Cannons was the project of one James Brydges, 1st Duke of Chandos (from 1719), Marlborough’s paymaster general during the War of Spanish Succession. Chandos had made a vast fortune out of the war—some £600,000 at the time of his resignation in 1713. He decided to spend this remodelling the Jacobean house at Cannons, to which he had laid claim following the death of his wife in 1712, in order to transform it into one of the greatest houses of the land (Fig 1).
Chandos employed only the most fashionable architects on the project, whose names read as a veritable roll call of the foremost architects working in early-18th-century London—William Talman, John James, Sir John Vanbrugh and James Gibbs. Lesser figures were similarly barred from the interior, which was decorated with canvases by Louis Laguerre, Antonio Bellucci, Sir James Thornhill and William Kent, as well as stuccowork by Giuseppe Atari and Giovanni Bagutti (this was the first project of the Ticinese stuccatori in England). With Handel serving as Chandos’s Kapellmeister from 1717, the house was a complete expression of the Arts.
Chandos’s standing as a patron, however, and the immense influence of his house, has often been underplayed. This is partly due to the influence of Alexander Pope, who was said to have modelled Timon in his poem Of Taste (published in 1731), with his brash villa, expensive but devoid of taste, on the Duke. Although Pope strenuously denied the allegation, it is perhaps telling that contemporaries identified Chandos so readily with Timon. More important, however, is the fact that his principal achievement as a patron has now disappeared. Chandos’s great fortune began precipitously to decline following the bursting of the South Sea Bubble, in which he was heavily invested, in 1720. As he grew old, he began to worry about money and his legacy, knowing full well that it stood little hope in the hands of his spendthrift son, Henry. It took only three years, in the end, before the 2nd Duke of Chandos was forced to send an invitation to the demolition men in 1747.
Looking at the surviving fragments of the great house—despite their splendour, they can only be said to be fragments—it is possible, nonetheless, to gain a sense of the princely Chandos’s residence. Some elements hide in plain sight in and around the park.
At its northern end, the North London Collegiate School stands on the location of the house itself. At its core is the home that was built for William Hallett, a prosperous cabinetmaker, who bought the site at auction following the demolition of the ducal house, although it has since been much altered. Many of Hallett’s construction materials are likely to have come from Chandos’s house, although, at only three storeys high and three bays across, the Duke might have found the house almost offensively modest.
Continue reading your story on the app
Continue reading your story in the magazine
The lands that time forgot
Britain is full of hidden treasures, from haunted forests to flower-filled meadows, secret stone circles and saintly volcanoes. Annunciata Elwes tours 50 lesser-known treasures of this country to tick off in 2021
The sweet taste of success
We’ve all done it: eased the lid from the golden tin, only for a cloud of powdered sugar to erupt over the car. Amazingly, A. L. Simpkin’s sweets have now been our faithful travel companions for 100 years, reports Julie Harding
When Gounod met Georgina
When, 150 years ago, the French composer encountered the voluptuous singing teacher, sparks flew and London and Paris were agog. Henrietta Bredin recounts the tale of their short-lived, but tumultuous relationship
Three cheers for British spuds
FOR a few years now, most of the potatoes I’ve grown have been nutty, early, French salad potatoes.
Looking forward, looking back
In the first of a new monthly series, Amy Jeffs reflects on the medieval pastime of January: feasting with family and friends
Don't try this at home
The five-day office week is a thing of the past. Emma Hughes rounds up the best places to work from, beyond the kitchen table
Given the green light
A new-found love for space, quiet and Nature is driving growth in the prime countryside market
A charming anomaly - Rosebery House, Midlothian The home of Lord Dalmeny
A late-Georgian shooting lodge became the favoured retreat of the Victorian Prime Minister, Lord Rosebery. It escaped ambitious remodelling at his hands and has recently been the object of sympathetic restoration, as John Martin Robinson reports
A blisteringly good border - Aston Pottery, Oxfordshire
Every single one of the 5,000 plants in this 200ft-long annual bed has been sown and raised from seed. Val Bourne discovers the secrets behind this astonishing achievement
You'll Never Walk Alone
Grafham Water is alive with human and avian company
Cooke showed tough people endure
NO PRESSURE, NO DIAMOND
Farewell to Boss Hog
Joe Bugel was yelling at the team in the gravelly voice, sparing them no mercy or curse words. The offensive line coach wanted hard work as the linemen hit the blocking sled and wanted it now.
READERS SET OUT TO CAPTURE THE MOST STUNNING FLOWERS THEY COULD FIND.
Back From The Dead
Ziva stuns her NCIS co-agents in a “blink and you’ll miss her” return as she protects them from imminent danger.
Overlooked Britain What Delaval brought to the stable
Sir Francis Delaval added an equine palace to Seaton Delaval, Vanbrugh’s baroque jewel
Michael Moore y el engario de las energias "Limpias"
En Masacre en Columbine el documentalista evidencio la violen-cia en que se funda el sistema estadunidense, y ahora, como productor, muestra el no menos inquietante trabajo de Jeff Gibbs El planeta de los humanos, donde se desmitifican como solucion ambiental "100% limpias" las energias eolicas y solares, detras de las cuales se esconden negocios multimillonarios.
Gibbs makes his mark and Lions take series
Brendan Gallagher delves into some of rugby’s most enduring images, their story and why they are still so impactful
From Blenheim to St Paul’s, the British Baroque movement gave us some of our most eye-catching buildings and interiors. We explore the legacy of this exciting era