Source Information

  • Source ID S1512 
    Text In the mid C12, Redlynch belonged to Henry Lovel of Castle Cary (d 1194). The estate continued in the possession of Henry Lovel’s descendants until the late C14, when it seems to have been acquired by James FitzJames (d c 1391) (VCH 1999). James FitzJames’ great-grandson, Sir John, Chief Justice of the King’s Bench, owned a house at Redlynch which in 1538 included a great chamber over a parlour. Sir John FitzJames died c 1542, and was succeeded by his cousin, Sir Nicholas, who improved the house. In 1617, Sir Nicholas’ nephew, John FitzJames, sold Redlynch to Sir Robert Gorges of Bristol, with whose family the property remained until it was conveyed in 1672 to Sir Stephen Fox in settlement of a debt (ibid).

    In 1688, Sir Stephen Fox undertook an extensive programme of repairs to the house, which was described as large, while in 1708–09 he commissioned Thomas Fort to design a new house which was built on a site adjoining the C16 mansion. Fox died in 1716 and was succeeded by his son, also Stephen, who assumed the additional name of Strangways on his marriage in 1735, and was created Lord Ilchester in 1741 and Earl of Ilchester in 1756. Lord Ilchester was responsible for considerable changes and improvements to both the house and landscape at Redlynch. In 1729 work began on building garden walls, while in 1738 E Grant produced a plan of the park, perhaps a proposal, which indicated shrubberies north of the house, a formal lake to the south, and a serpentine walk to the south-east (E Grant, 1738). Between 1740 and 1762 the park was increased in size and a series of ornamental features including cascades, a great pond, wilderness, temple, Chinese seat, and a menagerie aviary, while in 1755 Henry Flitcroft designed a new gothic entrance on the west side of the park. These improvements are recorded on a map of 1762 by Benjamin Donne. Lord Ilchester entertained George III at Redlynch during the King’s visits to Weymouth.

    Lord Ilchester died in 1776 and was succeeded by his son, Henry Thomas, second Earl of Ilchester. The second Earl made his principal residence at Melbury, Dorset (qv), and in the 1790s proposed to return the park at Redlynch to agrarian use. This policy was implemented by the third Earl, who inherited in 1802. By the 1830s parts of the C18 mansion had been abandoned, while in 1851 it was partly occupied as a farmhouse. In 1901, the fifth Earl, who had succeeded to the estate in 1865, commissioned Edwin Lutyens (1869–1944) to convert the C18 service block to residential use, and this subsequently served as the principal residence on the estate. In 1912 the sixth Earl sold the estate to the Cavendish Land Co, who quickly sold it on to a series of speculative purchasers. In 1914 however the converted service range was seriously damaged by a fire started by Suffragettes; the building was repaired and the C18 mansion demolished at about the same time. The house was again sold several times, before being acquired in 1935 by Margaret, Countess of Suffolk and Berkshire, who continued to live at Redlynch until her death in 1967. The property subsequently passed through several ownerships and between c 1971 and c 1982 served as a school. In 1985 the house and stables were converted into apartments, while the Orangery was sold for residential use and the park continued in agricultural use. The site remains (2003) in divided ownership 
    Linked to Fox-Strangways, Henry Stephen 3rd Earl of Ilchester 

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