Harewood House: Neoclassical Excellence

'I would not exceed the limits of expense that I have always set myself. Let us do everything properly and well, mais pas trop.' - Edwin Lascelles to Robert Adam, c. 1765.

When Edwin Lascelles started building Harewood House in 1759 he wanted nothing but the best for his new home. He employed the finest craftsmen of the time: York-born architect John Carr, fashionable interior designer Robert Adam, England’s greatest furniture maker Thomas Chippendale and visionary landscape gardener Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown.

Harewood House, the Hall. A noble ante-chamber rather than a place in which to linger. Robert Adam designed the ceilings, friezes and chimneypieces throughout the house, everything being part of a unified design. Remarkably, the centrepiece of the Hall is titled ‘Adam’ - perhaps, to celebrate the genius of the 18th century designer?

Carved by Sir Jacob Epstein from a single block of alabaster, between 1938 and 1939, the sculpture caused much controversy in the puritan English society, and it was not until 1961 when its beauty and significance was adequately appreciated: bought by the 7th Earl, ‘Adam’ was installed at Harewood, where he stands proudly in his full glory.

Harewood House, the Hall. Although not listed in Chippendale’s bill, this magnificent set of eight painted hall chairs, designed to match the grandeur of Adam's Hall, was almost certainly supplied by his firm. The superbly carved console table occupies the spot where the second fireplace used to be.

Harewood House, the Old Library. The room has remained relatively unchanged since its design by Robert Adam; it incorporates many of his typical design features, such as an elaborate ceiling, classical pilasters and a pastel colour scheme.

Harewood House, the Old Library. The painted armchairs are by Chippendale, circa 1771, described in an inventory of 1795 as ‘8 blue painted Cabriole Chairs covered in yellow Morocco leather’. Details in the carving on the chairs is echoed in Robert Adam’s ceiling design, thus contributing to the creation of a harmonious room scheme.

Harewood House, the Old Library. A superbly carved mid-18th century padouk card-table (one of a pair).

Harewood House, the Watercolour Room. A detail of the fireplace and ornate handle, used to summon a servant.

Harewood House, the State Bedroom. State Bedrooms were a fashionable addition to country houses in the 18th century despite often being infrequently used. At Harewood the State Bedroom welcomed two very important guests, the Grand Duke Nicholas of Russia in 1816, and young Princess Victoria in 1835.

Harewood House, the State Bedroom. During the Victorian period this room was converted into a sitting room. Chippendale’s magnificent State Bed was dismantled and put into storage for 150 years. Painstaikingly restored to its former glory, it now stands as one of Chippendale’s most extraordinary creations, and, perhaps, the most expensive one: Chippendale charged Lord Harewood £250 for it, and further £150 for three mattresses.

Harewood House, the State Bedroom. One of a set of eighteen George III period giltwood open armchairs supplied by Thomas Chippendale for the house.

Harewood House, the State Bedroom. The Diana and Minerva Commode, flanked by giltwood open armchairs (above). Also featured is one of a pair of giltwood oval mirrors, supplied by Chippendale in 1773 for this room. These two glasses, decorated with finely carved scrolls of leaves, swags of flowers, cherubs and urns, are described in Chippendale’s bill as ‘2 oval frames with treble branches and rich Carved Antique ornaments highly finished in Burnished Gold’.

Harewood House, the State Bedroom. A detail of the Diana and Minerva Commode, originally designed for the State Dressing Room (now the Spanish Library), which, with its intricate ivory inlay, elegant lines and drawers that whisper shut is often referred to as Chippendale's greatest single work.

Harewood House, the State Bedroom. A detail of the window shutters decorated in the Neoclassical taste.

Harewood House, the East Bedroom. It features Thomas Chippendale's extraordinary green and gold-japanned commode and clothes press, and the Chinese hand-painted wallpaper, all supplied by Chippendale, in c. 1769.

Harewood House, the East Bedroom. The main feature of this room is the Chinese wallpaper. Originally hung by Chippendale’s men in the Chintz Bedroom in 1769, early in the 19th century it was cut from the walls, rolled up in linen and put away in an outbuilding, where it lay for nearly 200 years. That it survived for so long is remarkable; that it survived in near perfect condition is astonishing.

