DiCamillo Companion

Piercefield Park (Piercefield House)

  • Built / Designed For: Rebuilt for George Smith

    House & Family History: There was an earlier house (mostly 16th and 17th centuries) that was partially incorporated into the current house. Piercefield was occupied by eight different families in 150 years, bringing financial ruin to three of them. Valentine Morris spent a fortune, 1740-78, on the park, primarily laid out by Capability Brown. In 1785 George Smith purchased the estate and had John Soane draw up several plans; Soane's design that was finally used was similar to his work at Shotesham Hall in Norfolk. Smith was declared bankrupt before the roof was completed. Joseph Bonomi was employed by Sir Mark Wood for the portico, the twin pavilions, and the interiors. The hall was columned and contained a winding staircase that was surrounded by Gobelins tapestries. Piercefield was abandoned in 1923 and subsequently sold to Chepstow Racecourse. During World War II, the house was used for target practice by U.S. troops. All that remains are the ruined pavilions and the shell of the house. In 2005 Piercefield, still a ruin, together with 125 acres, was listed for sale by Jackson-Stops for £2 million. In July 2013 a campaign and petition were launched by Marcus Binney, founder of SAVE Britain's Heritage, to seek protection of Piercefield Park.

    Collections: The Philadelphia Museum of Art has in its collection an extremely fine Neoclassical chimneypiece from Piercefield. The wood and plaster chimneypiece was made circa 1793-94 by the English cabinetmaker George Brookshaw and contains painted copper panels in the style of Angelica Kauffman. The chimneypiece was a gift of the Rosenbach brothers of Philadelphia who were, in the early and mid-20th century, one of the most important rare book dealers in the world (see photos of the chimneypiece in the "Images" section). On November 3, 2011 Christie’s sold, for £253,250, a pair of circa 1790 polychrome decorated parcel-gilt satinwood secretaire bookcases attributed to George Brookshaw. These were almost certainly supplied to Col. Sir Mark Wood for Piercefield Park and are notable for their painted ovals with landscapes depicting Whitton Place and Shardeloes House.

  • Architect: Lancelot Brown

    Date: 1740-78
    Designed: Park for Valentine Morris

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    Architect: Richard Owen Cambridge

    Date: 1740-78
    Designed: Consulted on design of Park

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    Architect: John Soane

    Date: 1785-93
    Designed: Rebuilt House for George Smith

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    Architect: Joseph Bonomi the Elder

    Date: 1797
    Designed: Twin Pavilions, Portico, and interiors, including the Saloon and staircase, for Sir Mark Wood.

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  • Title: Lost Houses of Wales, The
    Author: Lloyd, Thomas
    Year Published: 1989
    Publisher: London: SAVE Britain's Heritage
    ISBN: 0905978277
    Book Type: Softback

    Title: Biographical Dictionary of British Architects, 1600-1840, A - HARDBACK
    Author: Colvin, Howard
    Year Published: 2008
    Reference: pgs. 143, 967
    Publisher: New Haven: Yale University Press
    ISBN: 9780300125085
    Book Type: Hardback

  • House Listed: Grade II*

    Park Listed: Grade I

  • Past Seat / Home of: Valentine Morris, 18th century. George Smith, 1785-93. Col. Sir Mark Wood, 1st Bt., 1794-1802. Nathaniel Wells, 1802-47. John Russell, 1855-61. Henry Clay, 19th century; Clay family here from 1861 until 1923.

    Current Ownership Type: Individual / Family Trust

    Primary Current Ownership Use: Ruinous

    Ownership Details: Owned by David and Simon Reuben

  • House Open to Public: No

    Historic Houses Member: No