Sandon Hall


Location   Sandon
Year demolished   1848  
Reason   Fire  
No images are currently available

Text written by, and copyright of, Nicholas Kingsley (2016) - many thanks

Sandon Hall in Staffordshire was the seat of the Erdeswicke family from 1339 and in the late 16th century Sampson Erdeswicke (d. 1603) became the first county historian of Staffordshire. His house at Sandon was described as "an ancient large half-timbered edifice, which was defended by strong walls and a deep moat". Sampson's half-brother and heir, George Erdeswick, sold the estate to George Digby, whose granddaughter carried it in marriage to the Dukes of Hamilton.

The medieval and Tudor house was rebuilt in 1769-71 by Joseph Pickford of Derby for Lord Archibald Hamilton (1740-1819), later the 9th Duke of Hamilton. Pickford's drawings survive at Sandon Hall, and the house was illustrated in Vitruvius Britannicus, vol. 5. The new Sandon Hall was a straightforward five-bay villa with pavilion wings connected to the main block by single-storey links. It was intended only as a hunting box, not a main seat, so it was built of red brick rather than stone. Inside, Pickford departed for the first time in his career from rectangular rooms to experiment with the varied room-shapes that were made fashionable by Sir Robert Taylor and others. At Sandon, these included a semi-circular top-lit staircase and an octagonal dressing room.

In 1776 the house was sold to Nathaniel Ryder (1735-1803), 1st Baron Harrowby, who had been MP for Tiverton for twenty years prior to his ennoblement earlier in 1776. He and his son, Dudley Ryder (also a politician, who became the 1st Earl of Harrowby in 1812) employed Samuel Wyatt to make alterations in 1777-84, and to convert the wings (which had been intended as service accommodation) into family rooms. This necessitated building corridors in front of the original recessed links to the wings, which robbed the front of movement.

At the same time as the house was built, William Emes provided a design for laying out the park. He began work for Lord Archibald, who planted 30,000 trees, and was kept on by Lord Harrowby to landscape the curving valley and provide various small buildings as incidents along the drive. Samuel Wyatt designed a Model Farm in the park which survives much as he left it.

Sadly, the main house does not. In 1848 a workman set light to the roof and the house burned down, albeit slowly enough for most of the contents to be rescued.

The Scottish architect William Burn was brought in to design a new house which is Georgian in its shape (a long double-pile) but neo-Jacobean in its details. The north-facing entrance side is of nine bays with a big porte-cochere in the centre that rises into a pair of turrets. The garden side of the house has full-height bay windows under shaped gables one bay in from either end, but lacks central emphasis. On the west end is a lower 'private wing', with a separate entrance from the north, and beyond this is the brick-built service range. The numerous large state rooms of the house have Jacobean-style plasterwork ceilings, and there is a big and opulent staircase, starting in one flight and returning in two.

It is all rather soulless and mechanical, which is perhaps what we should expect from a practice the size of Burn's, which built literally hundreds of country houses.

The house still belongs to the Earls of Harrowby, although the main rooms are now used extensively for conferences and weddings. The Harrowbys divide their time between Sandon and their other house at Burnt Norton in Gloucestershire.