Private Houses

Mar 13th, 2011 | | Private Houses | Residences | No Comments

Kiddington Hall, Oxfordshire



Kiddington Hall was built in 1673 by Sir Henry Browne, whose family lived there for generations.

In 1740, Sir Henry’s grandson hired Capability Brown to design the park and gardens and carve out a lake from the stream through the property. The landscaped gardens were Brown’s first commission in Oxfordshire. He was regarded by many as the greatest exponent of naturalistic landscape gardening, and was called “Capability” Brown, because he would tell his clients that their estates had great “capability” for landscape improvement.

Brown exploited the ‘capability’ of 170 gardens in England, including Blenheim, Harewood House and Bowood. He began work at Kiddington Hall in 1739, at the age of 23, and it was one of his earliest commissions. He said, “I will make it so agreeable that no one will wish to look beyond it”. He was praised for ‘perfecting nature’, but some said his work was a ‘feeble imitation’ of nature. Sir William Chambers, who considered himself a garden authority as well, complained that Brown’s grounds “differ very little from common fields, so closely is nature copied in most of them”.

Copperas wash on the main facade


Kiddington Hall was restored in 1850 by Sir Charles Barry, who designed the Houses of Parliament, and remodelled the house in his trademark Italianate style. He built a magnificent new stable courtyard to the north, and created a formal terraced gardens to the south and west, looking over Brown’s park. The Victorian orangery was added at the same time.

In 1858 the house was occupied by Henry Lomax Gaskell, the High Sheriff of Oxfordshire.

The door to the dovecote displays the “Penrice Effect” encountered on so many 19th century garden buildings


In 1950 Sir Lawrence Robson, founder of the accountancy company Robson Rhodes, bought Kiddington Hall, and on his death in 1982 his son Maurice inherited the house. In September 2009 he placed the Estate on the market for £42 million. The house was bought by the present owner in Autumn 2010.

Patrick was employed to resolve some technical matters in the house. While there he was interested to see further evidence of two nineteenth century phenomena – a) the use of a copperas wash on the external stone facade (he has written about this in connection with Basildon Park and other buildings) and b) the curious faded blue colour on some external doors that he has termed the “Penrice effect” after an estate in South Wales where he first encountered it.




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