Nostell Priory

Nostell Priory

This month’s house on my tour was my favorite, and it was up against some impressive competition. But Nostell Priory features a number of rooms where the interiors were done by Robert Adam, one of the leading architects of the Georgian era (the line between architecture and interior design was much more blurred then) and furniture by Thomas Chippendale. Having very complimentary styles, Adam and Chippendale often collaborated, and going to a place like Nostell gives you a chance to see the work of these two great artists in situ.

Beyond this, though, what I loved about Nostell Priory was the casual way in which the house tour was set up by the National Trust. You were really allowed to wander about at leisure rather than following a specific path through the house, which gave me a much better sense of how the rooms connected together. You enter on the ground floor, which is another thing you don’t always get to do in these houses, but this rather than the grand entrance hall would have been the way the family usually came into the house if they had been out for the day:

ground floor entrance hall

ground floor fireplace and chairs in entrance hall

This ground floor area was a large space and included some exhibits (with a large one on Chippendale’s work), the butler’s room, and one I hadn’t heard of before: the Muniments Room. This was a place for storing estate records and was designed by Adam (you’ll also notice a giant Chippendale mirror under restoration):

On either side of the ground floor are two impressive staircases…this is one of them:

staircase

You’ll get a better sense of how the floors on this room all come together in the video later on in this post, but first I want to share some of the details of these incredible rooms. First up is the Breakfast Room, where they had more displays on Chippendale’s work set up. It’s key to note that Chippendale and Adam were working in the mid-to-late 18th century and so these designs aren’t the “latest fashion” by Austen’s time. That said, they’re elegant, tasteful, and classic without (for the most part) ostentation and so I’ve always thought their work to be good candidates for Pemberley.

Chippendale cabinet

It’s also key to note that like Sudbury, this was a house undergoing ongoing evolution. James Paine did some of the earlier interior designs (including the Breakfast Room) that were either then left or updated by Adam, including the Breakfast Room (which was destroyed by fire in 1980 and restored to Paine’s original drawings) and this next room, the Crimson Room, which Adam added some details to. This swag below the windows uses some of his common motifs:

crimson room

The State Dressing Room with another incredible bed and the chinoiserie chair by Chippendale was also originally done by Paine and refurbished by Adam:

state bed

fireplace

The State Bedroom was a dressing room when Adam worked on it, and features 18th century Chinese wallpaper imported by the East India Company. As a result the room is kept quite dark.

wallpaper detail

Chippendale cabinet

The State Dining Room is the most intact of Paine’s interiors, and gives a good sense of the difference between an earlier Baroque interior design and the neoclassical of Adam that I’ll share in subsequent rooms.

dining room

fireplace

painting and carving

The Saloon is the first of some really incredible Adam ceilings I have to show, and it’s also got more great Chippendale furniture.

ceiling

room, fireplace, harpsichord

decorated inset arch

Chippendale sofa and chair

gilded demilune

The Tapestry Room is an interesting one — it still contains the Adam ceiling, but with Belgian tapestries hung (it strikes me as early neo-gothic) in 1822-24. It makes for a unique mix.

room with tapestries and gilded furniture

The next room is the Library, with its great neoclassical bookcases and Chippendale desk:

bookcase

bookcase

Chippendale desk

carved veneer

That’s not the only library room, though, as following after is the larger library collection and Billiard Room, including an 18th century billiard table.

large bookcases in library

billiard room

leather sofa and bookcase

The Little Drawing Room is next, although it was likely originally a bedroom.

drawing room with sofa and chairs

The Little Dining Room is another room that originally had a different purpose, as the dressing room of the lady of the house, and has another very pretty Adam ceiling.

room with dining table

detailed ceiling

decorated top of door

mirror with gilded swag

I’ve got one last room to share, the Top Hall, and then some video to show you as promised, that shows how all of these rooms flow together.

hall with tall decorated ceiling

table and chair

carved table leg

chair with inlaid wood

plasterwork

And of course I haven’t shared the exterior!

neoclassical stone exterior

The grounds, both the formal gardens and the greater landscape, are great as well, and if I didn’t have so many house photos I wanted to share I’d have included more! But I will share part of the garden and the exterior of a riding arena on the opposite side of the stables. And I promise I’ll be back with more Adam and Chippendale in next month’s post, in a house that featured on the recent Downton Abbey movie.

garden and riding arena

15 Responses to Nostell Priory

  1. I love these posts. At this stage in my life, I doubt I’ll ever get to travel and see these locations first hand. I am so grateful for you sharing them with us.

  2. Wow, what an incredible place! The workmanship is amazing; just think of all the artisans and the many hours they spent working on every little detail of the mouldings and trims, without power tools! Thank you for sharing this.

    • Thank you for your comment, Nancy! And yes it’s so amazing what they were able to achieve without power tools…the craftsmanship is incredible and I’m always in awe of the details of these houses. The methods are so interesting, too! I spent a long time in the architecture museum in Bath where they break down some of the techniques — I find it absolutely fascinating.

  3. Fabulous! I’m loving the Adam/Chippendale collaboration but all the paintings kept distracting me! I could spend hours there! I was picturing Darcy and Elizabeth in these rooms…I was even imagining a murder/mystery taking place within it’s walls. I think the name lends well to it. Can’t wait to see more of the gardens and stables! Hope your New Year has started off well!

    • Thank you for your comment, Carole, and yes there is so much to look at, isn’t there? I have to allot myself a whole day for a country house to take it all in (and of course I’m taking loads of photos and video!). And yeah I’m going to keep Priory in mind for a house name…changes it up a bit from Abbey but still gives it that indication that it was a former religious house. I hope your New Year has started off well, too!

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