Why does Erle Stoke Park intrigue me? Perhaps because it no longer exists.
Joshua Smith‘s children were already born when his family (in a letter, delightfully referred to as “Mama and her saucy girls“!) moved to this country estate. So to find a description about the interior, c1801, is such a great thrill!
Slowly, this building arises from the ashes, especially as the Royal Society of British Architects (RIBA) has several “elevations,” drawn for Joshua Smith. My favorite is the “Perspective View of the Hall“. And with that “view” in mind, we’ll enter the house with the writer of The Beauties of Wiltshire. Let’s run to catch up with the couple walking the path to the front door.
“The old house at Stoke Park, which was built close on the edge of a small stream at the foot of the hill, was taken down, and a new one erected on an eminence. This is built of fine white free-stone, and was completed from the designs of George Stewart, Esq. …. [It] is a monument of praise to the talents of its architect. It was begun in 1786, and finished in five years. The house and offices extend from east to west three hundred and fifty-six feet in front; in the centre of which is a Doric colonnade, which opens into a very handsome hall, forty feet in length by thirty-two feet in breadth. It is ornamented with a screen of six fluted Corinthian columns, and communicates to the drawing-room, dining-room, library, &c.”
I have indeed come across several book (for sale) which — from their bookplates — once graced the library at Erlestoke Park, Wiltshire. Although I can’t find a picture of Joshua’s bookplate, there does exist this description:
“a book-late of Joshua Smith, Stokepark, quartered as follows:–
1. A saltire, &c. as given.
2. A ship at sea, closed-reefed.
3. Azure, a panther (?), sejant.
4. Or, a crescent. Motto: “Marte et ingenio.”
Compare that description to this hatchment:
“The first of these apartments is thirty feet by twenty-four, and is ornamented with several pictures, copied from the most celebrated masters. Two large mirrors in this apartment, being placed directly opposite to each other, present a kind of optical delusion to the spectator who stands in the centre.”
LOVE the idea of an “optical delusion“!
“The dining-room to the east, is thirty-six feet by twenty-four, which communicates with the library facing the north. This elegant and interesting apartment is forty feet in length by twenty-six feet in width, and contains an invaluable assemblage of choice books, the chief part of which are in the most handsome bindings.”
And yes, all the Erle Stoke girls – Maria, Eliza, Augusta, Emma – LOVED books.
“West of this is the breakfast-room, measuring twenty-six feet by twenty-four. This apartment is ornamented with a large landscape by Loutherbourg, whose bold, spirited, and grand compositions, cannot fail to arrest the attention of every admirer of the picturesque, and the sublime in painting.”
“These, and a dressing-room, twenty-four feet by sixteen, constitute the ground suite of apartments, all of which are sixteen feet in height.
The first floor contains several bed-chambers and dressing-rooms, to which the access is through a gallery, remarkable for the singularity and beauty of its architecture; over this are many good rooms in the attic, and the offices are proportionably numerous and well distributed.”
So, while we’re upstairs, among the “bed-chambers,” let’s grab a good book and snuggle for a nice night’s rest. It’s been a long day…
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