Friday 15 June 2012

Neo-classicism in Roehampton.

We've been looking at the neoclassical reception of antiquity through the buildings in our university. The first one we looked at was Grove House (right) now a part of the Froebel campus. A house was built on the site between 1622 and 1625 by Bartholomew Bennett when David Paillon owned it. Later it was bought by  SIr Richard Weston who added a chapel and gardens. After changing hands quite a few times the property was bought by Joshua Vannek in 1786. Between 1779 and 1793 (Gerhold, 1997:14) he pulled down the old house and built a villa, designed by Wyatt and the interiors by Robert Adam. The room we were looking at in particular is called the Adam Room and contains a representation of Hercules that was popular since the Renaissance. Hercules was a popular figure in within neoclassicism and one that I have seen before else where in other stately homes which I have already mentioned. The representation is of Hercules' choice between vice and virtue found in Prodicus, when he was contemplating at the crossroads and two women came to him embodying Vice and Virtue. It was a popular theme throughout the Renaissance and beyond because of its moral value. Not all neo-classical art has to have a moral theme though and was often used to show wealth and opulence because upper class young gentlemen would take the 'grand tour' around Europe and would often bring back artefacts or be inspired by what they seen and commission copies or similar architectural to the wonders they saw. We have an example of this in Froebel college, round the back of Grove house there are four white statues re
0presenting the Four Seasons made by Aristide Fontara (fl. c. 1890) and a coade stone roundel which shows Greek inspired Dionysian figures juxtaposed with Christian scenes representing St Mark. This merging of cultures was often seen at that time and the roundel has been thought to have been an original brought back from a gentleman's 'grand tour' possibly by one of the Lynne Stephans who owned the house from 1843-1897. (Gerhold. 1997:16)

The  two other villas that Roehampton owns are Parkstead House, also known as Manresa House (left) and Mount Clare. We went to Parkstead House which is now Whitelands College and is and odd juxtaposition of modern class architecture mixed with the original Georgian house. The original front of the house is now considered the back but is still almost unaltered and is a lovely view found in the heart of a what seems to be a normal London estate. The house was built by the Earl of Bessborough around 1761-1763. The house was designed by Sir William Chambers, a rival of Robert Adam who designed the interiors of Grove house, and helped him to become known at the time and chambers went on to design the Pagoda at Kew Gardens and Somerset House. It was lovely exploring the state rooms and looking at the ceilings which were beautiful and obviously influenced by Classical art but we found the rams skulls to be a little odd in a ceiling which seemed to be showing an abundance of fruit and maybe would have been a dining room, though we weren't entirely sure what it was used for.
I have enjoyed exploring these buildings and really want to learn more about them and will go to Mount Clare in my own time as we were held up by the rain. I'm very much looking forward to seeing the Doric Temple I've heard so much about and I really hope the university will get funding to restore it.


  • Gerhold, Dorian (1997) Villas and Mansions of Roehampton and Putney Heath. Printed by Roebuck Print Shop, Mitcham. Wandsworth Historical Society. 
  • Gerhold, Dorian (1994) Putney and Roehampton Past. London. Historical Publications Ltd.
  • Loose, Jacqueline. (197 Roehampton 'The Last Village in London.' London. London Borough of Wandsworth Libraries and Arts.

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