The country house Kedleston Hall is a National Trust property and the seat of the Curzon family. The house was built in the 18th century for Sir Nathaniel Curzon, in accordance with designs made by the architects James Paine and Matthew Brettingham. (Nathaniel Curzon eventually became the 1st Baron Scarsdale.)
The Curzon family has lived at Kedleston since at least 1297, in a succession of manor houses near or on the site of the current Kedleston Hall. The family name is derived from Notre-Dame-de-Courson in Normandy.
At the onset of World War II in 1939, Richard Curzon, 2nd Viscount Scarsdale, offered the hall for use by the War Office. It was utilized for various purposes during the war, including being an army training camp and as a Y station for collecting radio transmissions to gather intelligence. (Encrypted radio transmissions caught at Kedleston were brought to Bletchley Park for decryption.)
When Richard Curzon died in the 1970s, the family offered the estate to the National Trust in lieu of death duties. The National Trust took over Kedleston, along with an endowment, while the family retained the right to live rent-free in the 23-room Family Wing, its adjoining garden and two flats.
Parts of the Kedleston parkland has been designated Site of Special Scientific Interest, chiefly because of the rich and diverse deadwood invertebrate fauna living in the old trees.
Location of Kedleston Hall
Kedleston Hall is located in Kedleston, a village in Derbyshire, England. The town Derby is found roughly four miles south-east of the estate.
Exterior of the house
This three-floored house consists of three blocks linked by two segmentally curved corridors. The ground floor is rusticated, while the two upper floors features a smooth-dressed stone exterior.
The largest of the three blocks is the corps de logis, where we find the state rooms used for entertaining guests. The eastern block was for the family’s private use, while the western block was devoted to kitchens, staff accommodation and other practical necessities.
The impressive northern front is Palladian in style, over a hundred meters long and dominated by a six-columned Corinthian portico. The southern front is a garden facade in pure neoclassical style, divided into three sets of bays.
The present manor house was commissioned by Sir Nathaniel Curzon in 1759, who hired the Palladian architects James Paine and Matthew Brettingham for the project. The house plans were loosely based on a plan created by Andrea Palladio for a villa that was never built (Villa Mocenigo). Robert Adam, a then relatively unknown architect, was hired to design some garden temples, and the result was so pleasing to Curzon that Adam was hired to oversee construction of the mansion as well as designing many aspects of the garden and grounds.
Interior of the house
A few examples of notable aspects of the interior:
As we enter the house through the great north portico, we reach a marble hall inspired by the open courtyard atrium of an ancient Roman villa. The floor consists of Italian marble, the walls feature niches displaying classical statues, and the richly adorned cornice is supported by twenty fluted alabaster columns.Matthew Paine designed the marble hall to be lit by windows at the northern end, but Robert Adam decided to go with a glass skylight instead.
The marble hall connects to a circular saloon, which represents the ancient Roman vestibulum. Just like the marble hall, the saloon rises the full height of the house (62 feet to the top of the dome) and is lit through a glass skylight. The design is inspired by the temples of the Roman Forum, but with the English climate in mind; the four massive apse-like recesses that look like pedestals for classical urns are actually a clever way of incorporating stoves.
There is a drawing room with a huge Venetian window.
The ceiling of the dining room is inspired by the Palace of Augustus in the Farnese Gardens.
Collections and curiosities
The Tetrastyle Hall, below the Rotunda, has been a museum since 1927. Collections, curiosities and artefacts gathered by previous residents are also displayed throughout the house.
George Nathaniel Curzon served as Viceroy of India in 1899-1905 and brought many Indian and Far Eastern objects with him when he succeeded to the house in 1916.
Mary Curzon’s famous Delhi Durbar Coronoation peacock dress of 1903 is on display, together with a portrait of her wearing it. The gown consists of panels of chiffon embroidered and embellished by Delhi and Agra craftsmen using the zardozi (gold wire weaving) method.
Gardens and grounds
The current gardens and ground of the estate largely follow the concept introduced by Robert Adam in the 18th century. In 1758, Nathaniel Curzon hired Adam for the deer park and pleasure grounds. Under Adam, the fairly strict gardens designed by Charles Bridgeman were replaced with a more natural landscape, and the canals and geometric ponds were altered to become serpentine lakes.
Adam introduced several follies and curiosities, including the entrance lodges in the village, the North lodge triumphal arch, and a neoclassical style Fishing Room. Locate on the edge of the upper lake, the Fishing Room houses a plunge pool.
The Long Walk, flanked with flowering shrubs, dates back to the 1760s.
In the 1770s, George Richardson designed a hexagonal summerhouse for the estate grounds, and in the year 1800 an orangery was added.