Basildon Park is a country house situated 2 miles (3 kilometres) south
Goring-on-Thames and Streatley in Berkshire, between the villages
Upper Basildon and Lower Basildon. It is owned by the National
Trust and is a Grade I listed building. The house was built between
1776 and 1783 for Sir Francis Sykes and designed by John Carr in the
Palladian style at a time when Palladianism was giving way to the
newly fashionable neoclassicism. Thus, the interiors are in a
neoclassical "Adamesque" style.
Never fully completed, the house passed through a succession of
owners. In 1910 it was standing empty and in 1914, it was
requisitioned by the British Government as an army convalescent
hospital. It was again sold in 1928 and quickly sold again. In 1929,
following a failed attempt to dismantle and rebuild the house in the
USA, it was stripped of many of its fixtures and fittings and all but
During World War II, the house was again requisitioned and served as a
barracks, a training ground for tanks, and finally a prisoner of war
camp—all activities unsuited to the preservation of an already
semi-derelict building. In 1952, a time when hundreds of British
country houses were being demolished, it was said of
Basildon Park "to
say it was derelict, is hardly good enough, no window was left intact
and most were repaired with cardboard or plywood."
Basildon Park is as notable for its mid-twentieth-century
renaissance and restoration, by Lord and Lady Iliffe, as it is for its
architecture. In 1978, the Iliffes gave the house, together with its
park and a large endowment for its upkeep, to the National Trust in
the hope that "The National Trust will protect it and its park for
future generations to enjoy."
1.1 Early history
1.2 18th century
1.3 19th century
1.4 20th century
2 Architectural appraisal
2.3 The first floor
2.4 The second floor
3 Basildon and its future
4 Filming location
8 External links
Charles ffane, (1676-1744), PC (I), DL (Berks), created Viscount Fane
in 1718. Inherited Basildon from his father Sir Henry Fane, KB, in
1705/6. His wife, who died in 1762, built the renownedgrotto at the
riverside New House, which also served as the mansion's dower house.
Basildon is first documented in 1311 when it was granted by the crown
to Elias de Colleshull. During the 16th and early 17th centuries,
the manor of Basildon was held by the Yonge family. In 1654, the
Basildon estate was purchased probably on behalf of Royalist Colonel
George Fane by his brother-in-law the 5th Earl of Bath who died the
same year (confusion as to for whom bought caused the political state
of the country at the time and by George Fane's premature death). Lord
Bath's widow, the former Lady Rachael Fane, bequeathed the estate to
her nephew Sir Henry Fane, George Fane's son. Little is known of
Basildon during the Fane ownership, but a mansion house was built with
Gothic lodges. These lodges survive and serve the present house. The
manor remained a Fane possession until it was offered for sale in 1766
by the heirs of the 2nd Viscount Fane, essentially, his two married
sisters Dorothy Montagu and Mary de Salis.
Cover of a letter: To Charles ffane, Esq., att Basseldon, neare
Reading, Berks, April 1714.
Viscountess Fane (1686-1762). Mary Stanhope, sister of James Stanhope,
who married Charles, 1st Viscount Fane in 1707, and was thus
associated with Basildon for 55 years.
The estate was purchased in 1771 by Sir Francis Sykes. Having made a
fortune in India, Sykes returned to England to realise his social and
political ambitions. For these to be fulfilled, Sykes required a grand
estate conveniently close to London; he built
Basildon Park to serve
Basildon Park was built for Sir Francis Sykes. Born in the West Riding
Yorkshire in 1732, the son of a yeoman farmer, he left his native
country to make his fortune in India. He joined the British East India
Company and amassed a fortune in Bengal, at the court of the Nawab. He
later became Governor of
Kasimbazar and became what was then known as
a nabob, a title derived from the Indian "Nawab."
Sir Francis Sykes, for whom
Basildon Park was built.
Returning to England in 1769, possessed of vast wealth (estimated at
between £250,000 and £500,000) he purchased Ackworth Park in his
native Yorkshire. In 1770, he acquired the Gillingham Manor estate,
Dorset, an estate of some 2,200 acres (8.9 km2). This purchase
enabled him to become Member of Parliament for the constituency of
Shaftsbury. To further his political aspirations he required a house
suitable for entertaining and indicative of his wealth conveniently
nearer to London than the distant counties of
Yorkshire and Dorset.
