The Garden Guide

Book: Gardening tours by J.C. Loudon 1831-1842
Chapter: Middlesex, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Wilshire, Dorsetshire, Hampshire, Sussex, and Kent in the Summer of 1832

Tottenham Park Mansion

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The mansion strikes a stranger as being placed in a low situation, as the grounds rise slightly from it on every side. It was originally, we believe, designed or built by Lord Burlington, in the Palladian style of course, with a centre, and two wings joined by segmental corridors; a most unsuitable style, according to modern ideas, for a baronial residence in the centre of an ancient forest. This house has for some years past been undergoing renovations, and receiving additions in the same general style; but we regret to say that we never in the whole course of our observation met with any thing more unsatisfactory, either exteriorly or within. The chief fault lies in the works having been begun apparently without any general plan. In whichever way the exterior elevation is viewed, it is without grandeur; and within there are some parts, such as the hall, plainly finished even to meanness, and lighted by sloping sashes, exactly like those of a hot-house; and some small rooms finished in the most gorgeous style, with the most elaborate inlaid floors of different-coloured woods, and carved doors and wainscoting, and highly enriched cornices and ceilings. There is no large room yet finished; the walls of the library are built, but those of the dining-room are not commenced, and, in our opinion, they never should be, for it is beyond the power of man to make a good whole of this house. The principal bedrooms not only have low ceilings, but, to aggravate this evil, the windows do not reach to above two thirds of their height, so that they never can be properly ventilated. The small size of the windows, also, makes the rooms appear gloomy and dark, and this, contrasted with their gorgeous French furniture, gave us more the idea of princely tombs (such as we have seen in the vaults of Petersburg and Konigsberg, covered with rich furs and velvet, and with a profusion of gilding), than of cheerful sleeping-rooms. There is nothing that takes away from the idea of habitableness and enjoyment so much as overlaying things with ornament. Coming out of these rooms, one is really quite astonished at the meagre finishing of the hall and principal staircase. There is a wing containing a Doric conservatory, the columns hollow, and their flutings filled in with glass; the triglyphs and other parts of the frieze are also filled in with glass: conceits most unhappily at variance with Doric simplicity and elegance. Adjoining this, but not joined to it, and evidently an after-thought, is an architectural orangery with an opaque roof, higher than the other, and sufficiently discordant with it to harmonise with the rest of the place. It is not yet finished, and, were it not for the sake of Mr. Burns's fine orange trees, we should be tempted to wish it never may. There is a terrace connecting these appendages with the main body of the house, from which a flight of steps descends to the flower-garden.