DiCamillo Companion

Parkstead House (Manresa House) (Manresa Park) (Bessborough House)

  • Built / Designed For: 2nd Earl of Bessborough

    House & Family History: The earls of Bessborough come from the Ponsonby family of Cumbria. Sir John Ponsonby served Cromwell in Ireland in the 1650s and was granted land there. The 3rd Earl (1758-1844) was the husband of Harriet Spencer, sister of the famous Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire. Harriet was the subject of Janet Gleeson's 2006 book "Privilege and Scandal: The Remarkable Life of Harriet Spencer, Sister of Georgiana." The 4th Earl of Bessborough (1781-1847) was the first commissioner of works and presided over the rebuilding of the Houses of Parliament in 1832. The 5th Earl (1809-80) was Queen Victoria's master of staghounds, 1848-52, and lord steward of the household between 1868 and 1874. The 5th Earl's brother, Spencer, was comptroller of the lord chamberlain's department from 1857 until 1901. It was his nephew, Sir Henry Ponsonby, who was the powerful private secretary to Queen Victoria. The 9th Earl (1880-1956) was governor-general of Canada, 1931-35. The 10th Earl (1913-93) was minister of science and technology. Bessborough House was built for the 2nd Earl of Bessborough as a Roehampton villa to the designs of William Chambers (it was Chambers's first private commission). The House remained in the Ponsonby family until the death of Lady Bessborough in 1821, after which it became a Catholic seminary. It was renamed Parkstead House and then Manresa House, and is today once again called Parkstead House and serves as Whitelands College, part of Roehampton University.

    Collections: The collection at Bessborough House during the 18th century included paintings by Poussin, Van Eyck, Salvator Rosa, and Peter Paul Rubens, with furniture by Ince and Mayhew. The 2nd Earl of Bessborough was an early traveler to Greece, a member of the Society of Dilettanti, and a noted collector of intaglios and other carved gems (in 1768 he was made a trustee of The British Museum). At Bessborough House he installed his large collection of antique sculpture and gems. In 1801 the 4th Earl of Bessborough, at a noted event, sold the 2nd Earl's collection, with many of the most prominent collectors of the day (Henry Blundell, the Earl of Egremont, Sir John Soane, Charles Towneley, the Earl of Carlisle, and the Duke of St. Albans) bidding for the collection. Sir John Soane was the successful bidder at the sale of a fine collection of ancient marbles and the famous Diana of Ephesus statue, all of which remain today in the collection of Sir John Soane's Museum, London.

    Comments: Parkstead is frequently cited as one of William Chambers's most beautiful and successful houses.

  • Architect: William Oldham Chambers

    Date: Circa 1760
    Designed: Villa for 2nd Earl of Bessborough (Chambers's first private commission)

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  • Vitruvius Britannicus: C. IV, pls. 11-13, 1767.

  • Title: Sir John Soane's Museum London
    Author: Knox, Tim
    Year Published: 2009
    Reference: pg. 27
    Publisher: London: Merrell Publishers Limited
    ISBN: 9781858944753
    Book Type: Hardback

    Title: Privilege and Scandal: The Remarkable Life of Harriet Spencer, Sister of Georgiana
    Author: Gleeson, Janet
    Year Published: 2006
    Reference: pgs. 29-30
    Publisher: New York: Three Rivers Press
    ISBN: 9780307381989
    Book Type: Softback

    Title: Pleasures of Antiquity: British Collectors of Greece and Rome, The
    Author: Scott, Jonathan
    Year Published: 2003
    Reference: pgs. 139-140
    Publisher: New Haven: Yale University Press
    ISBN: 0300098545
    Book Type: Hardback

    Title: Georgian Group Annual Report
    Author: NA
    Year Published: NA
    Reference: 2002, pg. 7
    Publisher: London: The Georgian Group
    ISBN: NA
    Book Type: Light Softback

    Title: No Voice From the Hall: Early Memories of a Country House Snooper
    Author: Harris, John
    Year Published: 1998
    Publisher: London: John Murray
    ISBN: 0719555671
    Book Type: Hardback

    Title: Sotheby's Auction Catalog: Stansted Park Country House Sale, Oct 5, 1999
    Author: NA
    Year Published: 1999
    Reference: pgs. 6, 7, 10, 11, 12
    Publisher: London: Sotheby's
    ISBN: NA
    Book Type: Softback

  • House Listed: Grade I

    Park Listed: Not Listed

  • Past Seat / Home of: William Ponsonby, 2nd Earl of Bessborough, 18th century; Ponsonby family here circa 1760 until 1821.

    Current Ownership Type: School

    Primary Current Ownership Use: School

    Ownership Details: Today called Parkstead House; part of Whitelands College, Roehampton University, which owns the House and uses it for educational purposes.

  • House Open to Public: No

    Phone: 02083-923-500

    Fax: 02083-923-531

    Email: [email protected]

    Website: http://www.roehampton.ac.uk

    Historic Houses Member: No


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