Making a Palladian Country House: Trafalgar Park and Its First Owners

Trafalgar Park (formerly Standlynch), Wilts., England
Trafalgar Park (formerly Standlynch), Wilts., England

Trafalgar Park, once known as Standlynch Park (sometimes Standlinch or Standlinck), is a triumph of English Palladianism and neoclassicism. Just southeast of Salisbury on the east side of the Salisbury Avon, its prospect, overlooks both the river and the medieval city. Standlynch’s first owner was Sir Peter Vandeput, Bt. (1688-1748), a London merchant of Netherlandish descent. He was a man of fashion and friends with Alexander Pope (1688-1744).

Vandeput commissioned the architect John James (1673-1746) to design the house in the early 1720s, and the house was begun in 1725.[1] James was the translator of the 1708 edition of Claude Perrault’s Treatise on the Five Orders of Architecture as well as Andrea Pozzo’s Rules and Examples of Perspective, proper for Painters and Architects (1707, 2nd ed. 1725) and Dezallier d’Argenville’s The Theory and Practice of Gardening (1712, 2nd ed. 1728, 3rd ed. 1743).

 

Trafalgar Park (formerly Standlynch), Wilts., England
Trafalgar Park (formerly Standlynch), Wilts., England

An assistant to Christopher Wren (1632-1723) and Nicholas Hawksmoor (1661-1736), James’s work has often been overlooked by architectural historians. Howard Colvin claimed that “James was a competent architect, but he lacked inventive fancy.”[2] However John Harris’s more recent assessment suggests that James’s work may, in fact, be worth revisiting.[3] In fact, James was more important than scholars have often assumed. He worked for the Henry, 9th Earl of Pembroke (1693-1749), at Wilton House and studied Inigo Jones’s (1573-1652) work at Greenwich, making measured drawings of the Queen’s House.[4] As an early Palladian, he helped set a style for English architecture that remained dominant for much of the century. In fact, as early as 1723, he completed Wricklemarsh, completed for Sir Gregory Page, 2nd Bt. (1695-1775). Robert Sanders (1727-83) would later describe the house as “one of the finest houses in England, resembling a royal palace rather than a residence of a private gentleman.”[5]

John James. Wricklemarsh, London. 1723, house completed 1724-7, demolished 1787. Vitruvius Britannicus, IV (plate 61). British Museum P&D 1881,0611.174.
John James. Wricklemarsh, London. 1723, house completed 1724-7, demolished 1787. Vitruvius Britannicus, IV (plate 61). British Museum P&D 1881,0611.174.

Construction at Standlynch was completed in 1733. Like Wricklemarsh, the house was originally modeled as a Palladian villa, without the wings that transformed the house’s prospect in the 1760s. Likewise, the portico, which now defines its entrance, was absent in the original design. The ballustrade was not added to the house until William Butterfield’s work in 1859. And, the formal gardens in the rear were another nineteenth-century addition.

The grand entrance hall, with its high-relief plasterwork and coped ceiling, was likely designed by James. It follows the popular Palladian villa “cube room” format found in contemporary construction at Marble Hill, Sudbrook Park, Wilton House, and Houghton Hall. Jonesian in inspiration, James paid homage to Inigo Jones in a portrait relief embedded in the hall fireplace’s over-mantel. The plaster portrait of Inigo Jones is modeled on Anthony Van Dyck’s (1599-1641) portrait sketches, now at Chatsworth and printed during the seventeenth century. The fireplace itself derived from the designs of Jones. 

