Let’s peek inside Stoke Park, 1798

August 28, 2013 at 9:57 pm (estates, history, people, places, research) (, , , , )

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!

earlstoke_jpneale-1822

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:

hatchment_JoshuaSmith-bonhams2012

“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.”

loutherbourg_byGainsborough_Dulwich

view Loutherbourg works at BBC “Your Paintings”

“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…

* * *

blog posts on related subjects

Part I: Erle Stoke Park, 1798

Erle Stoke Park: The Well-to-do Party!

Erlestoke – home of the “energetic” Joshua Smith

1795 – ‘I fear much we shall be invaded’

Sarah Smith – wife of Joshua Smith, of Erle Stoke Park, Wilts

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Need Help: Susannah Smith, nee Mackworth Praed

May 1, 2012 at 2:02 pm (diaries, history, news, people, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

I have been thinking of letters and diaries these last couple of weeks. Some diaries are in the 1810s; others propel me forward to the 1840s; and the letters have been as early as the 1790s!

Today I want to make a special appeal to anyone who might have knowledge of letters written by or to Susannah Smith, the wife of Thomas Smith of Bersted Lodge.

Susannah and Thomas married in 1800; Thomas was a brother of Joshua Smith of Erle Stoke Park, so he was Augusta (Mamma) Smith’s Uncle and therefore a great-uncle to my Emma.

This close-up is from a miniature that recently sold at auction. How can you resist this face?!?

Susannah had a twin-sister: Arabella, Countess of Mayo. She became a lady-in-waiting.

Knowing well that LETTERS were the bread-and-butter of life then, I suspect Susannah’s letters, at the very least to and from her sister, but probably also to others in the Smith’s extended family, must exist. Mrs Thomas Smith was of the generation who visited Tring Park to stay with Mr and Mrs Drummond Smith – and also visit Roehampton, where resided Eliza Gosling (Mrs William Gosling), sister to Mary, Mrs Drummond Smith. How wonderful it would be to read comments – even slightly negative ones! – about my Smiths & Goslings.

Even hints to possible whereabouts of some correspondence would be welcome! Published sources as much as manuscript sources.

* * *

UPDATE: it was stupid of me not to include more information on Susannah’s sister and brother-in-law. The Earl of Mayo had the familial name of BOURKE. Some places associated with the family include Naas and Palmerstown. The Praed family were also related to the Shore family, which produced the delightful publication The Journal of Emily Shore.

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Erlestoke – home of the “energetic” Joshua Smith

July 20, 2011 at 7:25 pm (books, estates, travel) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

The following is from an 1853 volume of Burke’s A Visitation of the Seats and Arms of the Noblemen and Gentlemen of Great Britain, vol 2:

“ERLESTOKE PARK, Wiltshire, about seven miles south-west of Devizes, the property of Mrs. Watson Taylor, by whom it is let on a yearly lease to Lord Broughton de Gyfford. This estate, together with that of Eddington [sic], where formerly stood an old family mansion of the Dukes of Bolton, belonged at one time to Peter Delmé, Esq., and of him it was purchased about the year 1780, by Joshua Smith, Esq., M.P. for Devizes, who so completely altered the whole domain, as scarcely to leave it a single trait of its original character. The fine old trees in the park may be said to be almost the only remains of the bygone period. The pleasure grounds, the plantations, all sprang up under the hand of the energetic proprietor; even a new village started into life, like a second Aladdin’s palace. The old house at Stoke Park, which was built close on the edge of a small stream at the foot of the hill, was pulled down, and a new mansion erected on the brow of a steep knoll, or eminence, partly embosomed in noble forest trees, and partly open to distant prospects. The building, composed of a fine white free-stone, was begun in 1786, and finished in five years. Together with the offices, it extends from east to west three hundred and fifty-six feet in front, in the centre of which is a Doric colonnade, opening into a very handsome hall, forty feet in length, and two-and-thirty feet in breadth. It is ornamented with a screen of six fluted Corinthian columns, and communicates with the drawing-room, dining-room, library, and other apartments. The first of these is thirty feet by twenty-four, its length being apparently enlarged, from the effect produced by two mirrors, placed at the opposite ends of the apartment.

The dining-room, to the east, communicates with the library, which faces the north, the former being thirty-six feet by twenty-four, while the latter is forty feet long, and twenty-six feet wide. West of this is the breakfast-room, which, with a large dressing-room, constitutes the ground suite of apartments.

In this noble mansion lived the family of the Smiths, in a manner worthy of its splendour; but they have now all descended to the grave, or are scattered and dispersed. In 1820, the executors of the late Simon Taylor, Esq., bought the manor and estate of Erle Stoke, with those of Edington and Coulston, for two hundred and fifty thousand pounds. They were settled upon Mrs. Watson Taylor, as sole heiress of her uncle, on the death of her only brother, Sir Simon B. Taylor (who died unmarried in the year 1815), the whole, with other landed property, being entailed on the heirs male and female in succession, of George Watson Taylor, Esq., M.P., and his wife, the above lady. Many large additions have been made to these extensive domains.

