DiCamillo Companion

Wilbury Park (Wilbury House) (Newton Toney Manor)

  • Earlier Houses: The current house was built on the site of an earlier house, Newton Toney Manor, which was the famous Celia Fiennes's childhood home. Fiennes, who never married, traveled around England on horseback between 1684 and 1712 and wrote down her observations and opinions, which were published in the 19th century, long after her death in 1741.

    Built / Designed For: William Benson

    House & Family History: Built between 1708 and 1725 to the designs of William Benson, who may have been assisted by Colen Campbell, Wilbury is the earliest example of Neo-Palladianism, or the Jonesian Revival, in Britain. The house was featured in Colen Campbell's "Vitruvius Britannicus" of 1715 and was a precursor to the new villa type of country house. Christopher Hussey, writing in "English Country Houses: Early Georgian, 1715-1760," states that Wilbury is "a contemporary miniature of Wanstead..." (see "Images" section) and that Benson "should perhaps be regarded as one of the originators" of Palladianism. The name of Wilbury is believed to derive from the "Wil" of Wilton House and the "bury" of Amesbury House (see "Images" section), two houses believed, at the time, to be by Inigo Jones, to whom Benson was clearly paying tribute. It's very likely that Benson took the plan of Palladio's Villa Poiana (see "Images" section), added a low rusticated basement, and then copied Amesbury's elevation for the top half of Wilbury. In the early 20th century Lord St. Just purchased Wilbury; he was the English partner of J.P. Morgan, with whom he founded the famous British merchant bank of Morgan Grenfell (Lord St. Just's surname was Grenfell). The controversial Russian-British actress Maria Britneva, Lady St. Just (1921-94), a close friend of Tennessee Williams (a frequent visitor to Wilbury House) and his literary executor, lived here in the last half of the 20th century. Britneva, who is buried at Wilbury House with her dogs, was supposedly the inspiration for the character of Maggie in "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof"; she was certainly the model for the countess in Williams's 1976 play "This Is." It was during her ownership that Britneva made the house available to her friends Ismail Merchant and James Ivory as the location for Pendersleigh in the 1987 Merchant Ivory production of "Maurice" (Britneva appeared briefly in "Maurice" as Mrs. Sheepshanks and in 1985's "A Room with a View"). In 2000 the Guinness family purchased Wilbury and began a five-year restoration program employing the firm of Peregrine Bryant; the house was honored with the 2006 Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors' Building Conservation Award.

  • Architect: William Benson

    Date: 1708-10
    Designed: House for himself

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  • Vitruvius Britannicus: C I, pls. 51-52, 1715.

    Country Life: Dec 3 & 10, 1959.

  • Title: English Country Houses: Early Georgian, 1715-1760
    Author: Hussey, Christopher
    Year Published: 1955
    Reference: pgs. 16-17
    Publisher: London: Country Life Limited
    ISBN: NA
    Book Type: Hardback

    Title: Irish Georgian Society Newsletter
    Author: NA
    Year Published: NA
    Reference: Summer 2004, pg. 6
    Publisher: Dublin: Irish Georgian Society
    ISBN: NA
    Book Type: Magazine

    Title: Kelly's Handbook to the Titled, Landed and Official Classes, 95th Annual Edition, 1969
    Author: NA
    Year Published: 1969
    Reference: pg. 1733
    Publisher: London: Kelly's Directories Ltd.
    ISBN: NA
    Book Type: Hardback

    Title: Debrett's Peerage and Baronetage, 1990
    Author: Kidd, Charles; Williamson, David (Editors)
    Year Published: 1990
    Reference: pg. P 1081
    Publisher: London: Debrett's Peerage Limited (New York: St. Martin's Press, Inc.)
    ISBN: 0312046405
    Book Type: Hardback

    Title: Biographical Dictionary of British Architects, 1600-1840, A - SOFTBACK
    Author: Colvin, Howard
    Year Published: 1995
    Reference: pg. 122
    Publisher: New Haven: Yale University Press
    ISBN: 0300072074
    Book Type: Softback

    Title: Merchant Ivory's English Landscape: Rooms, Views, and Anglo-Saxon Attitudes
    Author: Pym, John
    Year Published: 1995
    Reference: pg. 60
    Publisher: New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc.
    ISBN: 0810942755
    Book Type: Hardback

  • House Listed: Grade I

    Park Listed: Grade II

  • "Maurice" (1987 - as Pendersleigh Park).
  • Current Seat / Home of: Guinness family

    Past Seat / Home of: SEATED AT EARLIER HOUSE: Nathaniel Fiennes, until 1669. SEATED AT CURRENT HOUSE: William Benson, 1710-29. Henry Hoare II, 1729-42. Fulke Greville, 1742-83. Thomas Bradshaw, 1783-1803. Sir Charles W. Malet, early 19th century; Sir Harry Malet, early 20th century; Malet family here until 1925. J. Despencer-Robertson, 1925-39. Edward Charles Grenfell, 1st Baron St. Just, 1939-41; Peter George Grenfell, 2nd Baron St. Just, 1941-84. Miranda Daphne Jane Guinness, Countess of Iveagh, 2000-10.

    Current Ownership Type: Individual / Family Trust

    Primary Current Ownership Use: Private Home

  • House Open to Public: No

    Awards: Overall winner of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors' Building Conservation Award 2006.

    Historic Houses Member: No