Basildon fitted Sykes' requirement well, not only politically, but
also socially. At this time this area of
Berkshire was home to so many
of the newly rich returned from India that it was referred to as "the
English Hindoostan." Sykes' close friend
Warren Hastings was
already resident in the area, and another friend, the 1st Lord Clive,
(better known as Clive of India) had himself attempted to buy Basildon
From the moment Sykes purchased the Basildon site in 1771, his good
fortune changed. The commencement of work on the house was delayed
until 1776 as a result of the crash of the East India Company's
shares, which caused Sykes to lose £10,000 in a single day.
Shortly afterwards, his and Clive's activities as part of the Bengal
Administration were investigated by Parliament. Sykes as the Bengali
Tax Collector had levied unjust taxes and was publicly censured. Two
years later, in 1774, while Sykes was still a subject of public
opprobrium, his finances suffered further when allegations of
corruption pertaining to his constituency were made against him. As a
result, he lost his parliamentary seat and was forced to pay £11,000
Finally, in 1776, work on Basildon began and lasted for the remainder
of Sykes' life. Although his finances continued to dwindle and he was
throughout his life to be vilified as an "archetypal nabob", he
managed to regain his political and social lives. He was created a
baronet in 1781, and became MP for Wallingford in 1784. As Sykes
aged, work on Basildon slowed. This may have been for financial
reasons or just because of a lack of momentum due to family
disappointments. A younger son was drowned in 1786 and Sykes' heir
proved to be dissipated and a further drain on Sykes' resources.
Sykes died at his London house on 11 January 1804. His body was
returned to Basildon for burial in St Bartholomew's Church, Lower
Basildon. and placed in a previously owned 14th century chest
tomb. At Basildon Park, the principal rooms remained unfinished.
The entrepreneur James Morrison. His ownership of the mansion saw it
completed and filled with treasures.
On Sir Francis Sykes' death, Basildon was inherited by his son, Sir
Francis Sykes (2nd Baronet) who died a few weeks later. The house then
passed to his grandson, the five-year-old Sir Francis (3rd Baronet).
By this time, the Sykes fortune was almost spent and Basildon was
already mortgaged. The family finances suffered further as a result of
the 3rd Baronet's association with the extravagant Prince Regent. Aged
just 14, he entertained the Prince at Basildon. As a result of the
Prince's occupation of the North side of the second floor, where the
best bedrooms are located, for many years afterwards this range of
rooms were known as "The Regent's Side" as opposed to the family's
less formal rooms on the South side of the floor.
From the late 1820s, Sykes was suffering serious financial problems,
and in 1829, the estate was placed on the market. The house was not
quickly sold, as Sykes refused to accept any price less than
£100,000. During this period, the house was often let. However, Sykes
and his family were in residence between 1834 and 1835 when the future
Benjamin Disraeli was a house-guest at Basildon.
Disraeli, who was the lover of Sykes' wife Henrietta, immortalised her
along with some descriptions of Basildon and its rooms in his novel,
Henrietta Temple: A Love Story. Another romantic attachment of
Lady Sykes was to result in her husband being immortalised in a novel,
this time in a less flattering light. Lady Sykes had been conducting
an affair with the painter Daniel Maclise. Her husband publicly
denounced Maclise, causing an unacceptable high society scandal. As a
result, Charles Dickens, a friend of Maclise, then writing Oliver
Twist, based his villainous and cruel character
Bill Sikes on Sir
In 1838, as
Oliver Twist was published, Sykes, out of funds and
publicly humiliated, finally sold
Basildon Park for just £3,000 less
than the £100,000 he had been seeking.
Basildon's interiors were now finally completed and the estate had a
seventy-year period of security. The new owner was James Morrison, a
Hampshire born, self-made millionaire. From humble beginnings as an
employee of a London haberdasher, he had married his employer's
daughter, entered into partnership with his father-in-law and expanded
the business. By 1820, Morrison was possessed of a fortune he was
investing wisely to become one of Victorian England's wealthiest men.
