Newby Hall & Gardens, Ripon
One of Britain’s finest Adam Houses Newby Hall, the family home of Mr & Mrs Richard Compton, is one of England’s renowned Adam houses and an exceptional example of 18th century interior decoration. Built in the 1690s in the style of Sir Christopher Wren the house was later enlarged and adapted by John Carr and subsequently Robert Adam.
William Weddell, an ancestor the Comptons, was a prominent member of the Dilettanti society and had made the “Grand Tour” in 1765-6. Amongst the treasures he brought back from Europe were magnificent classical sculptures and a superb set of Gobelins Tapestries. In order to house all these treasures, Weddell commissioned the Architect Robert Adam to create the splendid domed Sculpture Gallery and Tapestry Room that we see today. Indeed the entire contents of the Tapestry Room are still in their original condition, which makes the room unique.
At the beginning of the 19th century the third Lord Grantham built the Regency Dining Room; it is in marked contrast to Adam’s fine mouldings and the graceful elegance of the rest of the house – an elegance restored by Mrs Jane Compton, who painstakingly researched Adam’s original colours. Newby also possess many fine pieces of Chippendale furniture, porcelain and paintings.
The legacy he left to my parents was a daunting one in terms of showing the best of Newby to the public whilst retaining an acceptable degree of privacy for the family – the house needed total restoration and redecoration and everything was in the wrong place! They soon decided to move into the north wing of the house and keep the northern part of the gardens for themselves, thus enabling visitors to enter the house through the front door and have a complete tour of the main rooms and bedrooms without retracing their steps, or ‘treading on their toes’.
This meant moving the car park from the fine stables, where it spoiled the view, to a more central position surrounded by trees. A connecting road had to be built, and then an entrance pavilion to house an entrance area and the Newby Shop. Next the Garden Restaurant and Grantham Room followed for booked parties, sited in a sunny corner of the kitchen gardens nearby.
In 1980, the Year of the Child, they planned the Adventure Gardens for children, within easy reach of the restaurant. Finally, they decided to extend the 10¼ inch-gauge miniature railway to run through the gardens alongside the river. The redecoration of the house has now been completed, with great knowledge and flair by my mother, and my father has left us with as complete a garden as one ever can be with wonderful vistas, colour schemes and a rich horticultural collection. This Garden management baton has been taken up by my wife Lucinda following my father’s sad death in November 2009.
In these projects we have received financial help from the Historic Buildings Council, the Countryside Commission and the then English Tourist Board, but the cost has been high and there is no profit for us – except in the knowledge that what we have done provides much pleasure for thousands of visitors each year. Reward for our efforts has also come from the British Tourist Authority, which 1979 acknowledged the outstanding contribution made by Newby Hall and Gardens to British tourism and in 1983 gave Newby an award for the best restored house and garden. In 1986 Newby Gardens were further honoured, receiving the HHA/Christies Garden of the Year Award and more recently the winner of Yorkshire in Bloom 2008 and a Gold Award in 2009.
Newby was fortunate indeed to have had my parents loving influence at such a crucial time. My mother was responsible for the redecoration of all you see and her flair and taste is known throughout the country. My father’s adaption of his father’s creation is a marvel for all to see and a wonderful legacy to his long and successful life.
Another era in Newby’s rich history has just started as Lucinda takes on the role of custodian of the Garden as well as the ongoing curatorial responsibility for the house contents and I take on the exciting role of High Sheriff of North Yorkshire.
The baton my parents have handed over to Lucinda and I bring with it the responsibility of being the custodian of one of Britain’s treasures. We are happy to share Newby with you and we continue to need all the help you can give by coming back to see it.
Without your help Newby cannot survive as one of the finest examples of the age of elegance and of the heritage of our country.’
My grandfather’s main contribution during his tenure was the garden. He wrote at the time, ‘I found I had inherited an exceptionally beautiful home but no garden to speak of – a lovely picture but no frame – I was determined to rectify this’. First he planned the great double herbaceous borders, flanked by hedges of yew, as a magnificent vista to link the south front with the river below. Off this main axis he planned a series of formal gardens, each to show plants at their best for every season of the year. The gardens he designed over fifty years cover twenty-five acres and is a major contribution to twentieth-century gardening.