John James. Trafalgar Park, Cube Hall, South Entrance. ca. 1730-33 (left).  Isaac Ware after Inigo Jones. Designs of Inigo Jones and Others (1733), plates 2 and 32. (right)
John James. Trafalgar Park, Cube Hall, South Entrance. ca. 1730-33 (left). Isaac Ware after Inigo Jones. Designs of Inigo Jones and Others (1733), plates 2 and 32. (right)

 

Robert van Voerst after Anthony Van Dyck. Inigo Jones. before 1641. From Icones Principum Virorum. British Museum P&D R,1a.146. Inscription: "CELEBERRIMUS UIR INIGO IONES PRÆFECTUS ARCHITECTURÆ / MAGNÆ BRITTANIÆ REGIS ETC. / Ant.van Dÿck pinxit / Mart. vanden Enden excudit Cum priuilegio.”
Robert van Voerst after Anthony Van Dyck. Inigo Jones. before 1641. From Icones Principum Virorum. British Museum P&D R,1a.146. Inscription: “CELEBERRIMUS UIR INIGO IONES PRÆFECTUS ARCHITECTURÆ / MAGNÆ BRITTANIÆ REGIS ETC. / Ant.van Dÿck pinxit / Mart. vanden Enden excudit Cum priuilegio.”

The designs for Standlynch reveals something about its little-remembered owner. What Vandeput and James planned was an architectural program that linked him — as a middling merchant — to the gentry. While Standlynch may have been a villa in formal Palladian terms, it was no diminutive house. Few early eighteenth-century country houses were on the scale of a Blenheim or Castle Howard. The villa was increasingly understood as an appropriate style to serve as a seat of power for the aristocracy, the gentry, and the middling orders alike.[6] Stylistically, Vandeput and James were self-consciously rejecting the baroque and participating in the Burlingtonian Palladian program, associating themselves with the leading edge of fashion and quite possibly the Hanoverian succession and Whig oligarchy.

Sir George Vandeput (satirical print). 1750. Etching and engraving. British Museum P&D. 1868,0808.3901
Sir George Vandeput (satirical print). 1750. Etching and engraving. British Museum P&D. 1868,0808.3901

When Sir Peter Vandeput died in 1748, the property passed to his son, Sir George Vandeput, 2nd Bt. (1729-84). Sir George spent much of his inheritance on a series of divisive elections and lawsuits in an attempt to unseat Granville Leveson Gower, Viscount Trentham (1721-1803, Earl Gower after 1754 and Marquess of Stafford after 1786), the Westminster MP supported by the John Russell, 4th Duke of Bedford (1710-71).[7]  Why the High Court of Chancery issued an order to auction Standlynch on 5 November 1751 is unclear, but it probably had to do with settling the trust rather than extreme financial malaise on the part of Sir George Vandeput.[8]

The new owner of Standlynch was William Young (1724/5-1788), a sugar planter with plantations in Antigua, St. Vincent, and Tobago where he enslaved 896 Africans and people of African descent.[9] Because of his central position in the Caribbean slave trade and plantation economy, Young had plenty of resources to invest in furnishing the house. Sir Horace Mann, Bt. (1706-86) described Young as one of the nouveau riche on a Grand Tour in 1752:

… a roaring rich West Indian who talks of his money and swaggers his gait as if both his coat pockets were full of it. He buys pictures upon his own judgment, and he declares it to be better than anybody’s.[10]

Young’s high opinion of his connoisseurship may have come from his relationship with the painter and scientist Benjamin Wilson (1721-88). Wilson stayed with Young in 1747 and received gifts, including the works of Francis Bacon and a reflecting telescope. In exchange, Wilson completed several paintings for Young.[11]

Young returned from the grand tour with several works, which give us some sense of how Standlynch may have been decorated. Among his acquisitions was a Danae, sold to him as a Titian by the dealer Ignazio Hugford (1703-78).[12] Unfortunately, for Young, there was so much overpainting that the artist and connoisseur Anton Raphael Mengs (1728-79) denied its originality, a claim to which Young betrayed his own lack of judgment by saying, “[then] he must be the most damned ignorant fellow in the world, ‘for I will assert and lay any man a thousand pounds that it is much better than the Venus in the Tribune.’”[13] Young was more successful at acquiring four paintings by Richard Wilson (1714-82).[14]

Young’s connection with Wilson, a teacher to Johann Zoffany (1733-1810), may have led him to commission Zoffany to complete a Van Dyckian styled family portrait sometime between 1766 and 1770.

