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The Duke of Northumberland’s Garden House at Hulne Priory*

  • Alistair Rowan

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The eighteenth-century garden house built by the 1st Duke of Notrthumberland at Hulne Priory, some three miles west of Alnwick Castle, has been attributed both to Robert Adam and to Capability Brown. Adam certainly worked at Alnwick, providing delicate and fanciful Gothick interiors for the saloon, library and chapel in the castle and for the record tower. He designed the Lion Bridge, which was built across the Aln in 1773, and in November 1777, he prepared designs for the Gothick tower at Brizlee in Hulne park, built by the Duke in 1781. Brown received a payment of £300 from the Duke in July 1769 for unspecified work and was still employed on landscape improvements at Alnwick in September 1772.

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In the preparation of this article I have been much helped by Dr. Colin Shrimpton, Archivist at Alnwick Casde whose unpublished paper Hulne after the Dissolution, read to the North-East Catholic History Society, in March 1994 provides much essential information on the garden house and on eighteenth-century Alnwick.

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Notes

1 Accounts of the eighteenth-century work at Alnwick are given by Macaulay, James in The Gothic Revival 1745-1845 (Glasgow, 1975), Chapter 5, and by Giles Worsley in ‘Alnwick Castle, Northumberland 11’, Country Life, 8 December 1988. The appearance of the castle in the early nineteenth century is recorded in C(harlotte) F(lorentina) Duchess of Northumberland, Castles of Alnwick and Warkworth &c. (1823) which includes a view of the garden house at Hulne.

2 Fleming, John, ‘Adam Gothic’, in The Conoisseur, CXLII (1958), pp. 7579 .

3 Stroud, Dorothy, in Capability Brown (London, 1950), suggests Brown on the basis of stylistic similarities to the bath-house at Corsham Court. See also Crook, J. Mordaunt in ‘Northumbrian Gothic’, Journal of the Royal Society of Arts, vol. 121 (1973), and Willis, Peter in ‘Capability Brown in Northumberland’, Garden History, Vol. 9, No. 2 (1981), p. 177 .

4 Macaulay, Gothic Revival, states (p. 81); ‘inside it is accepted that Adam was the designer’.

5 Adam’s bill, which came in total to £159 85. 6d., covers the period August 1777 to September 1778. For the design of Brizlee Tower he charged £21 os. od.

6 Adam’s drawings in the Soane Museum — Vols 5 (74) and 27 (34) — show the plan of the room as it exists today, with the alterations to create two deep window bays already in place and the ceiling height raised to include both floors in one. Adam planned to replace the coved ceiling with a flat design.

7 Alnwick Castle Archives. The watercolours are kept in three volumes, entitled A Series of Sketches, Views in Great Britain, the Continent and America, 1772–1778. Inscriptions and dates which were on the back of the paintings are copied onto the mounting page. The artists are W. Beilby, John Bell — presumably the architect — John Story, Thirlwall and J. Vilet.

8 Percy’s note and the presence of the housemaid are reported by Dr Shrimpton in Hulne after the Dissolution. The bridge linking the garden house to the tower is evidendy an afterthought, for its stonework does not bond into the walls on either side and the doors leading into the passage that connects the two structures are awkwardly placed, off-centre and in corners. Clearly it added greatly to the convenience of the place as a residential retreat.

9 A manuscript account of the castle (Alnwick Castle Archives), written in 1785 by a local man, Peter Waddell, lays considerable stress on the height and airiness of the apartments created in this manner. The quatrefoil windows introduced by Paine at Alnwick seem generally to have lit the upper level of the state rooms.

10 For Paine’s Gothic work and reconstruction of Alnwick see Leach, Peter, James Paine (London, 1988), Chapter 5, pp. 135-44, 171-72.

11 For Paine’s work at Raby see P. Leach, Paine, pp. 136-38; A. Rowan, ‘Raby Casde, Co. Durham’, Country Life, 1 & 8 January 1970, and ‘Gothick restoration at Raby Castle’, Architectural History, 15 (1972), pp. 23-50.

12 The Buildings of England, Northumberland, p. 145.

13 For John Bell generally see Colvin, Biographical Dictionary of British Architects, 3rd edition (1995), p. 119. The collection of watercolour views at the casde includes two pictures of the new mill at Denwick. Bell’s involvement in the design of the ruin on Ratcheugh Crag is established by a drawing at the castle by John Lambert entitled ‘The mock-ruin at Ratch-Heugh near Alnwick, Northumberland, drawn from Mr. Bell’s original design’.

14 Bell’s range of offices at Alnwick Castle, before its alteration by Salvin, is illustrated in Country Life, 8 December 1988.

15 For Paine’s drawing of the Raby farmhouse see Leach, Paine, Pl. 155 and A. Rowan, ‘Gothick restoration at Raby’, Fig. 10a.

16 The quatrefoil at Hulne Priory contains two Coade-stone plaques with profile heads of the Duke and of the Duchess which were also incorporated into Adam’s Brizlee Tower and at various locations in the castle. At Hulne they appear to be a late introduction as the outline of a rectangular opening, possibly for an earlier dummy window, appears above and below each quatrefoil.

17 ‘Gothic restoration at Raby’, Fig. 10b.

18 The doorcase in the Neville tower bedroom is illustrated in Country Life, 1 January 1970, Fig. 3.

19 Leach, Paine, p. 138.

20 I am obliged to Sir Howard Colvin for suggesting the possibility of Shepherd’s involvement at Hulne.

21 Gentleman’s Magazine, Part 1 (1812), p. 601. See also Colvin, Biographical Dictionary, p. 865. A watercolour showing the chancel as refitted by Shepherd and dated 1857 is preserved in the church. It records the pulpit, galleries, screens, vaulted ceiling and box pews, all of which were removed by Salvin in 1863.

22 The use of the same Gothic cornice at the Hulne garden house and Ratcheugh Crag suggests to David King ‘that both buildings were the work of the same architect.’ See King, , The Complete Works of Robert and James Adam (London, 1991), p. 392 .

* In the preparation of this article I have been much helped by Dr. Colin Shrimpton, Archivist at Alnwick Casde whose unpublished paper Hulne after the Dissolution, read to the North-East Catholic History Society, in March 1994 provides much essential information on the garden house and on eighteenth-century Alnwick.

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The Duke of Northumberland’s Garden House at Hulne Priory*

  • Alistair Rowan

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