Lost splendour

Karen Elizabeth Fielder

Research output: Contribution to specialist publicationArticle

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Coleshill House in Berkshire (now Oxfordshire) was a country house completed around 1652 and demolished in January 1953 following a devastating fire. The country house estate at Coleshill is now owned by the National Trust. Until the 1920s the house was largely believed to be an unaltered work of the celebrated English architect Inigo Jones, after which it was acknowledged that Sir Roger Pratt had at least some role in its execution. The established narrative of the house in published architectural histories exalts Coleshill as having been the best preserved example of 17th-century Jonesian English Classicism in a domestic context, revealing little of its subsequent history. However the documentary archives of the house show that it was indeed altered as successive owners sought to modernise it according to their own tastes and needs. One particular memorandum of around 1800 written by Jacob, 2nd Earl of Radnor, proposed significant interventions, including changes to one of the most revered features, the grand double-flight staircase in the entrance hall. Architectural inspiration was found in France, at the Château Bénouville, Caen. Although not all the Earl’s proposals were carried out, probably due to lack of funds, the memo nonetheless challenges the representation of the house as an unaltered 17th-century work. This paper rewrites established histories of Coleshill House, and in so doing offers a critique of the discourse of architectural history which places iconic works on pedestals as timeless landmarks through national narratives.
Original languageEnglish
Specialist publicationNational Trust Historic Houses and Collections Annual
Publication statusPublished - 2010


  • Coleshill House
  • country house


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