A politician, between 1830 and 1847, he was one time MP for St Ives,
Ipswich and the
In addition to Basildon, Morrison owned several estates, including
Fonthill and Islay. The mansions provided a setting for his huge art
collection, which included works by Constable, Turner and many Italian
and Dutch old masters. Basildon was to be the setting for some of his
To create that setting, Morrison employed the architect John
Buonarotti Papworth. At Basildon, Papworth combined the roles of
architect and interior decorator, helping to create what Morrison
described as "a casket for my pictorial gems." Many of Papworth's
more ambitious plans were not realised; the demolition and replacement
by colonnades of the yards, the conversion of a courtyard into a
sculpture gallery, and the creation of a carriage ramp to the piano
nobile on the East front were all declined by Morrison. However, the
house was fitted up with a hot water system and fire precautions, and
the decoration of the principal reception rooms was completed in
suitably classical styles.
Morrison died at Basildon on 30 October 1857.
The South Pavilion and corps de logis. In 1978, the South Pavilion
(the former laundry) was converted into a private house for Lord and
Lady Iliffe following their donation of the main house to the National
Basildon Park was occupied by James Morrison's unmarried daughter,
Ellen, until her death in 1910. Her demise marked the beginning of a
downward turn in Basildon's history. The house and estate were
inherited by a nephew, James Morrison. Initially, he improved the
estate and its buildings, commissioning the architect
Edwin Lutyens to
design workers' cottages in the neighbouring villages. However, he
never occupied the house, using it only for occasional shooting
parties. In 1914, the house was requisitioned by the British
Government and used as a convalescent home for injured soldiers,
suffering the attendant damage which accompanies institutional use.
During the war Basildon's owner served with distinction, obtaining the
DSO and, according to Harold Macmillan, always "insisted on walking
rather than crawling under enemy fire." Surprisingly, considering
the form in which his courage manifested itself, Morrison survived the
war. However, his love of shooting, a lavish lifestyle and three
marriages led to such a serious decline in his fortunes that in 1929,
he was forced to sell the Basildon estate.
The new purchaser was the 1st Lord Iliffe. He wished to expand and
consolidate his estate at nearby Yattendon, where he had built a new
house. He immediately annexed the estate from house and park back,
stripped the mansion of some doors and fireplaces for his London
house, and placed the house back on the market.
Thus it was that in 1929
Basildon Park was purchased by a property
developer, George Ferdinando. who bought the estate as park land.
George Ferdinando was 65 when he bought the house and as his children
were grown up his wife was unwilling to take on another large house
and so he produced a sales notice, the idea being to sell the house as
one lot in America. Encouraged by the then current fashion amongst
wealthy American citizens for inhabiting ancient European houses and
palazzi, Ferdinando produced a sales brochure advertising Basildon to
any American citizen for $1,000,000. For this sum, he promised to
"carefully take it down" and "re-erect in America", thus providing an
opportunity to "Any patriotic American wishing to benefit his native
state by presenting this imposing building … ready for occupation as
a private residence, museum, college building or public library."
Fortunately he had a change of heart and decided instead to convert
the old sawmill at the top of the park into a house for himself and
his wife. George also persuaded one of his sons Eric to return from
America where he was a cotton grower with his young family to live in
the south pavilion then called the east wing. Eric then oversaw the
return of fixtures and fittings such as the stair balustrade, the
renovation and running of the house and estate. No evidence is
available to say whether it was George Ferdinando, the first Lord
Iliffe or the executors of the Morrison estate who sold off the dining
room fixtures. However elements from the Dining Room have been reused
Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York and doorcases designed by
John Carr are in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Boston Museum
of Fine Arts, and the Louisiana State University Museum of
World War II saw Basildon used as a billet for troops, while the park
became a training ground for troops deployed in tank and ground
warfare. George Ferdinando continued to live at Basildon during this
time. Eric served in the navy during the war and on his return set
about mending the walls that had been damaged by bridging units used
on the river and the huge holes left in the demolition area. The house
was then requisitioned for the Ministry of Works, whose caretaker
stole the lead from the roofs. He was caught and imprisoned for
two years. Unfortunately the ministry were only willing to pay back
one tenth of the cost of the repair to the roof and other damage done
including a fire. Having lived at Basildon now for twenty years George
moved to Shoreham-by-sea in Sussex where he died in 1949, but was
buried in Basildon. Unable to foot the cost of repairing the house and
the inheritance tax the house had to be sold and Eric and family moved
to the converted barn house formerly part of the estate. The second
Lord Iliffe, who lived in the area, visited the house at this point
which was in rather a sad state. However, encouraged by the potential
she saw in the mansion, Lady Iliffe persuaded her husband to buy it.
