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Harlaxton Manor : Brief History

"Harlaxton must be seen to be believed and even when
one has seen it, it is not always easy to believe it".

Mark Girouard - The Victorian Country House

A more in-depth history can be found here.

Click me for larger image (21k)The House

Harlaxton Manor was built in the 1830s for Gregory Gregory, a wealthy Nottinghamshire businessman, to replace the original Elizabethan Manor House in Harlaxton Village. Having travelled throughout England and Europe seeking inspiration, ideas and indeed artefacts for this huge house, Gregory employed Anthony Salvin (external link) as architect and Harlaxton Manor must be regarded as Salvin's masterpiece. Built in Ancaster stone, it is an exuberant merging of Gothic, Jacobethan and Baroque styles creating an unforgettable and dramatic impact.

Owner and architect had many differences of opinion, however, and Salvin having completed the exterior of the main building was replaced by William Burn who is thought responsible for much of the interior.

Few houses in the country can match the splendid approach to Harlaxton. A straight mile long drive across a bridge, under a gatehouse, past 'the pyrotechnic display of the forecourt gates and screen'* to Salvin's towering facade whether by day or night when the building is floodlit, is in itself a memorable, experience.

The house is now owned by the University of Evansville, Indiana, USA, and is used as their British Campus.

*Lincolnshire by Pevsner and Harris in the Buildings of England series.

Previous Occupants of Harlaxton Manor

1837 First section of Manor completed.
1855 Manor completed.
1851-1855 Gregory Gregory in occupation.
1855-1860 George Gregory, an elderly cousin of the above.
1860-1892 John Sherwin, later John Sherwin-Gregory, a distant relative of Gregory's at most, and his wife (the husband died in 1869 and his wife in 1892).
1892-1935 Thomas Sherwin Pearson, also adopting the Gregory to become Pearson-Gregory, but only a godson of John Sherwin-Gregory's. A widower.
1937-1948 Violet Van der Elst; also for a time in 1943 a company of the 1st Battalion of the British Airborne Division. It is from this period that the emblem in the Pegasus Courtyard dates.
1948-1965 Society of Jesus (The Jesuits). They actually occupied the house for only part of this time, on two separate occasions.
1965-1968 The University of Stanford, California, as 'Stanford in Britain'.
1971-Present The University of Evansville, Indiana, first as Harlaxton Study Centre, later Harlaxton College.

The State Rooms

The Front Entrance Hall

Click me for larger image (21k)Noted for the solidity of its design, the hall is approached via two very large oak doors. These and other doors within the hall are also noted for their ornate door furniture. A large marble fireplace was added by Mrs Van der Elst who bought the Manor in 1937.

Although not visible within this picture, on the righthand side of the foot of the staircase is the De Ligne coat of arms and on the left that of the Gregory family.

Conference Room

This room was used as an informal dining room for the family. Its window is designed to allow as much natural light in as possible. From the window can be seen two of the 'Harlaxton Lions' which originally came from Witley Court near Worcester.

Morning Room

Decorated largely in the French style, this comparatively small room enjoys the morning sunshine, and hence its window originally included tinted glass.

It is also noted for the curved door on the inside which were designed to complete the symmetry of the room.

Great Hall

Click me for larger image (27k)Inspired by the Medieval Great Hall it is notable for its oak panelling, and the stone screen through which you enter is one of only four in the country. Above the stone screen can be seen the Minstrel Gallery.

It has an oriel window, which contains stained glass by Thomas Willement.

Like the Entrance Hall, the Gregory coat of arms is displayed, this time in the design over the stone mantel.

The crystal chandelier, originally designed for a palace in Madrid, was purchased by Mrs Van der Elst at the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War.

The Great Hall was used as a chapel during the occupancy of the Jesuits.

Cedar Staircase

Click here for larger image (26k)The Cedar Staircase is probably Harlaxton's greatest attraction. This neo-Baroque feature with its clerestorey is a very fine example of stucco work, possibly executed by the firm of Francis Bernasconi of London.

The floor is composed of terrazzo marble acquired by Gregory Gregory on one of his European travels.

"It is entirely and unbelievably Baroque; through struggling atlantes, swarming cherubs, and tasselled festoons of drapery it soars up to an illusionist Baroque heaven, under which more cherubs climb and the figure of Time unrolls a plan of Harlaxton."(Mark Girouard - The Victorian Country House)

Gold Room

Click her for larger imageThis formal drawing room is decorated largely in the French style overlaid with baroque additions. A notable humorous feature is a cherub on the painted ceiling putting a foot over the edge! The room has large mirrors on either side opposite each, creating an interesting illusion of continuing space.

Like the Morning Room, this room has curved doors at each of its corners, two of which provide useful hidden storage areas.

Long Gallery

Clich here for larger image (24k)The Long Gallery provided both an area for entertaining and originally for the display of a fine set of Beauvais tapestries. The panelling was redecorated in the 1970s.

Four of the Seven Deadly Sins can be seen depicted in marble over two of the doorways. (Deceipt, Jealousy, Pride and Malice). There is a hidden doorway in the panelling at the far end of the room which gives access to a spiral staircase which would have been used for the servants' access.

Ante Room

Decorated in the French style, the motifs on its doors each depict a different subject. The doors, incidently, are reputed to have come from the chateaux of an aristocrat. The door furniture is by Gibbons of Wolverhampton.

The ceiling, which was recently refurbished, is in the 'Jacobean' style.

State Dining Room

Clich here for larger image (24k)Another fine ceiling and noteworthy panelling. The view through the central oriel window looks down the mile-long drive towards the spire of Barrowby Church five miles away.

The Italian marble fireplace and buffet table were bought by Gregory Gregory on one of his European travels.


Click here for larger image (19k)The Conservatory was a later addition to the house, but by 1977 had fallen into disrepair. It was the first part of the Manor to be refurbished with the help of grants and an exhibition of John Piper paintings. On its completion Kew Gardens donated a number of plants. It is one of the largest conservatories of its kind in the East Midlands.