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Houghton Hall, Norfolk
18th century
Built by Sir Robert Walpole, Britain's first Prime Minister


Houghton Hall was built 1722-35 by Sir Robert Walpole, the 'Prime Minister' of George I and II. The design was started by James Gibbs but taken over by the arch-Palladian Colen Campbell. However, Cambell was forced to keep Gibbs' un-Palladian domes although he wanted pedimented towers on the plan of Wilton.


Click on photos below to enlarge
Notes in italics from North-West and South Norfolk by Nikolaus Pevsner
1962, revised by Bill Wilson 1999, Yale University Press.  

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The house is outwardly of Yorkshire stone, of beautiful golden ashlar masonry. It is an oblong, of nine by five bays, with a rusticated ground floor, a tall 'piano nobile', and a lower second floor. In addition there are, on the pattern of Palladio's villas, two service blocks connected with the main block by quadrant colonnades (more below). The main block has four projecting corner erections capped with the controversial stone domes. These domes have no parallels among Georgian Mansions. ... They add a continental warmth and opulence to the cool perfection of the rest.
The entrance (E) side has smooth blocked surrounds to all main windows, a feature not used by Campbell but favoured by Gibbs, e.g. at St Martin-in-the-Fields, at exactly the same time, to the extent that they are generally referred to as 'Gibbs surrounds'. This treatment is also given to the Venetian windows in the angle pavilions ... The centre windows have alternating open segmental and straight pediments. ...
The N and S sides are plainer. An oddity is the surrounds of the upper windows which have tripartite keyblocks with flat scrolls and a rolled scroll to the sill. The design appears on Gibbs's elevations, and is quite alien to the Palladian purity of Campbell. 


 
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Close-ups of dome and middle window. Above the middle window are reclining statues of Britannia and Neptune by Rysbrack. ...


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The garden side (W) is altogether more Palladian in spirit ...As built, the facade has an attached centre portico of giant Ionic columns and had outer stairs ... (that were) demolished by the third earl, but were replaced in 1973 by a rusticated staircase in two arms.  Simpler treatment to the windows of the piano nobile, only the centre one pedimented. Rich carving in the portico pediment, and three statues on top of the pediment.


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The connecting links are of quadrant shape only to the garden. To the entrance they are dog-legged or L-shaped. They have coupled Tuscan columns on this side, single ones in the quadrant.   


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The service ranges, which on balance are more likely to be Campbell, are of seven bays and have an internal courtyard. To the E they have a three-bay pediment and a cupola behind, to the garden and also N and S arched ground-floor windows separated by attached Ionic columns with alternating blocking.


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The stables form a big quadrangle. They are faced with carstone outside, with brick inside. The front is thirteen bays wide. The ground-floor windows are lunette-shaped. The centre has an arched gateway and a top pediment. On the corners are polygonal turrets. ...
The grounds of Houghton were originally laid out by Bridgeman.


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S of the South Gates the Village, begun in 1729. It consists of two rows of five houses each. The houses are of four bays and two storeys, whitewashed, and with pyramid roofs.


Interior may be seen on Houghton Hall Website

Map


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