The house from a circa 1930 postcard
Built / Designed For: John Penn Jr. (aka John Penn of Stoke)
House & Family History: John Penn Jr. was born in 1760 in London, the son of Thomas and Lady Juliana Fermor Penn. His father was a son of William Penn, who founded what is today the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. John attended Eton College and Clare College, Cambridge. At his father’s death in 1775, John inherited his father’s 75% claim to the proprietorship of Pennsylvania (a cousin, also named John Penn, claimed the remaining 25%). John returned to Philadelphia after the revolution, where he built a small country house, The Solitude, above the banks of the Schuylkill River. Erected between 1784 and 1785, this house, originally in the country, today stands in the grounds of the Philadelphia Zoo, where it is the only extant Penn house in America. In 1789 John returned to England with his share (£97,500) of the £130,000 that was paid to his family from the newly formed government of the United States for the 26 million unsold acres of the proprietorship of Pennsylvania. With this princely sum, approximately £157 million in 2020 values using the labour value commodity index, John went to work creating a grand mansion at Stoke Park in Buckinghamshire. Built to the designs of one of England’s greatest architects, James Wyatt, Stoke Park became John’s primary seat, but he also engaged Wyatt to build Pennsylvania Castle on the Isle of Portland, where John was appointed governor in 1805. The castle is, most appropriately, built of Portland stone and is sited overlooking the English Channel. Pennsylvania Castle appears as the fictional Sylvania Castle in Thomas Hardy's 1892 novel "The Well-Beloved: A Sketch of a Temperament," which takes place on the fictional Isle of Slingers, based on the Isle of Portland.
Title: Biographical Dictionary of British Architects, 1600-1840, A - HARDBACK
Author: Colvin, Howard
Year Published: 2008
Reference: pg. 1187
Publisher: New Haven: Yale University Press
Book Type: Hardback
House Listed: Grade II
Park Listed: Not Listed
Past Seat / Home of: John Penn Jr. (aka John Penn of Stoke), 1802-34.
Current Ownership Type: Corporation
Primary Current Ownership Use: Luxury Accommodation / Exclusive Use