samedi 6 novembre 2010


The present house was built in 1834-39, to designs by its owner the Thomas de Grey, 2nd Earl de Grey, an amateur architect, the first president of the Royal Institute of British Architects, who was inspired by buildings he had seen on trips to Paris and based his house on designs published in French architectural books such as Jacques-François Blondel's Architecture Française (1752); the works were superintended as clerk of works on site by James Clephan, who had been clerk of the works at the Liddell seat, Ravensworth Castle, County Durham, and had recently performed as professional amanuensis and builder for Lord Barrington, whose house, Beckett Park, Berkshire, was designed by his brother-in-law, Tom Liddell, an amateur architect. Wrest has some of the earliest Rococo revival interiors in England. Reception rooms in the house are open to the public.

Wrest Park Gardens, one of the grandest English gardens of the early eighteenth century, are spread over 150 acres (607,000 m²) and were originally laid out probably by George London and Henry Wise for Henry Grey, 1st Duke of Kent, then modified by Capability Brown in a more informal landscape style, without sacrificing the parterres. Wrest Park House was for generations the seat of the de Grey family, whose De Grey Mausoleum is at nearby Flitton.

In the Great Garden, water catches the eye in every direction while intersecting alleys provide splendid vistas of the many garden buildings and ornaments. The park's centrepiece is an example of French parterres divided by a wide gravel central walk, continued as a long canal that leads to a very fine free-standing domed pavilion (originally called the Banqueting House) designed in full Baroque style by Thomas Archer in 1709 and completed in 1711 costing £1,809 (decorated inside by Louis Hauduroy in 1712). Also Archer built between 1710 and 1717 at a cost of £1,259 the Hill House (now demolished) on the summit of the adjacent Cain Hill to which Henry Grey's family used to ride for breakfast. Later the boundary canals were altered to take the more natural shape by Capability Brown who worked here between 1758-60. The surveyor John Rocque made a map of the gardens and garden houses at Wrest, 1735, dedicated to Duke Henry[3] The central formal area was retained instead of being swept away when it was ringed by a canal and woodland planned by Brown. During the later 18th and 19th centuries, the Bath House (designed by Edward Stevens or Thomas Wright, 1770), and marble fountains were added. The huge Orangery was built by Earl de Grey.

From 1906 to 1911 Wrest Park was leased to the American Ambassador, Whitelaw Reid, during which time a number of important visitors came there: King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra were guests on Saturday 24 July 1909 attending the Silsoe Church service the following day and the former US president Theodore Roosevelt visited Wrest Park in May 1910.

The estate at Wrest is the oldest lay estate in Bedfordshire. Wrest Park Gardens are now in the care of English Heritage.