The Park Place estate at Remenham was originally a farm called Strouds. It was purchased by Lord Archibald Hamilton, son of the 3rd Duke of Hamilton, from Mrs. Elizabeth Baber in 1719. He had other estates, particularly in Scotland and Ireland, but Park Place became his chief seat in the South and he built a fine mansion on the site of the present house. Hamilton was a Naval officer and former Governor of Jamaica, and was often out of the country. So it is not surprising to find that his wife found herself a lover - in the person of his good friend, Frederick, the Prince of Wales. Around 1737, the Prince bought Park Place from Archibald, although the Hamiltons continued to live there for a few years. Elizabeth, one of the daughters of the house, married Lord Brooke (later Earl of Warwick) there in 1742. The house was the country estate of the Prince and Princess of Wales for another ten years, the period in which they barely spoke to the King and Queen. They raised their family of nine children there, including the future George III and his brother, the Duke of Gloucester. There are paintings of them playing in the park in the Royal Collection. The former planted a cedar tree on the lawn, which is apparently still there.
In 1752, Park Place was sold to Henry Seymour Conway, the brother of the Earl of Hertford. He was a politician and army officer who rose to the rank of field marshal. When not on campaign or in London, he lived in the house with his wife, the widowed Countess of Aylesbury, and their only daughter, the future sculptress, Anne Seymour Damer. The Countess also had an elder daughter who became the Duchess of Richmond. It was during their residence that the murderess, Mary Blandy, used to secretly meet with her lover in the park. Seymour Conway was the best of friends with the great intellect and patron of the arts, Horace Walpole, the Earl of Orford. He was frequently at Park Place, along with many other members of the literati: Jean-Jacques Rousseau (the philosopher), David Garrick (the actor), Elizabeth Farren (the actress and later the Countess of Derby), Kitty Clive (the actress), Elizabeth Montague (the blue stocking) and Lady Hamilton (Nelson's mistress) amongst others. They came, not only for the company, but to see the extraordinary improvements that Seymour Conway had made to the grounds. He created a 'Happy Valley' with lawns running down to the River Thames and a rustic bridge, made of stones from Reading Abbey, to carry the road to Henley over the top. Nearby was a 'Druids' Temple,' a prehistoric cromlech given to him by the people of Jersey where he had been Governor. He planted many unusual trees and shrubs, including the first Lombardy Poplar in Britain; and there was also a lavender farm and a menagerie, and the park was well stocked with deer. Seymour Conway also undertook major rebuilding and extension work at the house - which he considered excessively cold - in the style of Inigo Jones in 1787.
After Seymour Conway's death in 1795, the Park Place estate was purchased by James Harris, the Earl of Malmesbury. He employed Henry Holland to enlarge and remodel the house - including cladding some of it in white tiles - between 1796 and 1799. It was described in 1801 as "composed of brick encased in yellow stucco; and though not externally grand, is highly interesting from the taste and elegance exhibited in the interior". There was a fabulous library consisting largely of his father's collection of books; for the Earl was the son of James Harris the Elder, the author of 'Hermes' (A Philosophical Enquiry concerning Universal Grammar). Lady Malmesbury's bedroom had a very unusual and surprising japanned cabinet with no back that opened onto a a magnificent view across the River to Henley. Malmesbury was a distinguished British diplomat and George IV occasionally visited him at Park Place, as did the Prime Ministers, William Pitt the Younger and George Canning of Easthampstead Park. Canning suggested that King Louis XVIII of France drop in on the Earl in Remenham, but it is not known if he ever did.
The estate was somewhat reduced when the Earl sold it in 28 lots by public auction in 1815. The house and surrounding land was purchased by Henry Piper Spurling for £32,000 but, nine years later, he swapped it with his cousin, Ebenezer Fuller Maitland for Norbury Park in Surrey. Fuller Maitland's main estate was at Stansted Hall in Essex, but he also owned Shinfield Park.
Fuller Maitland's widow lived in the house from 1858; then Charles Easton from 1867; and John Noble, who rebuilt much of the building to what can be seen today, from 1869; and his widow after 1890.
Park Place is a private residence. It is hidden by trees deep within the estate.
|© Nash Ford Publishing 2013. All Rights Reserved.|