Harewood House, the East Bedroom. A painted and gilded pier glass by Thomas Chippendale, made to complement the Chinese wallpaper. Note the magnificent Adam ceiling, reflected in the glass.

Harewood House, The Main Library. The original Robert Adam ceiling, together with his chimneypieces and plaster overmantels with their round, sculptured reliefs, marry beautifully with Charles Barry’s modernisation.

Harewood House, The Main Library. Known as the Saloon in the 18th century. Since Barry’s transformation of the building, this has been the central living room of the House.

Harewood House, The Main Library. The room is dominated by Sir Charles Barry’s Victorian mahogany bookcases featuring brass trims and a marble chair rail. Magnificent Chippendale's armchairs and the superb little library table provide a perfect place to read a favourite book.

Harewood House, The Main Library. Extraordinary ornate brass firedogs, superbly modelled as dragons.

Harewood House, The Yellow Drawing Room. Two splendid looking glasses by Thomas Chippendale were partly stripped of their ornamentation by the Victorians and painstakingly restored in 1993-4. Note the exquisite Adam's ceiling.

Harewood House, The Yellow Drawing Room. The overmantle mirror is by Chippendale’s son, also called Thomas, who completed the Harewood commission after his father’s death in 1779.

Harewood House, The Yellow Drawing Room. A splendid collection of Chippendale's furniture: an ornate mirror, one of a pair, above the magnificent satinwood and marquetry commode, from the State Bedroom suite, a pair of torcheres in the neoclassical taste, and a pair of painted side chairs, all supplied for the house and executed in the finest Chippendale's manner.

Harewood House, The Yellow Drawing Room. Door pediment.

Harewood House, The Cinnamon Drawing Room. Originally known as the White Drawing Room, it was hung with gold-bordered white damask.

Harewood House, The Cinnamon Drawing Room. Victorian taste had resulted in many of the elaborate ornaments which proliferate above the frames being removed. All this filigree was found in a storeroom, neatly packed away and labelled.

Harewood House, The Cinnamon Drawing Room. A fine giltwood open armchair, one of a suite of exquisite seat furniture in the Neoclassical taste.

Harewood House, The Cinnamon Drawing Room. The room features a number of the Lascelles family portraits, as well as a pair of George III console-tables, exquisitely inlayed with marquetry, originally supplied by Thomas Chippendale in c. 1770 for the Dining Room, ensuite with a pair of pier glasses. Chinese-export black and gold-japanned cabinets (a pair), mounted on Chippendale's stands compliment the pair of centre table in the same taste.

Harewood House, The State Dining Room. Unfortunately, this room was 'updated' to the fashionable Victorian taste in the 1840's, and the original ceilings and fireplace were lost. Nothing of the original decorative scheme remains, with the rather significant exception of the Chippendale furniture: a fine set of dining room chairs and two superb side-tables, urn-topped pedestals and a wine cooler are still present in the room.

Harewood House, The State Dining Room. The superb gilt-metal mounted Neoclassical serving-table (one of a pair), and the magnificent wine cooler are among the finest pieces ever made by Chippendale's firm.

Harewood House, The State Dining Room. The fine set of Neoclassical dining-chairs and superb pair of urns, mounted onto pedestal plate-warmers, ensuite with a pair of serving-tables (above).

Harewood House, The Gallery. “This room ... is truly elegant, and presents such a show of magnificence and art as eye hath seldom seen and words cannot describe”. The splendid carved giltwood torchères, a set of six, are by Thomas Chippendale, the Younger; the inverted shades are later addition.

Harewood House, The Gallery. One of a pair of George III giltwood mirrors by Thomas Chippendale, c. 1778. Each glass is flanked by caryatids holding flower-swags surmounted by three painted ovals and an urn, the base with rams’ masks and swags. The painted roundels are similar, if smaller in scale, to the ones found on the four pier glasses (reflected), known to have been made for this room.

Harewood House, The Gallery. A set of seven George III carved giltwood and painted pelmets by Thomas Chippendale, the Younger, Chippendale’s crowning achievement in The Gallery. The wood is superbly carved to imitate heavy red fabric with gold fringe. Described by John Jewell in his Tourist’s Companion of 1819 as ‘rich mock curtains, hanging in festoons, and apparently ready to let down at pleasure . . . are formed of wood, carved and painted under the direction of Mr. Chippendale’.

