I have had to swot up on the building history of Cliveden, which is mighty complicated.

It was first built probably in the late 1670s (Colvin says c.1676-8) for the second Duke of Buckingham, one of the richest, grandest and most complicated of Charles II’s courtiers, in and out of royal favour, the B of the Cabal. He got the house designed by William Winde, a fellow member of the royal court, born in exile in Brabant, serving as an Ensign at the time of the Restoration, made a gentleman usher to the Queen of Bohemia and a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1662. Buckingham is said to have acquired the Cliveden estate in ‘about 1664’. In 1677, a royal warrant allowed him to leave the Tower of London to go to Cliveden ‘to take order about carrying on some buildings there’. By 1679, Evelyn was able to describe it as ‘a building of extraordinary expense’.

This was only the beginning. The Earl of Orkney bought the house in 1696 and in 1706 consulted ‘severall of the chiefe men in England’ about the design of his house, one of them being Thomas Archer, who designed flanking wings which more or less survive joined to the main house by colonnades. In 1714, John Macky described it as ‘a Noble Building a la Moderne‘, but by the 1740s Jeremiah Milles was much less complimentary, calling it ‘A double pile house but ye rooms I think are rather too small in proportion to ye House’.

Pevsner says the house was burnt out in 1745, but I am sceptical of this because it was leased by Lord Orkney to Frederick, Prince of Wales and in 1751 Lady Coke admired it ‘though I saw it with the disadvantage of all the Prince’s furniture being taken away’ (no mention of a fire). In 1762, William Toldervy writes in England and Wales Described in a Series of Letters how ‘The Building is regular and grand, and the Apartments noble, especially that which is called the Grand Chamber: Where, in Tapestry, the Battles of the great Duke of Marlborough are depicted’. Again, no mention of a fire.

William Burn reconstructed it in the 1820s and this version of the house was indeed burnt out in 1849 and what we see now is mostly Barry:-

Alongside it is a fabulous high Victorian clock tower, designed by Henry Clutton:-

Indoors, fine rococo woodwork. I couldn’t work out if it is the original by Pineau or the reproduction by Allard:-

Outside, spectacular views out from Winde’s terrace over the formal gardens towards the Thames:-


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