This was the beginning of Basildon Park's salvation and renaissance.
Under the direction of the Iliffes (later the 2nd Baron and Lady
Iliffe), Basildon was completely restored and refurnished. This was
achieved over a period of 25 years. Many fixtures and fittings were
purchased from similar houses in a greater state of dereliction prior
to their demolition. While often the Iliffes found great bargains,
obtaining 18th-century mahogany doors and marble fireplaces, at other
times their luck was less favourable; Lady Iliffe recalled attending
Mentmore Towers auction of 1975 with the intention of buying
marble topped console tables for Basildon, but through economic
necessity returned with only a coal-scuttle.
The corps de logis at the centre of the West facade.
Basildon Park was begun in 1772; the architect, John Carr of York, was
one of the leading architects in northern England. His work was
initially influenced by the Palladian architects, the Earl of
William Kent and later by the neoclassicism of Robert
Adam. At Basildon, Carr's most southerly commission, both
these architectural influences can be discerned. It has been
speculated that the principal facade, the West Front, was inspired by
Palladio's Villa Emo. Whatever the inspiration, it was one Carr
relied on heavily in his work, and it can be seen again most evidently
in his designs for Newark Town Hall.
The mansion consists of the three quite separate blocks, but
indistinctly so. The three floored corps de logis contains the
principal rooms, and two flanking pavilions of two floors each; the
north designed to contain the Kitchen, Scullery and Housekeeper's Room
and the south to contain the Laundry and Dairy. The upper floor of
each pavilion contained accommodation for servants. This arrangement,
of a central block flanked by pavilions, is original to Palladio's
concept; however, in England Palladianism (a form of architecture
based only loosely on Palladio's concepts) had evolved to a point that
Palladio had filled the distance between corps de logis and the
flanking blocks with a void space or colonnade. The evolved
18th-century Palladianism usually filled the space with long wings
containing enfilades of rooms. At Basildon, the architect used
windowed walls to create service courts in the void. This had the
double advantage of not only unifying the facade, but also (in a
comparatively small mansion) of creating a discrete space for
utilitarian stores, lavatories and the drying of clothes.
Basildon Park, the East front.
The principal facade is the long West facade of the corps de logis and
its flanking pavilions. Built of Bath stone, the three-storied
rectangular corps de logis has a rusticated ground floor, with a piano
nobile above and a bedroom floor above this. This block is of seven
bays; the central three bays are behind a recessed Ionic portico.
Entrance to the mansion is by three segmented arches under the
portico, or more formally, by climbing a double curved staircase
behind the three arches. The stairs rise to an open loggia beneath the
portico which gives access to the mansion's principal entrance. The
fenestration is designed to indicate the status of their floor. Thus,
small windows indicate the domestic ground floor and secondary upper
floor, while the windows of the first floor piano nobile are tall and
large. These larger windows are unified along the full length of the
facade extending on to the pavilions by a balustrading beneath them
which continues the line of the balustrading protecting the central
loggia. The roofline is concealed by a high parapet concealing the
roofs themselves and broken only by the portico's pediment. This
pediment is echoed as a smaller pediment over both of the two-storied
In contrast to the Palladianism of the West front, the East front is
austere in its neoclassicism. It projects from the flanking pavilions,
which on this side of the house are partially screened by planting.
