The 18th Century House


The house took some ten years to build. It was placed on raised ground facing towards the small lake known as the Warrells, unlike the Granville’s previous home which sat in a sheltered position in the heart of the village with no apparent concern for pleasant views. It was thus in the vanguard of a new kind of English architecture which embraced the landscape setting as an integral part of the design. Consistent with his social ambitions, Richard Grenville engaged the leading landscape designers of his time, George London and Henry Wise, to lay out not only an impressive geometrical garden but also two grand avenues, largely in elm, to east and west of the house (besides others in the outer landscape).

The house, in plan a simple rectangular block, is linked by low screen walls to two pavilions which flank a circular carriageway. A curvilinear wrought iron and stone screen closes the circle. Experts disagree about the provenance of the wrought iron work – by one account it was originally cited at another Grenville house, Cannons in Greenwich, and was only moved to Wotton when it was demolished in 1747. But it is generally agreed that the screen is by Thomas Robinson, a pupil of the great French master Bijou, whose work is certainly visible inside the house.

The two pavilions are the only unaltered survivals of the original design. They are more 17th century than 18th century in feeling and betray their contemporary Franco-Dutch influence. The tiled roofs are steeply sloping and incorporate dormer windows. The main Windows extend over two floors and have leaded panes, instead of the sashes which are a feature of the main house. There is an evident discrepancy, between these old style and the Soanised house, but the effect is not displeasing.

The purpose of the pavilions was to remove most other services from the main house. The South Pavilion housed the coaches at lower ground level (approached from the back) and the main servants in the upper floors. The enormous room on the ground floor may have served as the ballroom to the main house. The North Pavilion housed the clock (by Langley Bradley, dated 1707), the kitchen, the maids and the housekeeper. Food was carried to the Eating Room in the main house through an underground passage behind the linking screen wall. Window cills were set very high in order to prevent the servants observing the comings and goings of the owner and their guests in the forecourt. Ironically, as it turned out, one of the main reasons underlying this arrangement like to avoid the risk of a kitchen fire engulfing the main house.

Few personal descriptions of the all house has survived. In July 1804 Eugenia Wynne confided some thoughts about is her stay at Wotton to her diary:

“I am silly enough not to be able to sleep in my room, it looks like a receptacle fit for ghosts to keep their midnight revels in – dark and gloomy to a degree a bed – red crimson velvet furniture of the same, long window curtains, black doors, black cabinets, etc and what is worse, a woman hang herself at the foot of the bed and Mrs Grenville died in it. If that is not enough to conjure up black imaginations I do not know what will.”

In 1818 the celebrated water colourist John Buckler painted a series of views of the Estate, including the house.