Harewood House, The Music Room. The most complete example of Adam’s interiors at Harewood: all the ceilings, walls and furnishings are original to the room; the Axminster carpet was designed specifically for this room and is remarkably well preserved. The circular design creates a sense of movement and melody.

Harewood House, The Music Room. One of a set of eighteen George III giltwood open armchairs by Thomas Chippendale. Originally gilt and upholstered in green silk damask, they were invoiced on November 12, 1773: "Cabriole Arm'd Chairs very richly Carved in the Antique Manner and gilt in Burnished Gold Stuff’d & Covered with your Damask". In 1851 the whole suite, including the two sofas and a pair of bergeres from the Yellow Drawing Room suite, was re-upholstered with Aubusson tapestry; six chairs (now in State Bedroom) have been recovered in green silk damask.

Lord Harewood’s Sitting Room, displaying some notable pieces from the private collection of David and Diane Lascelles, the 8th Earl and Countess of Harewood. The magnificent commode by William Vile was brought by Princess Mary from St James's Palace.

Lord Harewood’s Sitting Room. Detail of the magnificent commode by William Vile from St James's Palace.

Lord Harewood’s Sitting Room. Outstanding Thomas Chippendale's commode, in the Rococo taste, striking grain and superb crisp carving. Looks particularly well juxtaposed to a modern painting 'Chinese Landscape' (1987) by Sydney Nolan, an Australian artist and personal friend of the 7th and 8th Earl and Countess.

Harewood House, the Watercolour Room. Once a dressing room, now adapted to display Harewood’s fine collection of watercolours. A superb Chippendale's hall chair, one of a pair, adorned with exquisite carving and outstandingly patinated.

Superb Marsh & Tatham rosewood armchairs, two of a set of four, in the butler's apartment at Harewood.

Harewood House, The Terrace. Commanding breathtaking views over idyllic countryside, arguably the finest in Yorkshire, Harewood’s magnificent Terrace is one of the most beautiful Victorian formal gardens in England. Built in the 1840s by Sir Charles Barry, best known as the architect of the Houses of Parliament in London. There are over 100 acres of gardens at Harewood. They are full of variety, with plants from all over the world. All this in the setting of a magnificent landscape created by Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown.

Harewood House, The Terrace. The lower level, Parterre, was restored in 1994 and comprises stately fountains and symmetrical flowerbeds outlined by clipped box hedging.

Harewood House, The Terrace. ‘Orpheus’ by Astrid Zydower, 1984.

Harewood House, The Terrace. ‘Orpheus’ by Astrid Zydower, 1984.

Eagle Owls at Harewood Bird Garden, a home to over 30 birds from around the world.

At Harewood Bird Garden.

The Lascelles family claim to have arrived in England with William the Conqueror, during the Norman Conquest of England. The family had settled in Yorkshire by 1315 as the "de Lascelles". Prosperous members of the county gentry, the Lascelles served as members of parliament and held prominent military positions. In the late seventeenth century the family purchased plantations in the West Indies, and the income generated allowed Henry Lascelles to purchase the estate in 1738; his son, Edwin Lascelles, 1st Baron Harewood, built the house between 1759 and 1771.

Edwin initially employed the services of John Carr, an architect practising in the north of England and previously employed by a number of prominent Yorkshire families to design their new country houses. The foundations were laid in 1759, with the house being largely complete by 1765. The fashionable Robert Adam submitted designs for the interiors, which were approved in 1765. Adam made a number of minor alterations to Carr's designs for the exterior of the building, including internal courtyards. The house remained largely untouched until the 1840s when Sir Charles Barry was employed by the Henry Lascelles, 3rd Earl of Harewood, the father of thirteen children, to increase the accommodation. Barry added second storeys to each of the flanking wings to provide extra bedrooms, removed the south portico and created formal parterres and terraces.

In 1922, Henry Lascelles, Viscount Lascelles married Mary, Princess Royal, the eldest daughter of George V. Initially living in the nearby Goldsborough Hall, the couple moved permanently into Harewood House at the death of Henry's father in 1929. The house is the family seat of the Lascelles family, and home of David Lascelles, the eighth Earl and Countess of Harewood.

Source: Harewood House; images: Peacock's Finest

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