The present park and pleasure grounds consist of about six hundred acres, distinguished by a great variety of surface, with bold eminences, narrow, winding valleys, and wood and water in abundance. About a mile to the south of the House is the northern boundary of Salisbury Plain, presenting a lofty ridge, that extends in an undulating and irregular line, from west to east, for the distance of several miles. Towards the north this plain slopes rapidly, abounding in deep romantic dells, that are mostly covered with a thin turf; but on the Erle Stoke estate, it is clothed with thick and extensive plantations of firs, beech, larch, and other indigenous timber. From one of these hollows rises an abundant spring of fine water, that meanders through a secluded pleasure ground, and in places expands into small lakes, having in its passage over the ridges of rock formed several beautiful cascades. Upon reaching the park, the accumulated waters swell into a broad and noble sheet, that from the north and west sides of the House presents a most pleasing feature in the landscape.

The approach and entrance to the mansion were formerly on the south; but on that side, a few years ago, a flower garden was laid out, and enclosed from the park by a light, high, wire fence; a new road was also made, and an entrance portico erected, on the north side of the House. Other improvements have been effected, the only change for the worse being the dispersion of the excellent collection of pictures made by Mr. Watson Taylor, some of which present very choice specimens of ancient and modern art.”

What a fascinating find! It’s so easy to imagine young Augusta, when she lived here, getting her letter from Charles Smith which caused such “agitation” in early diary entries in 1798. Sadly, Erle Stoke/Erlestoke burned — as little now exists of Joshua’s house as he left when building his home.

Would LOVE to hear from anyone with further information — or illustrations — of Erle Stoke Park!

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Erle Stoke Park: The Well-to-do Party!

July 17, 2011 at 11:38 am (entertainment, estates, news, people, places, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

So much news, so much news — but I simply MUST post and share the following “find”!

Thanks to an Ancestry user, the following was posted — the Miss Smith cited can only be AUNT EMMA! (All her other sisters were married.) Emma would have been about 53-years-old. Joshua Smith had died in 1819 and the estate sold to the Watson Taylors, with the four Erle Stoke park daughters dividing the proceeds, by 1822 (if I recollect correctly).

August 20, 1827
Some Selected Reports from The Salisbury and Winchester Journal

Fete Champetre at Erle-Stoke Park.

On Tuesday last Mr.and Mrs.Watson Taylor gave one of the most splendid fetes ever witnessed in this county. The invitations were principally confined to Devizes and its neighbourhood, but many respectable families from different parts of the county attended; and the number of persons present could not altogether be less than seven hundred. The gates of the park were opened at two o’clock and the company began to arrive. The carriages drew up at the front door, and after passing through a spacious entrance-hall (the butler announcing the names as they entered) the company was received in the library in the most polite and affable manner by both Mrs.and Mr.Watson Taylor. They then passed into a beautiful flower-garden, where, after promenading for some time, they proceeded to the pleasure grounds. The excellent arrangement of the walks in these grounds (extending over 600 acres) and the order and care in which they are kept, excited the highest admiration. In different parts were stationed bands of music.

About three quarters of a mile from the house, and on an ample lawn, gently rising above the water which winds its course through the pleasure grounds into the park, was a temporary erection, 70 feet square, and of proportionate altitude. This erection was neatly thatched, and the pillars supporting it tastefully decorated with laurels and evergreens; within, and on the turf, four long tables, at which 500 persons could sit, were laid; and from the variety and fanciful arrangement of the viands, they had a most pleasing appearance. At a short distance, a room between 60 and 70 feet in length, with an excellent flooring , was erected for dancing, supported by columns decorated with wreaths of flowers and evergreens, forming a beautiful arcade, with a piazza on either side. In front of these rooms, on the lawn, was the principal promenade before dinner, and it is impossible to imagine a more imposing and fascinating scene. No one could view, without delight and rapture, the numerous groups of lovely females gracefully parading to and fro upon the lawn; whilst a few parties perambulated the various walks. Soon after 4 o’clock, the company repaired to the dinner-room, where there was an ample supply of the best viands, the choicest wines, and all the delicacies of the season. Confectionery, in great variety, was provided under the direction of Mr. Kemp, of South Audley-street, whose arrangements evinced great taste and judgement. The room for dancing was, in the mean time, lighted with variegated lamps, formed in festoons; and at half-past five o’clock quadrille parties were arranged, and quadrilles danced with grace and softened animation, to the music of an excellent quadrille band from Bath. Other parties separated to a distant part of the lawn, where the more rural country dance was kept up with great spirit; but the greater part of the company indulged in the pleasures of the promenade.

