825,000. John Constable's "Harnham Bridge Looking Towards Salisbury Cathedral" was sold on November 18, 1992 for £850,000. Bernard van Risamburgh's ebonized kingwood and Chinese black lacquer commode was sold on June 11, 1992 for £660,000. "Winter Landscape of 1650" by Aert van der Neer sold at auction in 1996 for £2.3 million. The 15th century "St. Michael Triumphant Over the Devil" by Bartolomeo Bermejo was sold to the National Gallery, London, for £10 million. On March 26, 2013 Lyon & Turnbull sold at auction in Edinburgh for £400 a George III mahogany and kingwood Pembroke table that had once been in the collection at Luton Hoo. The drawer interior features an old label that says "Collection Wernher #793."

  • Garden & Outbuildings: At the time of the 1999 sale to Elite Hotels, the Luton Hoo Estate stood at 1,545 acres and included a pheasant shoot, a 50-acre lake, and an Italian garden. The famous landscape was laid out by Capability Brown in the 1770s; the Adam family probably designed the stables in the 18th century. The Luton Hoo hotel sits in 1,000 acres of parkland and features an 18-hole golf course.

    Chapel & Church: The chapel was restored in the late 20th century and consecrated in 1991 in the Russian Orthodox Church in memory of Tsar Nicholas II and the imperial family.

  • Architect: Sydney Smirke

    Date: Post 1843
    Designed: Reconstructed House after 1843 fire

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    Architect: Robert Adam

    Date: 1767-75
    Designed: New house for 3rd Earl of Bute

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    Architect: Lancelot Brown

    Date: 1770s
    Designed: Gardens and grounds

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    Architect: Robert Smirke

    Date: Circa 1825-30
    Designed: Additions to House for 2nd Marquess of Bute

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    Architect: George Edmund Street

    Date: 1850s
    Designed: Rebuilt the house after 1843 fire

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    Architect: Mewes & Davis

    Date: 1903-07
    Designed: Remodeled interiors in Edwardian French style

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    Architect: Adam Family

    Designed: Stables
    (Attribution of this work is uncertain)
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  • 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: Vol. I, 1818.

    Country Life: CVII, 1282 plans, 1950. Jan 16 & 23, 1992.

  • Title: Independent, The (newspaper)
    Author: NA
    Year Published: NA
    Reference: Vanessa Thorpe article on Luton Hoo, Sep 13, 1997
    Publisher: London: Independent Print Ltd.
    ISBN: NA
    Book Type: Newspaper

    Title: Biographical Dictionary of British Architects, 1600-1840, A - SOFTBACK
    Author: Colvin, Howard
    Year Published: 1995
    Reference: pg. 880
    Publisher: New Haven: Yale University Press
    ISBN: 0300072074
    Book Type: Softback

    Title: Luton Hoo Guidebook - 1975
    Author: Smith, M. Urwick
    Year Published: 1975
    Reference: pgs. 8, 10
    Publisher: London: Pitkin Pictorials
    ISBN: 853720185
    Book Type: Light Softback

    Title: Disintegration of a Heritage: Country Houses and their Collections, 1979-1992, The
    Author: Sayer, Michael
    Year Published: 1993
    Publisher: Norfolk: Michael Russell (Publishing)
    ISBN: 0859551970
    Book Type: Hardback

  • House Listed: Grade I

    Park Listed: Grade II*

  • "A Shot In The Dark" (1964). "Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush" (1967). "Never Say Never Again" (1983 - as the health clinic). "Reilly: Ace of Spies" (1983 - TV mini series, in the episode "Anna"). "Inspector Morse (1991 - TV series, as the site of the Oxford Arts Festival in the episode "Second Time Around"). "Agatha Christie's Poirot" (1992 - TV series, as the Suffolk country home of Lord and Lady Horbury in the epsiode "Death in the Clouds"). "The Secret Garden" (1993). "Four Weddings and a Funeral" (1994 - as the setting for the reception of the second wedding and as the home of Tom, shown during the closing credits). "The Buccaneers" (1995 - BBC TV mini series, interiors only). "The Wings of the Dove" (1997). "Wilde" (1997). "A Dance to the Music of Time" (1997 - as the setting for the embassy reception). "Mrs. Brown" (1997). "The Woman in White" (1997 - BBC TV mini series). "The World is Not Enough" (1999 - as the entrance hall of Elektra's villa and as the casino office of Zukovsky). "Eyes Wide Shut" (1999 - as the interiors of Victor Ziegler's New York mansion). "Quills" (2000 - as the exterior of Charenton Asylum). "The Way We Live Now" (2001). "Enigma" (2001). "The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby" (2001 - TV movie). "The Importance of Being Earnest" (2002). "Bright Young Things" (2003 - for many of the party scenes). "The Lost Prince" (2003 - TV movie, as interiors of Sandringham; Stables used as house where the Russian Imperial family were executed). "De-Lovely" (2004). "Bleak House" (2005 - TV series). "Little Dorrit" (2008 - TV mini series, as Bleeding Heart Yard). "Burke and Hare" (2010). "War Horse" (2011). "Great Expectations" (2011 - BBC TV mini series; estate buildings were used as Joe's Forge interior). "Mr. Turner" (2014 - the estate was used for the market scenes). "Taboo" (2017 - TV series). "Wonder Woman" (2017 - buildings on the estate were used as the French village and the weapons factory). "Enola Holmes" (2020 - the park was used for the street fight scene). "A Very British Scandal" (2021 - TV mini series, as the interiors of Claridge's).
  • Current Seat / Home of: Phillips family; here since 1903. The house was sold in 1999 and converted into the Luton Hoo Hotel; the Phillips family retained part of the historic estate and make their home in a former outbuilding there.

    Past Seat / Home of: SEATED AT EARLIER HOUSES: de Hoo family, circa 13th century until 1454. Sir Robert Napier, 2nd Bt., 17th century. SEATED AT CURRENT HOUSE: John Crichton Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute, 18th century; John Stuart, 1st Marquess of Bute, 19th century; Stuart family here until 1848. Leigh family, 1848-1903. Sir Julius Wernher, 1903-12; Wernher family here until 1991.

    Current Ownership Type: Corporation

    Primary Current Ownership Use: Hotel

    Ownership Details: Today Luton Hoo Hotel, Golf and Spa

  • House Open to Public: By Appointment

    Phone: 01582-734-437

    Fax: 01582-485-438

    Email: [email protected]

    Website: https://www.lutonhoo.co.uk

    Historic Houses Member: No