Johan Zoffany. The Family of Sir William Young. ca. 1766-70. oil on canvas. 114.3 x 167.8cm. Walker Art Gallery. WAG2395
Johan Zoffany. The Family of Sir William Young. ca. 1766-70. oil on canvas. 114.3 x 167.8cm. Walker Art Gallery. WAG2395

While the piece never hung in Standlynch, it nevertheless embodied the pretensions of its owner. Its theme of familial harmony suggested the founding of a dynasty, and set at the portico of a country estate, it reflected the lands and wealth of its owner. Zoffany’s inclusion of a black slave, dressed in satin and a pearl earing, was an attempt both to reference Young’s plantations and his ascent into the Caribbean’s political elite. Just as its sitters were in masquerade dress, the painting itself was fancy dress up for a country house masquerade that sought to elide the devastation of imperialism, enslavement, and plantation labor.

Young, like other budding collectors, was somewhat profligate in his spending for Standlynch. Horace Mann noted that he invested £3000 in an organ and £40,000 on experimental electrical equipment. These expenditures were no doubt representative of his habits, and he left his son with £110,000 in debts upon his death in 1788.[15]

Young’s ownership of Standlynch did not last long. In May 1764, King George III appointed him as “Receiver of all monies arising by the sale of lands in the Islands of Grenada, the Grenadines, Dominico, St. Vincents, and Tobago,” which were acquired from France during the 7 Years’ War. He sold off the contents of the house in a series of auctions later that year. His entire library, his sculptures, “an Artificial Magnet capable of lifting an 100 lb. Weight,” and a self-playing organ were dispersed – not the first, and nor nearly the last time, that Standlynch has been emptied of its owner’s possessions.[16]


[1] Sally Jeffery, “An Architect for Standlynch House,” Country Life 179, no. 4617 (February 1986): 44–45.

[2] Howard Colvin, ed., Dictionary of British Architects 1600-1840, 3rd ed. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995), 452.

[3] John Harris, The Palladian Revival: Lord Burlington, His Villa and Garden at Chiswick (Yale University Press, 1994), 13

[4] Howard Colvin, Catalogue of Architectural Drawings of the 18th and 19th Centuries in the Library of Worcester College, Oxford (1964), no. 210, fig. 122.

[5] Nathaniel Spencer, pseud. [Robert Sanders], The Complete English Traveller: or, A New Survey and Description of England and Wales (London, 1771), 174.

[6] This was especially the case by the 1750s. See Giles Worsley, Classical Architecture in Britain: The Heroic Age (New Haven and London: Paul Mellon Centre BA, 1995), 226–28.

[7] Sir Peter Vandeput’s political sympathies are obscure, but he seem to have favored the so-called “Whig Supremacy.” On the other hand, Sir George Vandeput allied himself with the Jacobites in the 1749 election.

[8] London Gazette, no. 9108, 5 November 1751.

[9] ODNB.

[10] Mann to Walpole, 31 August 1752, Walpole Correspondence 20, 330.

[11] Richard Vickerman Taylor, Biographia Leodiensis, (London, 1865), 642-3.

[12] Mann to Walpole, 31 August 1752, Walpole Correspondence 20, 330. On Hugford’s dealing, Cole and Middledorf, “Masaccio, Lippi, or Hugford?,” Burlington Magazine 113, no. 822 (1971): 500-5, 7.

[13] Mann to Walpole, 31 August 1752, Walpole Correspondence 20, p. 331.

[14] W.G. Constable, “Richard Wilson: Some Pentimenti,” Burlington Magazine 96, no. 614 (1954): 139-45, 147.

[15] Mann to Walpole, 31 August 1752, Walpole Correspondence, 20, 327, 330-337; ODNB.

[16] Lloyd’s Evening Post, no. 1091, 6 July 1764.

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