The fenestration which is concentrated on the broad bay at the centre
of the facade provides the essential rhythm and relief. Above the
second floor, a balustrade not only hides the roof, but unites the
projecting bay with its flanking bays.
The corps de logis (central block) is built on the three floors. In
the 18th century, such floors (known, because of their outer
brickwork, as "the Rustic") would have been used by both the owners
and their servants. The Rustic contained the wine cellars, Servants'
Hall, estate offices, and secondary reception rooms. This is very
much the case at Basildon where the former Servants' Hall is now the
ground floor visitors' tea room and the former Summer Breakfast Room
(beneath the Octagon Drawing Room) which later saw service as a
billiard room, is now a lecture room for the mansion's paying
visitors. The lower hall, beneath the first floor hall, was the
everyday entrance to the mansion for the family.
The first floor. 1: The four service courts; 2:
Portico and West
front; 3: North Pavilion; 4: South Pavilion; 5: Entrance Hall; 6:
Staircase Hall; 7: Octagon Drawing Room; 8: Dining Room; 9: Study; 10:
Library; 11: Sutherland Room (formerly lady Iliffe's sitting room);
12: Kitchen (since 1952); 13: larder (?); 14: Green Drawing Room
(formerly Breakfast or Small Dining Room).
The first floor
The first floor was designed to be a piano nobile (meaning literally a
"noble floor"); as its name suggests, it contains the principal rooms
of the house. During the 1770s, when Basildon was built, a domestic
and architectural movement from formality towards informality was in
progress. Thus, while the exterior of Basildon is pure symmetry, this
symmetry is not reflected in the interior layout of the rooms as would
have been the case just a few years earlier. In any case, the
builder of Basildon was not eminent enough to require a suite of state
apartments on the piano nobile in permanent expectation of a royal
visit. Thus, in keeping with this newly found spirit of informality
Basildon has no formal and symmetrical enfilade of rooms of increasing
splendour, but two separate first floor suites, one feminine and one
masculine, were placed on either side of the hall. The library (10 on
plan), considered a masculine room, was placed next to the owner Sir
Francis Sykes' dressing room (9) while on the opposite side of the
hall (11 and 12) were the bedroom and dressing room of Lady Sykes.
Sir Francis appears not to have had a bedroom on this floor, an
arrangement not uncommon in the 18th century, when a dressing room
served as a study and reception room combined—the owner would
descend from his bedroom above to the dressing room and receive
business callers while the finishing touches were made to his dressing
by a servant. Lady Sykes' dressing room or boudoir (11 on first
floor plan), also used as private sitting room by the late Lady
Iliffe, is now known as the Sutherland Room; it is currently used to
display some of the studies by the 20th-century artist Graham
Sutherland for his tapestry "Christ in Glory" at Coventry
The principal receptions are a communicating circuit of rooms designed
for entertaining. This was a late 18th-century feature, first
introduced by the architect
Matthew Brettingham in 1750.
The Hall is the principal entrance to the house which would have been
used by any eminent guests; entering the house by climbing the double
staircase beneath the portico the guest immediately sees, through a
gilded doorcase, a short enfilade through the staircase hall to the
Octagon drawing room. While the hall in its use was not comparable
Great Hall of earlier manor houses, it was still more than a
mere entrance vestibule; in the 18th century, it was considered than
any house of note required three principal reception rooms when
entertaining: one for dancing, one for supper and one for cards.
