DiCamillo Companion
DiCamillo Griffin Logo

Wimpole Hall

  • House & Family History: Wimpole was remodeled between 1689 and 1711 for Charles Robartes, 2nd Earl of Radnor; the work included the addition of a third story and nine-bay wings extending to the east and west. James Gibbs designed the main staircase in the Chincheley Block and the library (the latter completed by 1719). Henry Flitcroft refaced the south entrance facade between 1742 and 1745 and added the five east bays of the north front between 1745 and 1747. Sir John Soane designed the book room circa 1793. The towered prolongations of circa 1840 (demolished 1952) were designed by H.E. Kendall for the 4th Earl of Hardwicke. In 1891, as chairman of Agar-Robartes Bank, Thomas Agar-Robartes took over the ownership of Wimpole Hall from Charles Yorke, 5th Earl of Hardwicke, in payment of debts. Wimpole was restored by its last private owner, Elsie Bambridge, Rudyard Kipling's daughter, who left the house to the National Trust when she died in 1977. The 18th century owner of Wimpole, Robert Harley, 1st Earl of Oxford and Earl Mortimer, promoted the careers of Alexander Pope, John Gay, and Jonathan Swift (Pope was a frequent visitor to Wimpole, often staying for months at a time). Oxford also wrote with them as a member of the Scriblerus Club and very likely had some hand in the writing of "The Memoirs of Martinus Scriblerus" (he also, together with Henry St. John, 1st Viscount Bolingbroke, contributed to the literary productions of the Club). Wimpole is the largest country house in Cambridgeshire.

    Collections: In the 18th century Robert Harley, 1st Earl of Oxford and Earl Mortimer (1661-1724), formed one of the most magnificent collection of books and prints in the country at Wimpole. Known as the Harleian Miscellany, the library ultimately led to his bankruptcy, but succeeded in preserving an unparalleled collection of Anglo-Saxon, Middle English, and Renaissance literature, as well as loose poems, ballads, and illuminated manuscripts from France, Italy, and Germany from the early Middle Ages to the Renaissance (the miscellany was collated and edited by Samuel Johnson between 1744 and 1753). Harley's collection, together with that of his son, Edward Harley, the 2nd Earl, was sold to Parliament in 1753 for £10,000 (equivalent to approximately £18 million in 2016 values, using the labour value commodity index) by the Countess of Oxford and her daughter, the Duchess of Portland. The collection contained more than 7,000 volumes, more than 14,000 original legal documents, and 500 rolls. Together with the collections of Robert Bruce Cotton and Hans Sloane, the Harleian Collection (also known as the Harley Collection or the Harleian Miscellany) formed the core of today's British Library. One of the most important pieces in the Harley Miscellany was the Harley Psalter (now in the collection of The British Library—Harley MS 603), an illuminated manuscript of the second and third decades of the 11th century, with some later additions. A Latin psalter on vellum, it was probably produced at Christ Church, Canterbury, very likely for Æthelnoth, Archbishop of Canterbury. The psalter is the earliest of three surviving medieval copies of the Carolingian Utrecht Psalter of circa 820 and contains more than one hundred 11th century colored pen and wash drawings in the Utrecht Style. Janet Backhouse described the Harley Psalter as "one of the most important of all pre-Conquest English illuminated manuscripts." In April 2010 librarians at the National Trust discovered a rare first edition of Rudyard Kipling's "Jungle Book" at Wimpole, complete with a handwritten note from the author to his daughter, Josephine, who died in 1899, when she was six. It reads: "This book belongs to Josephine Kipling for whom it was written by her father, May 1894." Librarians discovered the inscription while working on a three-year project to catalog the 10,000-volume library at Wimpole, whose last private owner, Elsie Bambridge, was Rudyard Kipling's daughter. On November 8, 2020 thieves broke into Wimpole and stole 12 pieces from the collection, including busts, vases, and candelabra.

