Moor Park Mansion
Moor Park Mansion is the clubhouse of Moor Park Golf Club - a hidden treasure among trees and golf courses, once part of a deer park. There have been three houses on the site. The first was the grand hunting lodge of about 1617 of the 3rd Earl of Bedford and his wife Lucy Harrington, members of James I's court.
In the 1680s the Duke of Monmouth, the eldest, illegitimate son of Charles II and his Duchess, used the foundations for their own superior brick building. Today we see the Palladian mansion of the 1720s covering the Monmouth house.
In 1720 Benjamin Haskins Styles, a country squire from Wiltshire, made a fortune in London. His family had interests in the South Sea Company and they all sold their shares at an inflated price just before it fell. With his windfall he bought Moor Park from the Duchess of Monmouth, who made substantial losses herself. Her main property was Dalkeith in Scotland. No expense was spared by Styles in transforming it into his own country seat.
Sir James Thornhill drew plans for an enlarged house. Portland stone was imported from Dorset to cover the now old-fashioned brick colonnades which united the house to the service wings and an imposing portico was added which led into a Venetian style hall. For this room the grand staircase and the ground floor ceiling had to be cleared. The building work was finished before the interior decoration could start. Thornhill’s team worked in the salon which had a painted ceiling by Antonio Verrio done for the Duchess of Monmouth. Canvases on the walls carried on the theme of Apollo the sun god. The hall walls were also covered by canvases but Styles disliked them and dismissed Thornhill complaining of the quality and cost of the work. The paintings were relegated to a storeroom.
Others using Thornhill’s designs carried on in the main hall with a military theme but his trompe l’oeil designs were made three dimensional by the best Italian plasterers and Giacomo Amiconi produced four pictures from the story of Jupiter. Styles died in 1739 and only the salon, hall and staircase were done. The main bedrooms and some for the servants were in use. Since then a succession of different owners finished the decoration and made alterations.
Capability Brown cleared the formal landscape and created new gardens for Lord Anson, circumnavigator of the globe and First Lord of the Admiralty. In 1762 Anson died in his beloved gardens.
Robert Adam designed many furnishings for Sir Lawrence Dundas, a wealthy contractor and ancestor of the Marquess of Zetland. When he died in 1781 some went to Dundas' heirs and some remained in the house until the time it ceased to be a family home. Since then much has been sold and dispersed throughout the world but the dining room ceiling with its painting of sea gods by Cipriani remains.
Thomas Bates Rous, merchant trader of the East India company and member of Lord North’s party, who failed to regain a seat in Parliament, came to Moor Park in 1785 and, needing cash, demolished part of the building for its valuable stone. The colonnades went with the south west wing and the services moved to the north west.
The next owner, in 1800 was Robert Williams, founder of Williams Deacon bank now swallowed up by the Royal Bank of Scotland, succeeded by his son Robert, also in banking and property.
In 1826 began 90 years' occupation by one family - the Grosvenors. They refurbished and redecorated the house and improved the gardens. It was used as a family home in the country, first by the Marquess of Westminster, then by his third son, Robert Grosvenor, 1st Baron Ebury, and then his son, 2nd Baron Ebury, who died in 1918.
After the first World War the estate was again sold and in the 1920s Lord Leverhulme, soap manufacturer, used some of the land for housing, some for golf courses and the mansion changed from family home to country club. In 1937 the local authority, Three Rivers District Council, took it over to preserve the Green Belt and golf courses and leased it to Moor Park Golf Club.
During World War II, the Armed Forces were based in the Mansion House and it was in what is now known as the Arnhem Room, that the Battle of Arnhem was planned. The battle was depicted in the film "A Bridge Too Far" and, as the Parachute Regiment was very much involved in the action, the room is home to memorabilia from many of the actions that have involved this famous regiment.
In 1994 the freehold was bought by Moor Park Golf Club who have since invested millions in restoring the mansion to its former glory. Moor Park Mansion is now a grade I listed building.