The Entrance Facade from a 19th century photograph in the collection of The DiCamillo Companion
House & Family History: Thirlestane House is a very large villa of nine bays in the center of Cheltenham. The House was built in 1820 by J.R. Scott, an amateur architect, for himself. Thirlestane has giant plain Doric pilasters and a very fine central portico with four fluted Ionic columns. The North Wing was added 1839-40 and extended circa 1853 and sports inset panels in relief copied from the Parthenon. The South Wing is of 1845 and was extended 1854-55. The porte cochère on the south facade was rebuilt circa 1948 by Louis de Soissons. In 1838 Lord Northwick acquired Thirlestane; he added wings to the House to serve as a picture gallery for his collection of paintings; the Gallery was top-lit and very similar to the one at Northwick Park. After Lord Northwick's death, the House was acquired by Sir Thomas Phillipps, the great 19th century collector of manuscripts, whose collection had overflowed his relatively modest house at Middle Hill, Broadway, in Worcestershire. In 1947 Thirlestane was acquired by Cheltenham College, in whose ownership it remains today. (We are most grateful to Nicholas Kingsley for the information he provided on the history of Thirlestane House.)
Collections: The 2nd North Northwick found, in spite of the addition of a Picture Gallery in 1832, that Northwick Park was too small to contain his great picture collection. Thus, he purchased Thirlestane House to contain the overflow. The collection included not just paintings, but coins, Greek vases, prints, gems, miniatures, and porcelain, all of which was housed at Thirlestane. Lord Northwick was a magnanimous man and opened his galleries at Thirlestane to visitors all through the year. When he died in 1859 without a will, Lord Northwick's property was forcibly divided among his three nearest relatives; consequently, the great sales of the contents of Northwick Park and Thirlestane House followed, conducted by Phillips in 1859. The sales lasted for over 22 days and included over 1,500 pictures. Sir Charles Eastlake made many important purchases for The National Gallery during these sales. Paintings in the collection included "Stoning of Saint Stephen" by Garofalo; "SS Cosmos and Damian" by Fran Angelico; Lorenzo Monaco's "Presentation in the Temple;" and "Robin Hood" by Maclise. "Lorzeno de'Medici, Duke of Urbino," 1518, by Raphael, once in Lord Northwick's collection, sold at Christie's on July 5, 2007 for £18.5 million.
Comments: Pevsner, in "The Buildings of England: Gloucestershire 2 - The Vale and the Forest of Dean," writes of Thirlestane as "the grandest Neo-Greek house in Cheltenham."
Garden & Outbuildings: The Stables of 1820-22 by George Underwood have been significantly altered since the school took over in 1947; they originally contained two Lysicrates turrets (later copied by Sir Albert Richardson on his Jockey Club at Newmarket in 1933). Also extant is a triangular brick garden house of circa 1840 studded with Roman sculptural fragments collected by Lord Northwick on his late 18th century grand tour.
Title: Thirlestane House Auction Catalog, Jul 26 - Aug 16, 1859
Year Published: 1859
Publisher: London: Phillips
Book Type: Hardback
Title: Apollo (magazine)
Year Published: NA
Reference: Jul/Aug 2007, pg. 84
Publisher: London: Apollo Magazine Ltd.
Book Type: Magazine
Title: Great Private Collections
Author: Cooper, Douglas (Editor); Clark, Kenneth (Introduction)
Year Published: 1963
Reference: pgs. 41-47
Publisher: New York: The Macmillan Company
Book Type: Hardback
House Listed: Not Listed
Park Listed: Not Listed
Past Seat of: J.R. Scott, 19th century. John Rushout, 2nd Baron Northwick, 19th century. Sir Thomas Phillipps, 19th century.
Current Ownership Type: School
Primary Current Ownership Use: School
Ownership Details: Since 1947 Thirlestane has been part of the campus of Cheltenham College.