Thus, the hall, dining room and Octagon Drawing Room would fulfil
The hall retains more of its original neoclassical decorative features
than many other rooms in the house; the walls' plasterwork panels and
ceiling are all original, as are the Spanish mahogany doors (these had
been removed during the 1920s, but were returned to the house in
1954). Only the white marble fireplace is not original to the house,
but salvaged from the now demolished Panton Hall. The furniture in the
room, against the walls in 18th-century fashion, is in the style of
The Staircase Hall is at the centre of the house and is considered to
be one of Carr's "most monumental interiors." Typically of this
period, the double height room is lit by a clerestory while the wide
cantilevered staircase, the Great Staircase, rises in flights around
three of the four walls, to a gallery. The balustrading of the
staircase and landing is of gilded wrought iron adorned with
medallions with classical motifs which were heavily restored in
1952. The groundfloor walls beneath the gallery are decorated with
some of Carr's neoclassical plasterwork depicted in white against the
eau de nil colour of the walls. Recent analysis of the paint has
shown that the walls were originally a pale stone colour and the
staircase balustrade was painted blue with gilded figures on the
The Great Staircase, which rises only between the first and second
floors, is just one of three staircases all within metres of the other
at the centre of the house. A narrow spiral stair, concealed in one of
the cut off corners of the Octagon Drawing Room rises from the ground
floor to the roof, while "the backstairs" is another large staircase
lit by the same clerestory as the Great Staircase; this rises from the
ground floor to the second floor.
The Octagon Drawing Room (7 on first floor plan) completes the short
enfilade beginning at the front door. It is the principal room of the
house. Unfinished by Carr, the room has an ornate gilded ceiling with
recessed panels in the Italian Renaissance style, installed in 1840.
Of the room's eight sides, three have windows forming a large bay, at
the centre of which is a large
Venetian window echoing the Palladian
inspiration of the mansion. Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries
this room was used to display the finest art its owners possessed.
Today, hung with red felt, it contains works by
Pompeo Batoni and
Giambattista Pittoni. The room contains fine neoclassical furniture,
including items made to designs by Robert Adam, and curtains
originally made for the state rooms of Blenheim Palace.
The Basildon Room, The Waldorf Astoria Hotel, New York. The room
contains the original fireplace, mirrors and wall and ceiling
paintings from the Dining Room of Basildon Park. The ceiling and
plaster "loop and bow" panel design closely resembles that of the
Basildon Dining Room.
The Dining Room (marked 8 on first floor plan) is one of the rooms
most frequently changed since the completion of the mansion. Yet today
it closely resembles its original form. Sited on the first floor of
the corps de logis, some distance from the original kitchen (on the
ground floor of the North Pavilion), the Dining Room is decorated in a
neoclassical style inspired by the work of Robert Adam. The ceiling is
divided into geometric panels by ornate plasterwork. Each panel
originally contained a painted lunette or medallion by Theodore de
Bruyn, depicting a classical scene in grisaille. The walls too have
plaster panels which contained medallions, matching those of the
In 1845, the room was redecorated by the architect David Brandon, who
replaced Bruyn's paintings with polychrome depictions of Dante's
Divine Comedy. The walls to which Brandon added mirrors, however,
retained much of their 18th-century plasterwork. In 1929, the owner,
George Ferdinando, stripped the dining room of its painted panels,
mirrors, fireplace and doors and sold them to a firm of architectural
antique dealers, Crowther's. The Dining Room's former decorations then
crossed the Atlantic. Today, they form the Basildon Room of New York's
Waldorf Astoria Hotel.
In 1952, the new owners, Lord and Lady Iliffe, had the now bare room
painted by the decorator John Fowler and transformed it to a drawing
room. During the late 20th century, the artist Alec Cobbe was employed
to redecorate the room in a style similar to the original scheme by de
Bruyn. Much of Carr's "loops and bows" plasterwork had survived, and
this, coupled with a fireplace and doors salvaged from Panton Hall and
very similar to those which crossed the Atlantic, allowed the room to
return to its original neoclassical form.
The Kitchen was originally in the North pavilion. The concept of
placing kitchens in a separate block to the house (and dining room)
was a practice which had begun in the 1680s to prevent kitchen smells
pervading the main house. Thus, Palladio's idea of a villa flanked by
pavilions (intended to house farm animals) suited this practice
admirably. However, the need for symmetry meant a balancing second
pavilion was required. Therefore, it was common, as at Blenheim
Palace, for the kitchen to be balanced by a chapel or an orangery, or
for the less spiritual, a brewery or, as at a Basildon, a laundry.
