We were very fortunate to be able to take a group of AMS members to Harlaxton Manor in Lincolnshire on 18th November as it normally only holds one Open Day a year.
Now belonging to the University of Evansville (Indiana, USA), the Manor was eerily free of students who had all gone off on a trip to London to see our sights, while we had come up to Lincolnshire to see their country base.
A tale of two architects
Gregory Gregory, its first owner, built Harlaxton as “a veritable palace” as Pevsner terms it, to house the large collection of art and sculpture accumulated on his travels. It was begun around 1830 and finished in 1851. Gregory Gregory had a difference of opinion with his first architect Anthony Salvin, who was therefore succeeded by William Burn halfway through the build. Salvin was responsible for the extravagant exterior but once inside, Burn had much to do with the interior design.
Room after room shows his lavish Baroque decoration and we enjoyed the various tricks employed to render the displays even more impressive. One of the highlights is the Cedar Staircase, an optical illusion giving the impression of three floors of height where there is but one, thanks to a clever top floor clerestory and use of perspective. A plan of the Manor hangs from the top level.
We braved the chill of the enormous and many-roomed conservatory to marvel at its huge glass roof and lament the absence of the previous underfloor heating.
We finished our tour in the equally elaborate Great Hall, where a magnificent stained glass oriel window proclaims Gregory Gregory’s aristocratic inheritance with carefully chosen heraldry. The autumnal early sunset prevented us from seeing the grounds and gardens afterwards, but it was observed that they are very well looked-after, and the building is in good hands for the future.
We would like to thank Lesley and the team at Harlaxton College including both our guides and all the AMS members who joined us on a very enjoyable visit.