Kedleston Hall, Derbyshire

A magnificent mansion surrounded by some 820 acres of beautifully landscaped grounds, and the entire masterpiece can be attributed to the brilliance of one of the most distinguished 18th century architects, Robert Adam. There are hints of Chatsworth House about the building, and that is quite deliberate, as Adam designed this neo-classical style showhouse and home to rival the splendour of the great ancestral seat of the Cavendish family, less than 20 miles away.

The Curzons originated from Normandy, but settled in Kedleston as far back as the late 12th century, and descendants of that same family still live in Kedleston Hall today. When Sir Nathaniel Curzon (1st Lord Scarsdale) inherited the estate in 1758, he immediately instigated plans to demolish the old residence and find an architect who could portray his own love of Italian architecture in a superbly designed new house. From the long and winding approach to Kedleston Hall, the fašade represents an impressive Roman temple with six tall columns supporting a portico, and a double-armed stone stairway leading to the entrance. Once inside, the elegant and extravagant spectacle of the Marble Hall is simply breathtaking. A massive open space, specifically designed to exhibit great works of art, is dominated by 20 alabaster Corinthian columns around a white marble inlaid floor, and has an intricate plasterwork ceiling above.

Behind the hall is an equally inspired area called 'The Saloon'. Modelled on the Pantheon in Rome, the room takes the form of a vast, domed rotunda with exquisite gilt trimmings and Ionic doorframes. Every room in this block of the house was essentially 'for show', as it is today, and was ingeniously put together to enhance the symmetry and themed decor that Adam was so renowned for.

After the death of Lord Curzon in 1925, his fascinating collection of Eastern artefacts was put on display at Kedleston Hall, in a museum created specifically for that purpose. Most of these pieces were collected during several tours of Asia, and more when he served as Viceroy of India. One of particular note, and outstanding craftsmanship, is a superb white alabaster model of the Taj Mahal.

From the rear gardens, an entirely different perspective of Kedleston Hall can be seen. Whereas the front elevation is typically palladian and extended by the matching pavilions at either end of the building, the back (or south front as it is called) is of a drastically reduced but more baroque-looking style. Adam had originally envisaged the flanking pavilions to complete this side of the house, but Curzon had run out of money by this stage. Nevertheless, the view from the gardens is one of a rather romantic grouping, with this elaborate domed and pillared structure adjacent to a little 13th century church, and interspersed with blossoming trees and shrubs.

It was perhaps unfortunate for the Curzon family that sufficient funds were never available to complete some of the work on Kedleston Hall, as throughout the years gambling debts and intestacy took their toll on already depleted funds. The advantage of that situation, however, has meant that a virtually unchanged piece of original Adam design can be enjoyed by many generations to come.


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