Francis Smith's 18th century entrance facade
The entrance doorway
The house and the orangery (right)
The house (left) and the orangery (far right) from a circa 1922 postcard
The old Tudor house (left) and the new 18th century house (right)
Earlier Houses: There was a 12th century Cistercian abbey on the site of the current house. The 14th century gatehouse is all that remains today of the original monastic buildings.
House & Family History: In 1558, after the Dissolution of the Monasteries, the Stoneleigh Estate was acquired by Sir Thomas Leigh, Lord Mayor of London. Sir Thomas built a new Tudor house (which now forms the north and west wings of the current house) on the site of the monastic buildings. Between 1714 and 1726 a palatial four-story, 15-bay west wing of state apartments was built to the designs of Francis Smith of Warwick, leaving Stoneleigh as one of the great houses of England. The house is probably most famous today for its connections to Jane Austen (the Austens were related to the Leighs of Stoneleigh). In August of 1806 Jane, her sister Cassandra, her mother, and her mother's cousin, The Rev. Thomas Leigh, journeyed together to Stoneleigh Abbey so that The Rev. Leigh could claim his inheritance of the Stoneleigh Estate. During her stay at Stoneleigh it's very likely that Jane was so inspired by the house and its grounds that she included views of the estate in her novels. In 1993 the upper floors were converted into 53 apartments by Kit Martin, available for 125-year leases. In 1996 the 5th Lord Leigh transferred the ownership of Stoneleigh Abbey and its 690-acre grounds to a charitable trust, ending over 300 years of Leigh family ownership. Between 1996 and 2000 the house was extensively renovated with the help of grants, including £7.3 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund and more than £3 million from English Heritage and the European Union.
Collections: In 2022 the American dealer M.S. Rau had for sale two exceptional Italian console tables that were in the collection at Stoneleigh for over 150 years (until their 1962 sale at Christie's by the 4th Lord Leigh [second creation]). The 3rd Lord Leigh (first creation) had acquired pietre dure tops, probably with matching stone columns to display them, in the early 18th century; circa 1714 he commissioned Andrea Brustolon ("The Michelangelo of Wood") to create carved Baroque bases to hold the pietre dure tops, which were made circa 1625-50 by the famous Grand Ducal Workshops in Florence. The remaining contents of Stoneleigh Abbey were sold by Christie's on October 15, 1981 for £249,356.
Comments: Stoneleigh Abbey is considered the finest work of Smith of Warwick. Sir Nikolaus Pevsner described Stoneleigh as "the grandest and most dramatic Georgian mansion of Warwickshire."
Garden & Outbuildings: The stables, riding school, and conservatory are all Grade II-listed.
John Bernard (J.B.) Burke, published under the title of A Visitation of the Seats and Arms of the Noblemen and Gentlemen of Great Britain and Ireland, among other titles: Vol. I, p. 50, 1852.
Country Life: I, 186, 1897. XIX, 630, 1906.
Title: Disintegration of a Heritage: Country Houses and their Collections, 1979-1992, The
Author: Sayer, Michael
Year Published: 1993
Publisher: Norfolk: Michael Russell (Publishing)
Book Type: Hardback
Title: Historic Houses (magazine)
Year Published: NA
Reference: Spring 1999, pg. 15
Publisher: London: Historic Houses Association
Book Type: Magazine
House Listed: Grade I
Park Listed: Grade II
Past Seat / Home of: Sir Thomas Leigh, 1561-71; Sir Thomas Leigh, 1st Bt., 1571-1626; Sir Thomas Leigh, 2nd Bt. and 1st Baron Leigh (first creation), 1626-72; Thomas Leigh, 2nd Baron Leigh, 1672-1710; Edward Leigh, 3rd Baron Leigh, 1710-38; Thomas Leigh, 4th Baron Leigh, 1738-49; Edward Leigh, 5th Baron Leigh, 1749-86; James Henry Leigh, 1786-1823; Chandos Leigh, 1st Baron Leigh (second creation), 1823-50; William Henry Leigh, 2nd Baron Leigh, 1850-1905; Francis Dudley Leigh, 3rd Baron Leigh, 1905-38; Rupert William Dudley Leigh, 4th Baron Leigh, 1938-79; John Piers Leigh, 5th Baron Leigh, 1979-96; Leigh family here from 1561 until 1996.
Current Ownership Type: Charity / Nonprofit
Primary Current Ownership Use: Flats / Multi Family
Ownership Details: The house and park are owned by a charitable trust.