DiCamillo Companion
England

Wotton House (Wotton Underwood)

  • Built / Designed For: Richard Grenville

    House & Family History: Since at least the 13th century the Wotton Estate was in the ownership of the Grenville family (in 1208 there is a record of Eustace de Grenville owning property at Wotton). The Grenvilles were a Danish family who came to England with William the Conqueror and retained ownership of Wotton until 1924, when they sold the Estate to Michael Beaumont (their other seat, Stowe House, is much more famous). Beaumont sold Wotton in 1947 to the Merchant Venturers of Bristol, who broke up the Estate, selling the land in small parcels and letting the House for use a boys' boarding school in the 1950s. It was Elaine Brunner who, in 1957, saved Wotton from demolition and lovingly restored the House. Mrs. Brunner lived at Wotton for 40 years, passing it on to her daughter April (and April's husband, David Gladstone), upon her death in 1998. The South Pavilion was sold off from the main block of the House in 1947 and was the home of actor John Gielgud and his partner, Martin Hensler, for many years; it was purchased by Tony and Cherie Blair for £5.75 million in May of 2008 (the North Pavilion remains a property of the Gladstone family and is currently let as a private home). Wotton House was built in the early 18th century, possibly to the designs of John Fitch, and is a superb example of English Baroque architecture; its design is similar to the original design for Buckingham House (today Buckingham Palace), a house Fitch is known to have worked on. A fire destroyed most of the House in 1820 (the pavilions were untouched), after which Sir John Soane was employed for restoration work (he reduced the height of the House and created a two-story, top-lit Entrance Hall, among other alterations). During World War II Wotton served as a British Army officers' mess.

    Collections: Some contents from Wotton House were auctioned by Sotheby's September 14-16, 1999. The contents of the South Pavilion, the home of Sir John Gielgud, were auctioned by Sotheby's on April 5, 2001 and brought a total of £1,106,467.

    Comments: In April 1786 John Adams, later second president of the United States, visited Wotton and other houses in the area. After his visits he wrote in his diary "Stowe, Hagley, and Blenheim, are superb; Woburn, Caversham, and the Leasowes are beautiful. Wotton is both great and elegant, though neglected."

  • Garden & Outbuildings: Designed by William Kent and completed in 1738, the Chinese House is the oldest surviving Chinoiserie folly in Britain. Made of painted pine panels on an oak frame, with painted scenes by Francesco Sleter, the diminutive folly has had a peripatetic existence. Originally mounted on stilts in the middle of the lake at Stowe, by 1757 it was installed on dry land at Wotton House, where it remained until 1957, when it migrated to Harristown House in Co. Kildare. In 1992 the National Trust acquired the Chinese House and reinstalled it at Stowe. A number of sculptures in the Park, in addition to Britannia on the roof-top of the House, came from the Crystal Palace, London. During World War II Nissen huts were built in the Park; though the huts are long gone, their concrete foundations are still visible in the Park.

  • Architect: Lancelot Brown

    Date: 1750-67
    Designed: Landscaping

    View all houses

    Architect: Unknown (designed by an unknown architect)

    Date: 1704-14
    Designed: House for Grenville family

    View all houses

    Architect: Arthur Stanley George Butler

    Date: 1929
    Designed: Renovated House

    View all houses

    Architect: John Soane

    Date: 1821-22
    Designed: Remodeled House after 1820 fire

    View all houses

    Architect: Henry Wise

    Date: Circa 1705
    Designed: Grounds, together with George London.

    View all houses

    Architect: John Fitch

    Date: 1704
    Designed: House for Richard Grenville
    (Attribution of this work is uncertain)
    View all houses

    Architect: George London

    Date: Circa 1705
    Designed: Grounds, together with Henry Wise.

    View all houses
  • Country Life: CVI, 38, 182, 1947.

  • Title: Sotheby's Auction Catalog: The John Gielgud Collection, Apr 5, 2001
    Author: NA
    Year Published: 2001
    Publisher: London: Sotheby's
    ISBN: NA
    Book Type: Softback

    Title: Saving Wotton: The Remarkable Story of a Soane Country House
    Author: Palin, William
    Year Published: 2004
    Reference: pgs. 9, 10, 12
    Publisher: London: Sir John Soane's Museum
    ISBN: 0954228472
    Book Type: Softback

  • House Listed: Grade I

    Park Listed: Grade II

  • Seat of: David Gladstone. Tony and Cheri Blair purchased the South Pavilion (formerly lived in by John Gielgud) in 2008.

    Past Seat of: SEATED AT EARLIER HOUSE: Eustace de Grenville, early 13th century; Grenville family here from the 13th century until 1924. SEATED AT CURRENT HOUSE: Richard Grenville, 1st Earl Temple, 18th and 19th centuries; Algernon William Stephen Temple-Gore-Langton, 5th Earl Temple of Stowe, early 20th century. Michael Beaumont, 1924-47. Elaine Brunner, 1957-98. Sir John Gielgud (lived in the South Pavilion from 1972 until his death in 2000).

    Current Ownership Type: Individual / Family Trust

    Primary Current Ownership Use: Private Home

    Ownership Details: Private home of the Gladstone family and used as a filming and event venue.

  • House Open to Public: By Appointment

    Phone: 01844-238-363

    Fax: 01844-238-380

    Historic Houses Member: No