Architects & Artisans: The Creation of Nostell Priory

No discussion about Nostell Priory is complete without mentioning the beautiful house itself!

Nostell is a prime example of Palladian architecture, which is a European style that originated from the architect Andrea Palladio in the 16th century. We have to thank the 4th Baronet Rowland Winn and James Paine for laying the groundwork, as they began building work on Nostell in 1736.

James Paine was a successful English architect, who worked on other famous properties including Chatsworth House. We hold letters between Paine and Winn, which provide us with an insight into their working relationship. Paine certainly wasn’t shy about expressing his opinion to his benefactor, as an example in 1760 he informed Winn that he could not wait on a certain Mr Hutton as requested, because he had met him and found him disagreeable. They worked together for nearly 30 years until the death of the 4th Baronet in 1765. Unfortunately, the ‘old fashioned’ Palladian style favoured by Paine was not to the taste of the new 5th Baronet who would replace him with Robert Adam and his Neoclassical style.

We have numerous letters between the 5th Baronet and Adam discussing the progressing work at Nostell Priory over the next 20 years. The 5th Baronet also hired painter Antonio Zucchi, plasterer Joseph Rose the Younger and cabinetmaker Thomas Chippendale to work on the house. All were incredibly skilled artisans, and Nostell Priory celebrated 300 years of Chippendale in 2018 with a series of events and exhibitions looking at his life and work. At the archive we hold many of Chippendale’s letters, and from these we can see that the relationship between craftsman and patron was not an easy one. In one letter dated 27th September 1767 the 5th Baronet threatened to remove his patronage because of delays with his orders! Thankfully this didn’t happen though and between 1766 – 1785 Chippendale designed over 100 pieces of furniture for Nostell Priory.

WYL1352-C3-1-4-[1060] Nostell 1829 Engraving 2

WYW1352/3/3/1/4/18 Engravings showing general views of Nostell Priory 1829

As well as being the home to the Winn family, the house had a larger goal of making a statement about the family and their high standing in society. The 4th and 5th Baronet were both committed to this grand passion project and were responsible for much of the design and build, which cost a small fortune.

Yet all this amazing work came to an abrupt halt in 1785 when the 5th Baronet died in a tragic carriage accident. Many payments to the craftsmen were overdue, and work on the house ceased, this is why today the house looks slightly disproportionate as only one wing, of the four wings Adam designed, was built.

Passing through the hands of various family, the house changed very little despite changes in taste and decor. In 1817 it was taken on by Charles Winn who did minimal work to the house but filled it with his growing and impressive antiquarian collection. Many of his personal papers have survived, including his correspondence from Dr Richard Harrison and others about the acquisition of Greek and Etruscan ceramics from L’Abbe Campbell of Naples. These are now a significant part of the Nostell historic collection. It was his son Rowland Winn who finally completed their ancestors vision. He refurbished Nostell, and it became an important symbol of the Winn’s growing political power.

Nostell Priory is now in the care of the National Trust who have completed extensive restoration work to ensure the house is available to view and enjoy for years to come. You can visit their website here:

You can explore the WYW1352 Nostell Priory catalogue online here:

If you have any questions about this collection please contact:

By Dominique Triggs, Archive Assistant


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