It has been a busy summer of visits to houses and gardens that could give us clues about the design of Campden House. The work on the dig really came to life with our visit to Aston Hall, Birmingham. This was built for Sir Thomas Holte and built between 1618 and 1635. It is a leading example of the Jacobean prodigy house, designed by John Thorpe, who may have been the architect for Campden House. The Aston Hall guidebook says, ‘Sir Thomas Holte … may have heard of Thorpe from … Baptist Hicks, Viscount Campden. Thorpe planned a house in Kensington for him in about 1612, and Holte knew and admired the great house Hicks built at Chipping Campden.’
We are trying to find the reference for this, but the guidebook is now out of print. We were able to compare our finds from the trench with the materials used at Aston Hall (see Significant Finds in the Menu bar)
I had always assumed that 17th century woodwork was put together with pegs – evidently not, hence the vast number of nails we found. The panelling and flooring at Aston Hall was very obviously nailed on.
What a marvellous place! I would never have gone if it weren’t for the Old Campden House project. Thoughtful and informative guides and I could really get a sense of how Campden House might have looked.
In July we travelled to Hatfield House, built by Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury and first minister to King James I. Cecil built Hatfield just before Baptist Hicks planned his mansions in Campden and Kensington and we were keen to look for more clues here. We admired the long gallery and the beautiful plasterwork, and could imagine how the look of Campden House could have been influenced by Hatfield, although on a less grand scale. Not everyone admired the modern fountain but it was just the thing that Baptist Hicks would have enjoyed – a real feat of engineering combined with ‘bling’!
Chastleton House is a comparable house, much smaller but with many features intact. Some of our group went there and to Stanway, another nearby property with the famous fountain. A Campden House fountain would not have matched it!