DiCamillo Companion
DiCamillo Griffin Logo

St. Paul's Walden Bury (St. Paul's Waldenbury) (The Bury, St. Paul's Walden)

  • Earlier Houses: There were probably a number of earlier buildings on, or near, the site of the current house. The St. Paul's Walden Bury Estate was originally a farm that belonged to St. Albans Abbey; during the Dissolution of the Monasteries the property was confiscated by Henry VIII and subsequently passed into private ownership.

    House & Family History: In the early 18th century St. Paul's Walden Bury was the seat of Edward Gilbert; his only child, Mary, married John Bowes (who created the garden at Gibside, Tyne & Wear). Mary and John's daughter and sole heir, Mary Eleanor Bowes, married John Lyon, 9th Earl of Strathmore, in 1767 and the Estate has been the home of the Bowes-Lyon family ever since. The death in 1776 of the earl left the countess a young and wealthy widow. Mary Eleanor, sometimes referred to as "The Unhappy Countess," is famous for her subsequent entanglement with an Irishman by the name of Captain Andrew Robinson Stoney, from whom the expression "stone broke" is derived. The countess and Stoney had frequent clandestine meetings at the "Running Footman" (a copy of a classical statue of a gladiator) in the grounds of St. Paul's Walden Bury. Desperate to snag the rich young widow, Stoney, who was already married, schemed to secure her affection by pretending to fight a duel to defend her honor. The duel was to be with the editor of "The Morning Post," whose paper had been printing rumors about her affair with George Grey (the affair was fictional and Stoney had most likely written both sides of the correspondence himself). The duel took place in London and Stoney was seemingly mortally wounded; overwhelmed by his devotion to her, Mary Eleanor agreed to his dying wish and married him on the spot. It quickly became apparent that Stoney was quite unharmed; soon thereafter his harassment of her began when he discovered that all of Mary Eleanor's property would not belong to him without his wife's written consent. Stoney bullied and harassed Mary Eleanor, spent her fortune, and ruined the plantations of her northern estates at Gibside, but she stood firm and tried, unsuccessfully, to divorce him on the grounds of cruelty. Finally, on the afternoon of November 10, 1786, in a desperate attempt, Stoney had Mary Eleanor kidnapped from her coach in Oxford Street in London and had her carried by his accomplices to the north of England. It was a ten-day chase by stagecoach, as Mary Eleanor's friends were in pursuit. At one point Stoney held a gun to her head and demanded that Mary Eleanor drop the divorce suit; she refused. The Unhappy Countess successfully escaped in County Durham with the help of some farm workers. The story of Mary Eleanor's treatment, kidnapping, and subsequent escape was big news at the time; Stoney was caught and subsequently served time in debtor's prison (he had been using all of Mary Eleanor's money that he could lay his hands to pay his gambling debts). Mary Eleanor did not marry again. The experiences of Mary Eleanor inspired William Makepeace Thackeray's "The Luck of Barry Lyndon" (1844). This amazing woman was also a keen botanist; she arranged gatherings at St. Paul's Walden Bury of prominent flower painters of her day, started a collection of botanical books (some of which are still in the House), and commissioned the explorer William Paterson to collect exotic plants in South Africa. She purchased Stanley House (later the home of Sir William Hamilton) near the Chelsea Physic Garden in London and there built greenhouses and conservatories to house her exotic plants. In 1767 a new North Range of the House was constructed, very probably designed by James Paine, though Pevsner attributes it to Robert Adam. It is one room deep with a three-story centerpiece and has a pair of forward-standing two-story octagonal pavilions (there was very likely an earlier North Range in exactly the same spot). In 1887 the 14th Earl of Strathmore replaced the southern half of the House with the present building. During World War II the House was used as a hospital. St. Paul's Walden Bury was the childhood home of Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, who was born here.

