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Home > New Search > Fonthill Splendens (Fonthill Gifford) (Fonthill House - Old)

Fonthill Splendens (Fonthill Gifford) (Fonthill House - Old)  England 
Fonthill Gifford, Wiltshire, England

Started circa 1757
Completed circa 1770

Status: Destroyed
Details: Demolished 1807 by William Beckford

Special Info / Location/ Date

Special Info
Phonetic Pronunciation of House Name

Location
Country
England
District Today
Wiltshire
 Historic County
 City / Town / Village
Fonthill Gifford
 Latitude
51.087
 Longitude
-2.109

Date
Start Date
circa 1757
Completion Date
circa 1770
Circa Date
Images

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Architects

Designed   Boathouse/Temple with cold bath and nymph's grotto
Date  
Attribution of this work is uncertain.

Designed   4 grottoes for Alderman Beckford
Date  

Designed   Advised the Alderman on landscaping. Probably responsible for flooding the Serpentine river and bridge.
Date   Circa 1760s
Attribution of this work is uncertain.

Designed   Ceilings of House and Fishing Lodge for Alderman Beckford
Date   Uncertain

Designed   Double-domed, Ionic-pilastered Picture Gallery on attic floor; designs for chimneypieces in Tapestry Room and Parlour.
Date   1786-87

Designed   May have designed House and probably acted as builder for Alderman William Beckford
Date   Circa 1757-70
Attribution of this work is uncertain.

Extant / Listed / References

Extant
Extant Type
Destroyed
Extant Details
Demolished 1807 by William Beckford

Listed
House Listed As 
Demolished
Gardens Listed As  
Not Listed
Country House:  Yes

References
Vitruvius Britannicus
IV, 1767, pls. 82-87.
Vitruvius Scoticus
J.B. Burke (Burke's Visitation of Seats)
Country Life
John Harris in Nov 24, 1966.
J.P. Neale (Neale's Views of Seats)
Access / Ownership / Seat

Access
Open to Public Please note: Houses listed as being open "By Appointment" are usually country house hotels, B&Bs, or schools.
Demolished
Historic Houses Association Member
Phone Number If calling from the U.S., delete the first "0" in British numbers.
Fax Number
Email
Website
Awards

Current Ownership
Current Ownership Type
Demolished
Primary Current Ownership Use
Demolished
Current Ownership Use / Details

Seat ("Seat" is loosely defined as any family that occupied the house for a period of 2 years or more)
Today Seat of
A Past Seat(s) of
Francis Cottington, 18th century. Alderman William Beckford, 18th century. William Beckford (the Alderman's son).
Possible (Unsure) Seat of
History / Gardens & Park / Movies

History
Earlier House(s) / Building(s)
Alderman Beckford built Splendens on the site of an earlier house, Fonthill House, that burned down in 1755.
House Replaced By
Built / Designed For
Alderman William Beckford
House & Family History
Fonthill Splendens, built by Alderman Beckford, was one of the largest Palladian houses in England. The Alderman purchased the estate of 3,000 acres on the Wiltshire-Dorset border, then called Fonthill House, in 1745 from Francis Cottington, a Jacobite and Roman Catholic. The Alderman had an enormous income, greater than most British dukes', and set about improving the park and adding land to the estate. In 1755 the original Fonthill House burned down. The new house, to be called Fonthill Splendens, was designed by a City builder name Hoare (little seems to be known about this architect-builder) and was sited to the south of the remains of the old Fonthill House. The new House was enclosed within an 8,000 acre estate shielded by 7 miles of walls. William Beckford, the Alderman's son, employed James Wyatt as an adviser in creating the seven-mile long, twelve-foot-high wall; it ultimately took three years to build. In 1786 William Beckford commissioned John Soane to convert a corridor on the second floor into a Picture Gallery. Christopher Woodward states that "The Splendens gallery would have been one of the earliest picture galleries in an English country house to be illuminated by top lighting". William Beckford moved into his incomplete Fonthill Abbey in 1807 and demolished Splendens. A watercolor and pencil sketch of Splendens by unknown British artist, circa 1800-10, is in the collection of the Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, Connecticut.
Collections This field lists art objects that are currently or were previously in the collection of the house.

For information on the history of British currency, click here.  To use a chart that allows you to compare the purchasing power of money In Great Britain from 1264 to any other year, including the present, click here.  To use a currency conversion to see the current value of the British pound, click here.
Alderman Beckford built one of the greatest art collections in Britain. Among his most notable purchases were eight canvases of Hogarth's "A Rake's Progress" and six of the artist's "A Harlot's Progress"; these were hung in the older house that burned in 1755. The “Rake” was rescued, but the Harlot was left to the fire. William Beckford (the Alderman’s son) sold the paintings, along with much else, in 1802 at Christie's as being "unsuitable for a Gothic Abbey” (Mrs. Soane, wife of John Soane, paid £570 for the “Rake.”) The Soanes also purchased Canaletto's 1736 View of Venice for £150.10s at the Beckford sale of 1807. "Lady in a Red Corset and Satin Dress" by Jean-Honore Fragonard was one of the artist's last works and, atypically for Fragonard, is not flamboyant and sensuous, but reflects a new direction in his stylistic development: the style of 17th century Dutch genre paintings. The Fragonard was recorded at Fonthill Splendens in 1801, where it hung in the upstairs gallery and was also at Fonthill Abbey, where it was in the Dining Room. This painting followed Beckford to Lansdown Crescent, Bath, and thence passed to the Hamiltons, where it was sold from Hamilton Palace in the sale of 1882.
Comments

Gardens & Park
Garden, Park, Follies and Outbuildings
The Alderman built follies and temples on his estate, even including a Chinese pagoda. He dammed the local stream to create a serpentine river near the House, and built a five-arched stone bridge with balustrade to cross the new river. The Lanes, father and son, of Tisbury constructed no less than four grottoes for the Alderman. Timothy Mowl, in his book "William Beckford: Composing for Mozart", believes that John Vardy probably constructed one of the most evocative gardens buildings of the 18th century at Splendens: a Boathouse/Temple with a cold bath and nymph's grotto. There was also a Hermitage with a fireplace for Gothic picnics and an altar in the center with the reclining figure of a river god holding a scepter. The new House was enclosed within an 8,000 acre estate shielded by 7 miles of walls. William Beckford, the Alderman's son, employed James Wyatt as an adviser in creating the seven-mile long, twelve-foot-high wall; it ultimately took three years to build.
Chapel & Church

Movies
Location for Movies / TV
Bibliography

Author   Colvin, Howard
Year Published   1995
Reference  


Author   NA
Year Published   NA
Reference   Feb 1998, pgs 31-40


Author   Mowl, Timothy
Year Published   1998
Reference  


Author   NA
Year Published   1979
Reference  


Author   Ostergard, Derek E. (Editor)
Year Published   2001
Reference   pgs. 326-327


Author   Knox, Tim
Year Published   2009
Reference   pg. 27



There are no documents associated with this house.


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