This meant that at Basildon, hot food "en route" to the dining room
had to cross an open courtyard in all weathers, be taken through the
ground floor of the mansion up the back stairs, cross the second floor
and then be laid behind a colonnaded screen in the dining room before
being finally served. During the modernisations at Basildon in the
1950s, Lady Iliffe had a new and state of the art kitchen installed on
the piano nobile in the former bedroom allotted to former ladies of
the house (12 on first floor plan). This solved the problem of hot
food. Interestingly, the new kitchen is now open to the public as a
nostalgic 1950s set museum piece, containing kitchen appliances and
food stuffs and packaging contemporary to the mid 20th century. This
is shown in the same fashion as the remainder of the house.
The second floor. 1: Lady Iliffe's bedroom; 2: Shell Room; 3: Dressing
Room; 4: Bamboo Bedroom; 5: Crimson Bedroom; 6, 7, 8, 9, 11 & 12:
Bedrooms closed to the public; 10: Green Chintz Room; 13: Clerestory
giving light to the Staircase Hall, concealed from sight by the
The Green Drawing Room is between the Octagon Drawing room and the new
kitchen. It had always previously been used as a breakfast room or
small dining room, less formal than the Dining Room itself. When the
National Trust took over management of the house, the room was
refurnished and displayed as a drawing room. The room has a moulded
plaster neoclassical ceiling and is hung with green silk which was
formerly curtains at Englefield House, Berkshire. The white marble
fireplace in this room is one of the few original to the house.
The second floor
The second floor was designed to be of considerably less importance
than the piano nobile below, which is indicated externally by the
smaller windows. However, unlike in a
Baroque house of just a few
years earlier, it was not reserved for lesser guests, children and
servants, as is evident by its approach from a monumentally grand
Basildon and its future
At the time of its building, the design of Basildon was already
old-fashioned. From 1750s onwards large houses were being built
without a rustic, and having the principal floor on the ground was
becoming commonplace. Basildon, with its piano nobile, large portico
denoting status, and main facade falsely elongated by fenestrated
walls, was never innovative architecture, but, like many other houses,
was built to bolster the status of its owner, the newly rich Sir
Francis Sykes, keen for a political career.
Basildon is not one of the great houses of Britain; houses of similar
style and size exist the length of the country. Neither is the mansion
of great architectural importance. Its architect, described as "one of
the most prolific of the 18th century" is far better known for his
works elsewhere. Neither is Basildon remarkable for its contents.
While it has some fine plasterwork, its contents, though high quality
antiques, are not of the finest museum quality and its art collection
consists mostly of mediocre paintings of the 17th and 18th century
Italian schools, bought for their size and suitability for the
decoration of the interiors rather than for their quality.
Instead, Basildon is remarkable and notable for its survival against
all odds in the 20th century. At a time when it was near ruin and its
destruction seemed inevitable, it was saved. Since 1900, over 1,000
country houses, many of far greater architectural importance than
Basildon, have been demolished. The destruction of many of these
houses began as a trickle just prior to World War I, but became a
tidal wave in 1955, when one house was demolished every five days.
The destruction did not halt until 1975, by which time the
Iliffe's restoration work at Basildon was almost completed.
In 1978, the Iliffes gave the house, together with its park and a
large endowment for its upkeep, to the National Trust, enabling the
house to provide a paying public with not only an insight to the
interior of a grand house during both the 18th and 19th centuries, but
also a rare view of how such houses were adapted to suit a more modern
life-style during the last half of the 20th century. It was Lord and
Lady Iliffe's wish that "The National Trust will protect it and its
park for future generations to enjoy."
In addition to being open to the public, the house has also served as
a filming set. It was used as the location for Netherfield Park in the
2005 film Pride & Prejudice, and more recently the 2016 film
"Pride and Prejudice and Zombies," as a location for the 2006 movie
Marie-Antoinette, and as Lord and Lady Radley's house in the 2009 film
Dorian Gray. The interiors of Basildon stood in for the Crawley
family's London mansion, Grantham House, on the series Downton
The Basildon Room, The Waldorf Astoria Hotel, New York
detail from the Basildon Room.
mantelpiece of the Basildon Room.
ceiling of the Basildon Room.
^ a b Lady Iliffe writing in Basildon Park, p4.