  • Garden & Outbuildings: The garden is one of the best extant examples in the UK of a formal garden in the French style. Laid out about 1730, it was influenced by 17th century French architects, such as Le Notre, and is based on the classic patte d'oie (goose foot) design, in which avenues radiate from a focal point. Long avenues lead to temples, an artificial lake (created when the property belonged to St. Albans Abbey), and ponds. The garden comprises approximately 40 acres and includes a woodland garden, flower gardens, a terraced garden with a small temple, a ruin of a small brick orangery, and The Organ House, an octagonal pavilion from 1735. The garden has a fine collection of statuary, including a pair known as "The Wrestlers," possibly sculptured by John Nost, circa 1730; on the the right is a copy of Michelangelo's "Sampson and Two Philistines," while the left is a copy of Giambologna's "Hercules and Antaeus." The 18th century statue of Diana is an identical version of one that is in the collection of the Louvre. From Copped Hall are statues of sphinxes, said to be portraits of the mistresses of Louis XV. The 18th century statue of Venus and Adonis by Peter Scheemakers was installed in the garden in 1964; a companion piece by Laurent Delvaux is in the collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum. There is also a formal pond with a copy of a classical a warrior known as "The Running Footman" (where Mary Eleanor clandestinely met Captain Andrew Robinson Stoney). St. Paul's Walden Bury has two temples removed from other country houses and saved here: one by Sir William Chambers that was removed to St. Paul's Walden Bury in 1961 from Danson Park, Kent; and one designed by James Wyatt, which was removed in 1950 from Copped Hall, Essex (see "Images" section for photos of both temples).

  • Architect: Arthur Castings

    Date: 1910-15
    Designed: Developed East Side of House; terrace and courtyard for Claude Strathmore.

    View all houses

    Architect: Geoffrey Alan Jellicoe

    Date: 1950
    Designed: Various garden work, including restoration of the Organ House and re-interpretation of the Garden of the Running Footman.

    View all houses

    Architect: William Oldham Chambers

    Date: Circa 1770
    Designed: Doric Temple (originally built for Danson Park, Kent; moved to St. Paul's Walden Bury in 1961)

    View all houses

    Architect: James Wyatt

    Date: 18th century
    Designed: Garden Temple (built for Copped Hall, Essex; moved here in 1950).

    View all houses

    Architect: Robert Adam

    Date: 1767
    Designed: North Range
    (Attribution of this work is uncertain)
    View all houses

    Architect: James Paine Sr.

    Date: 1767
    Designed: North Range
    (Attribution of this work is uncertain)
    View all houses
  • Country Life: CXIX, 472, 1956.

  • Title: English Houses, 1200-1800: The Hertfordshire Evidence
    Author: Smith, J.T.
    Year Published: 1992
    Reference: pg. 123
    Publisher: London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office
    ISBN: 0113000375
    Book Type: Softback

    Title: Biographical Dictionary of British Architects, 1600-1840, A - HARDBACK
    Author: Colvin, Howard
    Year Published: 2008
    Reference: pgs. 243, 771
    Publisher: New Haven: Yale University Press
    ISBN: 9780300125085
    Book Type: Hardback

    Title: English Gardens in the Twentieth Century From the Archives of Country Life
    Author: Richardson, Tim
    Year Published: 2005
    Reference: pg. 152
    Publisher: London: Aurum Press
    ISBN: 1845130715
    Book Type: Hardback

    Title: Gibside Guidebook
    Author: NA
    Year Published: 1999
    Reference: pgs. 28-29
    Publisher: London: The National Trust
    ISBN: NA
    Book Type: Light Softback

    Title: Gardens - St. Paul's Walden Bury, The
    Author: NA
    Year Published: 1998
    Reference: pgs. 3-9, 14
    Publisher: NA
    ISBN: NA
    Book Type: Light Softback

    Title: James Paine
    Author: Leach, Peter
    Year Published: 1988
    Reference: pg. 207
    Publisher: London: A. Zwemmer Ltd.
    ISBN: 0302006028
    Book Type: Hardback

  • House Listed: Grade I

    Park Listed: Grade I

  • "The Girl Who Would Be Queen" (2006 - TV documentary). "The Completely Made-Up Adventures of Dick Turpin" (2024 - TV series).
  • Current Seat / Home of: Sir Simon and Lady Bowes-Lyon

    Past Seat / Home of: Edward Gilbert, 18th century. Mary Eleanor Bowes, Countess of Strathmore, 18th century; John Lyon-Bowes, 10th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne, 1776-1820; Thomas Lyon-Bowes, 11th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne, 1820-46; Thomas Lyon-Bowes, 12th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne, 1846-65; Claude Bowes-Lyon, 13th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne, 1865-1904; Claude George Bowes-Lyon, 14th and 1st Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne, 1904-44; Patrick Bowes-Lyon, 15th and 2nd Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne, 1944-49; Timothy Bowes-Lyon, 16th and 3rd Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne, 1949-72.

    Current Ownership Type: Individual / Family Trust

    Primary Current Ownership Use: Private Home

  • House Open to Public: Grounds Only

    Phone: 01438-871-218

    Email: [email protected]

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

    Historic Houses Member: No


Help preserve Britain’s privately owned country houses by joining Historic Houses. Use code DICAM7 for a £7 discount off a new membership that will give you access to hundreds of historic houses.

Join Now