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Ambrose Phillipps of Garendon

  • Mark Girouard

A book of drawings in the R.I.B.A., a group of buildings at Garendon Park, near Loughborough, in Leicestershire, and a passage in John Nichol's History of Leicestershire combine together to present a reasonably full picture of Ambrose Phillipps, an amateur architect of the 18th century.

His grandfather, also called Ambrose, was a successful London lawyer who purchased the Garendon estate in 1683 from the 2nd Duke of Buckingham, and was knighted three years later. Sir Ambrose died in 1706, when Garendon was inherited by his second son William, who had been a merchant in Constantinople until called home by the death of his elder brother in 1716. William had married, in 1703, Jane, the daughter of Sir Samuel Dashwood, at one time Lord Mayor of London. They had three sons: Ambrose, who was born in 1706 or 1707, and Samuel and William, who both became merchants in Smyrna.

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1. Nichols, John, History and Antiquities of the County of Leicester, 1804, III, ii, (West Goscote Hundred), 802-3. My information about the Phillipps family history comes from Nichols. An interesting and fairly full early description (1746) of Garendon is published in Hist. MSS. Comm., Xlllth Report, Appendix. Part IV, p. 480.

2. A pastel portrait of him, probably by Rosalba, is in the possession of his collateral descendant Mr A. P. J. de Lisle, the present owner of Garendon Park. This appears to be the “portrait in Venetian dress” referred to by Nichols.

3. Desgodetz's Edifices Antique de Rome (1682) shows the Arch of Titus as it would have been when Phillipps saw it, and gives a restored ground plan (though not an elevation) of the complete building.

4. Cust, Lionel and Colvin, Sidney, History of the Society of Dilettanti (Enlarged edition), 1914, p. 244 .

5. The quotation comes from the end of the 1730–2 section of Spence's Anecdotes.

6. Hautecoeur, I., Histoire de l'architecture classique en France, 1943, etc., 111. 52.

7. The ledger-book and cash-book (1738–43) of his brother and heir Samuel are in Derby Public library (Derbyshire Collection 10627, 10736). Thev contain bills for building, probably at Garendon House, in 1740 and 1741. Also the payment (leb. 16, 1739/40) of £220 to a “Monumental Maker” for Ambrose Phillipps’ tomb.

8. The pedimented archways on either side of the 18th century facade at Garendon are based on the famous archway by lnigo Jones at Beaufort House, removed by lord Burlington to Chiswick.

9. Ambrose Phillipps’ will in Somerset House (P.C.C. 1737, Wake, 256) contains no architectural information. One of his executors was Leake Okeover, of Okeover Hall in Staffordshire, where the impressive stable block (for which no accounts survive) is just worth considering as a possible design by Phillipps. Leake Okeover's other work at Okeover is documented, and is by other architects working after Phillipps’ death. See Arthur Oswald's articles in Country Life, Jan. 23. 30, March 12, 19, 1964.

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Architectural History
  • ISSN: 0066-622X
  • EISSN: 2059-5670
  • URL: /core/journals/architectural-history
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