Houghton House, Ampthill
Revisit the splendour of times gone by.
Houghton House makes for a great afternoon out. Located just 1 mile north of Ampthill, Bedfordshire (and about 8 miles south of Bedford), it commands fantastic views of the Marston Vale and surrounding areas.
Houghton House was built in a mixture of Jacobean and Classical styles (presumably by John Thorpe) for Mary Sidney Herbert, Dowager Countess of Pembroke (sister of Sir Philip Sidney), in about 1615. The three-story brick structure features stone facings, and grand towers at each corner. The house was designed as more of a hunting seat than a stately home (nearby Ampthill Park was a favourite hunting ground for the aristocracy of the time), so was moderately-proportioned, housing about 40 rooms in total.
Mary only got to enjoy her house for a very short time, succumbing to smallpox in 1621. The grounds were then passed on to the Bruce family, who lived there up until 1696. From 1738 onwards, it was owned by John Russell, the 4th Duke of Bedford. His son, the Marquis of Tavistock, http://premier-pharmacy.com/product-category/alcoholism/ took up residency in 1754, only to be killed three years later in a tragic hunting accident. In 1794, the (then) Duke of Bedford (Francis Russell – John Russell’s grandson) stripped the house of its furnishings and removed the roof, leaving the building open to the elements.
From then on the history stops, as nature slowly took over; the building quickly fell into disrepair.
Today, Houghton House is just a distant echo of its former glory, but some of the building’s interior still survives today – most notably the grand staircase (built 1688 by Christopher Wren), installed in the Swan Hotel in Bedford – along with various wood panelling. It is currently owned by English Heritage, and administered as an ancient monument. Opening times are between 10am and 6pm, and admission is free.
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