Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
The ruined Hartwell church was designed by the architect Henry Keene and completed in 1755. It is one of the most important early Gothic revival churches in England. It has an octagonal centre with twin towers. In the north and south bays are rose windows, other windows are represented as ogee arches. In the clerestory are quatrefoil windows . Inside the church once had a plaster fan vault this has now fallen in, and the church's windows are boarded. Today the building appears more as a garden folly, than a former place of worship, to the close by Hartwell House.
Hartwell House was first mentioned in the Doomsday book and belonged to an illegitimate son of William the Conqueror. However, the core of the present house was constructed in the early 17th century for the Hampden family and then the Lee family. The Lees, an old Buckinghamshire family, acquired Hartwell circa 1650 by marriage into the Hampdens. The Confederate General Robert E. Lee was one of their descendents. The Jacobean north front of the house, is constructed of ashlar and has a projecting porch with a bow window above; terminating each end of this facade are two flanking canted bays each with a double height oriel window. Immediately each side of the porch two large windows indicate the hall within. Hiding the roofscape is a parapet with vases erected in 1740. Between 1759 and 1761 the architect Henry Keene substantially enlarged and "Georgianised" the house, and built the east front with its canted bay windows and a central porch in the Tuscan style.
Inside the house has a great hall with stucco panels, and a suite of three splendid reception rooms with rococo chimneypeices. In the 1980s the house was converted from a girl's finishing school to an hotel. The project was overseen by the architect Eric Throssel . He created a new dining room in the manner of Sir John Soane, by enclosing the former 18th century open arcaded porch, thus the former semi-circular galleried entrance vestibule is now an inner hall. Throssel was also responsible for the design and recreation of the cupola crowning the roof.
Between 1809 and 1814 the owner of the house Sir Charles Lee let the mansion to exiled King Louis XVIII of France. The arrival of the impoverished king and his court at Hartwell was not a happy experience for the mansion, with once grand and imperious courtiers farming chickens and assorted small livestock on the lead roofs. The King signed the document accepting (once again) the French crown in the library of the house.
The 90 acres gardens at Hartwell were laid out by Capability Brown circa 1750. The North Avenue is a grand vista through trees planted in 1830, sadly today terminated by the ever encroaching Aylesbury. The gardens are reminiscent of nearby Stowe, with statues, an obelisk and ornamental bridge.
The house remained a private residence until 1938, when at risk of demolition it was acquired by the philanthropist Ernest Cook . The Ernest Cook Trust still own the house today, and currently let it to a company who run the house as one of Buckinghamshire's most prestigious hotels and restaurants. In recent years, due to its proximity to Chequers it has frequently been the host of international and Government summits and meetings.
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