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Engraved view of the Georgian renovated Rycote House

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Engraved view of the Georgian renovated Rycote House

Conrad Martin Metz and James Heath

This view by Metz and Heath was published in the December 1783 edition of The British Magazine and Review, or, Universal miscellany. It depicts the post-1745 fire renovated mansion. Whereas earlier represenations show the Tudor mansion with casement windows, it is shown here with sash windows. A brief unpublished nineteenth-century history of Rycote claims that the change was instigated by the 4th Earl of Abingdon following his inheritance of the estate in 1760 (MS. Top. Oxon. b. 220, fol. 161v). The alterations may, however, have occurred slightly later during the 4th Earl's ownership. A note in the estate accounts for 1767-1768, in the margin next to the window tax calculation, reads "to be reassessed when alterations finished" (MS. Top. Oxon. b. 191, p. 21).

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Following the disastrous fire of 1745 (in which the 3rd earl’s 10-year-old heir died) Rycote House was substantially remodelled: work was underway by 1747 and continued into the late 1760s, when the 4th earl lavished over £5,000 on ‘repairing, amending, improving, and furnishing’ the mansion. This engraving of 1783 shows that the main façade had been transformed and extended to seven bays, with a shaped pediment over the central doorway and sash windows in place of the former casements. A contemporary thought that the uniformity of the building had been spoiled, though that seems a harsh judgement: the house’s former symmetry was retained and the corner turrets with cupolas, stepped gables, and battlements were all rebuilt.

Dr Mark Page 07/03/2013

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