^ Elizabeth Montagu, the Queen of the Bluestockings: Her
Correspondence from 1720 to 1761, Volume 1
^ a b c Pugh, p34.
^ English Heritage Register of Parks and Gardens of
^ Fane de Salis MSS
^ a b c d e Sykes, Oxford DNB.
^ Pugh, p36
^ Pugh, p36.
^ a b Pugh, p37.
^ Historic England. "St Bartholomews Church (241309)". PastScape.
Retrieved 2 July 2010.
^ Pugh, p24.
^ Pugh, p ?
^ Pugh, p39.
^ a b c Pugh, p42.
^ Pugh. p42.
^ The Times, Tuesday, 16 July 1929; pg. 16; Issue 45256
^ a b Pugh, p2.
^ Yvonne Hackenbroch, The Untermyer Collection: Furniture 1958, fig.
^ The Dining-Room chimneypiece and decorative paintings and the
doorcases are noted in John Harris, Moving Rooms: The Trade in
Architectural Salvages (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007:235.
^ A doorcase from the "Drawing Room", noted in Quincy Lee, "Catalogue
of British Old Master Paintings in the Collection of the Louisiana
State University Museum of Art" (on-line text).
^ a b Pugh, p43.
^ a b c Pugh, p14.
^ Probate, George Samuel Ferdinando. Ancestry.com. England &
Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations),
1858-1966, 1973-1995[database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com
Operations, Inc., 2010. Surname Range : Eaborn-Gysin, 1950.
^ a b Lady Iliffe, Basildon Park, p4.
^ The Royal Institution of Great Britain Archived 22 June 2010 at the
^ a b Pugh, p6.
^ Pugh, p6, mentions this speculation as "probable."
^ Musson, p76, explains the concept of such neoclassical facades.
^ a b Girouard, p206.
^ Pugh, p28.
^ Girouard, p212, explains this movement.
^ Pugh, p10.
^ Pugh, p12.
^ Girouard, pp194–195.
^ Girouard, p199.
^ Musson, p98, explains the 18th-century staircase.
^ Nilewater, a pale tint of cyan.
Patrick Baty Basildon Park, Berkshire. A Report on the Decorative
Schemes following an Examination of a Number of Elements in the Great
Staircase. 11 April 2009.
^ Pugh, p22, suggests the curtains were made for the Grand Cabinet at
^ a b Pugh, p16.
^ Girouard, p151.
^ Hall, Oxford DNB.
^ Carr is best known for his work in the north of England, in
particular Harewood House.
^ a b c "PAST EXHIBITIONS: SAVE Britain's Heritage 1975-2005: 30 Years
of Campaigning, 3 November 2005 – 12 February 2006". Victoria and
Albert Museum. Archived from the original on 25 August 2006.
^ Lady Iliffe writing in Basildon Park, p 4.
Downton Abbey at Basildon Park". National Trust. Archived from the
original on 25 October 2015. Retrieved 12 October 2015.
Girouard, Mark (1978). Life in the English Country House. Yale
University Press. ISBN 0-300-02273-5.
Musson, Jeremy (2007). How to Read a Country House. London: Random
House. ISBN 978-0-09-190076-2.
Charles Pugh, Tracey Avery (2002). Basildon Park. The National Trust.
The Royal Institution of Great Britain John Carr (1723–1807).
Accessed 29 June 2010.
SAVE Britain’s Heritage 1975–2005: 30 Years of Campaigning
Accessed 1 July 2010.
Obituary of Renee, Lady Iliffe Published in the Daily Telegraph 15
September 2007. Accessed 1 July 2010.
Woman behind the restoration of
Basildon Park dies at home at the age
of 90 Accessed 1 July 2010.
John Sykes, 'Sykes, Sir Francis, first baronet (bap. 1732, d.
1804)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, online edn, Oxford
University Press, September 2004 accessed 2 July 2010
Ivan Hall, 'Carr, John (1723–1807)’, Oxford Dictionary of National
Biography, online edn, Oxford University Press, September 2004
accessed 2 July 2010
Clive Williams, OBE. A brief history of Basildon,
Berkshire accessed 5
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