Happy Friday everybody!
I’m back with a little post that combines a slightly forgotten ruin of a country house in the beautiful English countryside of Derbyshire with a museum in the US famous for Rocky Balboa running up the steps… an intruding if slightly crazy combination?
Read on to see what links Sutton Scarsdale Hall with the Philadelphia Museum of Art!
On a particularly scenic spot of the M1 in Derbyshire (stay with me here, I know it’s weird) you get to see Hardwick Hall on one side of the motorway – the majestic home (or rather, two homes) of Bess of Hardwick – and on the other, what looks like magnificent sandstone baroque country house surveying the countryside (with modern motorway addition) around it.
In actual fact, this country house, Sutton Scarsdale Hall, is just a shell.
It was built between 1724 and 1729 for the 4th Earl of Scarsdale, and actually incorporated the previous house on the site, which was from the fifteenth century. The architect was Francis Smith of Warwick.
The Earl died only seven years after completion and the family had to sell in the nineteenth century, running out of money over the costs of having such a great house.
Eventually, in 1919, it was sold to a company of asset strippers and the roof was removed and the interiors sold. The hall is now the subject of a programme of preservation and protection by English Heritage. I used to live nearby and we would have picnics on the grass by the ruined house.
And some of those interiors? They remain intact elsewhere…
Let’s take a little trip across the Atlantic to Philadelphia, USA, and more specifically, the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
We were wandering through this wonderful museum until we found these imposing rooms that were country house interiors – and when I stopped to read the sign, I realised that they were rooms from Sutton Scarsdale.
When the asset strippers bought the Hall in 1919, they sold the interiors at auction. Three of them were then bought by the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s Director, Fiske Kimball, with the idea that they would be perfect settings for a collection of English paintings owned by the museum.
So here they are! Aren’t they wonderful? Also Grinling Gibbons is thought to have crafted some of the wood carvings.
Crazy to stumble upon these rooms when we used to live just a stone’s throw away from where they originally stood! There are so many interiors of historic homes that have found their way into museums, detached from their original surroundings – it’s so interesting to think what meanings and new contexts this brings!