Throughout the evening, ices and refreshments of every description were distributed in abundance. Variegated lamps forming two large stars, and various festoons in different parts, illuminated the walk leading from the ball-room to the gate at the entrance of the village of Stoke, at which place the carriages were brought up : and it was between nine and ten o’clock before the great bulk of the company thought of separating.

The day will never be forgotten by those who were present; the extreme affability and politeness of Mr.and Mrs.Watson Taylor excited an impression that can never be effaced.

Silk hats, ornamented with flowers or feathers, were generally worn by the ladies; amongst the company were observed, the Hon. Captain, Mrs., and Miss Bouverie; the Hon. and Rev. Canon, and Mrs. Bouverie; the Hon. Mrs. Harris; Sir J.D. Astley, bart. M.P. and Miss Astley; Sir Edward and Lady Poore, and 2 Mr. Poores; Mr. and Mrs. Estcourt and family; Mrs. and the 2 Misses Pearse; Mr. and Mrs.Clutterbuck; Mr., Mrs. and the Misses Locke; Mr. Phipps, Mr. E. and Miss Phipps; Mr. and Mrs. L. Phipps, Mr. and Mrs. Scott, with Miss Jephson; Mr. and Mrs. Salmon, Col. Wroughton, Capts. Montague, Capt. and Mrs. Macdonald, Capt. Tayler, Miss Smith (the daughter of the former proprietor of Erle Stoke Park), Mr. and Mrs. T. Moore, the Rev. Mr. and Mrs. Bowles, the Rev. Mr. and Mrs. Fisher; Mrs. Archdeacon Fisher; Mr. and Mrs. Ernle Warriner, of Conock; Mrs. and Miss Puget (the widow and daughter of the Admiral of that name); the two Misses Penruddocke; Mrs. and Miss Biggs of Stockton; Misses Salisbury, Col. and Mrs. A’Court, Mr. and Miss Ludlow of Heywood-house; Rev. Dr. and two Mr. and Miss Starkeys; two Mr. Awdrys, and Miss Awdry, of Notton; Rev. Jeremiah; Rev. A. and Mrs. Smith, of Old Park; Mr. and Mrs. Collings, of Sandridge; Dr. Headley, the Mayor of Devizes, and his family; and almost every respectable inhabitant of the town, with several families from Warminster, Melksham, Lavington, &c. Mr. Watson Taylor, with his accustomed attention, sent into Devizes on the following morning, to ascertain the safe return of his friends.

Between 40 and 50 pair of horses were ordered from the Bear Inn alone, upon the above occasion; and the excellent arrangement of the carriages, and the personal attention of Mr.E.Parsons, reflects great credit on him.

***

How must Aunt Emma have felt, revisiting her old home? Or, had she returned time and again in the past decade? Time may tell, as more primary material surfaces – especially about the movements of Aunt Emma.

And what about our Host, Mr Watson Taylor? Ah… That I can more easily answer.

The following comes from Art of England (1930) and has a section on the “Sale at Erlestoke” in 1832:

This [sale], however, was forced upon Watson Taylor, who, after long enjoying a princely income, had failed with liabilities of £450,000 owing to the depreciation of his property in the West Indies. The pictures and furniture of his town-house in Grafton Street came under the hammer in June, and on July 9th Robins commenced a twenty-days’ sale at Erlestoke Park, which is about six miles from Devizes. For the preceding fortnight everything had been on view to the buyers of the ten-shilling catalogues of the four thousand lots. These catalogues were compiled by W.H. Pyne, the artist, and were said to be the bulkiest publications of their kind ever issued. During the days when the house was open to the public special coaches were run by the hotel-keepers from Devizes and Salisbury to Erlestoke and the sale caused as much sensation in Wiltshire as that at Fonthill nine years earlier. Beckford, who came from Bath to see the house and its contents, declared that they exceeded Fonthill in magnificence, and expressed a wish to buy a Paul Potter — one of the finest pictures in the Erlestoke collection…. At Erlestoke, Robins gave his word that everything offered belonged to Mr Watson Taylor and that no reserve price was placed on any of the lost in the sale.

Sir Robert Peel, who was very much interested in Watson Taylor’s pictures, came down with Lady Peel from London to Devizes and stayed a night at the Black Bear (the inn once kept by Sir Thomas Lawrence’s father) in order that they might go over the house early on the following morning, before the admission of the public. A similar privilege was granted to Wilkie…”

Without a reserve, some of the items went for much less than hoped, for instance: “Two thousand guineas were expected for a pair of console tables, inlaid with precious stone and mounted in ormolu, but they were knocked down for five hundred and eighty guineas to Hume, the dealer, who had sold them to Watson Taylor…”

(Some things still change hands: Bonhams has had some Watson Taylor’s furnishing for sale recently.)

***

Read The Bear Hotel‘s history (“Wiltshire’s historic gem”):

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