    Comments: The yellow drawing room is considered one of Soane's masterpieces and one of the most outstanding Neoclassical rooms in England.

  • Garden & Outbuildings: Bridgeman worked on the park between 1720 and 1724. Flitcroft designed the two-story canted bow in the middle of the north garden facade and remodeled its interior. Capability Brown extended the park in the 1760s; Humphry Repton extended the park again in 1801 and 1809. The Clairvoyée is also attributed to Repton. Sanderson Miller designed the sham ruined Gothick Castle folly (circa 1772; see photos in "Images" section). The Stableblock dates from 1851.

    Chapel & Church: The chapel, by Gibbs, circa 1721, was decorated by Sir James Thornhill in 1724. The parish church of St. Andrew in the park was rebuilt by Flitcroft, 1748-49, and remodeled in the Gothic style in 1887.

  • Architect: Charles Bridgeman

    Designed: Landscaping

    View all houses

    Architect: Sanderson Miller

    Date: Circa 1772
    Designed: Gothic castle in park

    View all houses

    Architect: John Soane

    Date: Circa 1793
    Designed: Designed Yellow Drawing Room and Book Room

    View all houses

    Architect: James Gibbs

    Date: 1719-21
    Designed: Alterations and additions, including Library and Chapel, for Edward Harley, 2nd Earl of Oxford.

    View all houses

    Architect: Lancelot Brown

    Date: 1720-24
    Designed: Parkland

    View all houses

    Architect: Henry Flitcroft

    Date: 1742-45
    Designed: Refronted south front and altered House for 1st Earl of Hardwicke

    View all houses

    Architect: Humphry Repton

    Date: 1801-09
    Designed: Extended park
    (Attribution of this work is uncertain)
    View all houses

    Architect: Henry Edward Kendall

    Date: Circa 1840
    Designed: Towered prolongations

    View all houses
  • Country Life: XXIII, 234, 1908. LXI, 806, 844, 1927. LXX, 590 [Furniture], 1931. CXLII, 1400 plan, 1466, 1594, 1967.

  • Title: Destruction of the Country House, The
    Author: Strong, Roy; Binney, Marcus; Harris, John
    Year Published: 1974
    Reference: pg. 14
    Publisher: London: Thames & Hudson Ltd.
    ISBN: 0500270052X
    Book Type: Softback

    Title: Biographical Dictionary of British Architects, 1600-1840, A - SOFTBACK
    Author: Colvin, Howard
    Year Published: 1995
    Reference: pg. 368, 406
    Publisher: New Haven: Yale University Press
    ISBN: 0300072074
    Book Type: Softback

    Title: Burke's and Savills Guide to Country Houses, Volume III: East Anglia
    Author: Kenworthy-Browne, John; Reid, Peter; Sayer, Michael; Watkin, David
    Year Published: 1981
    Publisher: London: Burke's Peerage
    ISBN: 0850110351
    Book Type: Hardback

  • House Listed: Grade I

    Park Listed: Grade I

  • "Treasure Hunt" (1984 - TV game show, episode 2.8, "Cambridgeshire"). "Easy Virtue" (2008 - as the Hurst family home and hunt scenes).
  • Past Seat / Home of: Charles Robartes, 2nd Earl of Radnor, 1689-1710. John Holles, 1st Duke of Newcastle, 1710-11. Edward Harley, 2nd Earl of Oxford, 1711-40. Philip Yorke, 2nd Earl of Hardwicke, 18th century; Yorke family here 1741-1897. Thomas Agar-Robartes, 6th Viscount Clifden, 1893-1934. Bainbridge family, 1934-76.

    Current Ownership Type: The National Trust

    Primary Current Ownership Use: Visitor Attraction

  • House Open to Public: Yes

    Phone: 01223-207-257

    Fax: 01223-207-838

    Email: wimpolehall@nationaltrust.org.uk

    Website: https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk

    Historic Houses Member: No