Tottenham House, Savernake, Wiltshire.
A hotel deal, now with planning approval, allows restoration of the house
The Tottenham House we see today was built by one of Lord Cardigan's ancestors, the first Marquess of Ailesbury, in 1820. It was built to celebrate his elevation from earl to Marquess of Ailesbury in the 1815 Coronation Honours. The house which was on the site was greatly enlarged almost entirely for entertaining.  Guests certainly included royalty and the Prince of Wales is known to have stayed at the house on several occasions. In its heyday, Tottenham House had more than 100 staff. The house also boasted its own impressive stable block. It continued to be the family home for the Ailesburys until 1945 when the family moved out. In 1940 they started to share it with the officers of the large US Army contingent based in Savernake Forest in preparation for D-Day. After the War ended, the family moved out to a smaller house on the Estate, and Tottenham House was then leased to Hawtreys boys school until that school went bankrupt in 1994.  The stately home, which has more than 100 rooms, was then leased to the Amber Foundation, the charity which helps 18-30 year-olds get over social problems including drug and substance abuse. It also helps them to find employment.

Building History

There have been four buildings called Tottenham House on this site on the southern edge of Savernake Forest. The present  Neo-classical mansion was built in 1820. The previous building, made of brick, was built by Lord Bruce in the 1720’s, and designed by his brother-in-law the famous architect Lord Burlington. The form of Tottenham, which Flitcroft supervised on Burlington’s behalf was little related to to Burlington’s Chiswick. It was a four sided block with angle towers after Inigo Jones/ Isaac de Caus’ uncompleted wing at Wilton, with the addition of a central tower taken from Webb’s Amesbury Abbey in Wiltshire. As a prototype of English Palladianism Tottenham was extremely important. Here for the first time in the eighteenth century the Wilton Towers with Venetian windows were revived.

When a subsequent Lord Bruce was created 1st Marquess of Ailesbury in 1820, he asked the architect Thomas Cundy to design a larger mansion, which was accomplished by building a much larger structure around the old Burlington house and covering the old bricks with blocks of Bath stone. In 1870 two large symmetrical wings were added. Tottenham House is a Grade I Listed Building. Facing Tottenham House, on a hilltop, is the Ailesbury Column, erected in the 1770’s to commemorate the restoration "to perfect health from a long and afflicting disorder" of his majesty King George III. The other high-water mark was in the 1740s. The head of the family at that time Lord Thomas Bruce, made a great success of himself, and had risen at Court to be Governor to the young King George IV. He employed Lancelot 'Capability' Brown to plant great beech Avenues in Savernake Forest, which was then some 40,000 acres, nearly 10 times its present size. These included the Grand Avenue, running through the heart of the Forest, and which at 3.9 miles (dead straight) stands in the Guinness Book of Records as the longest Avenue in Britain.

Listing Description:

Great house, now boys preparatory school. 1825, by Thomas Cundy II for Charles Brudenell Bruce, Marquess of Ailesbury.  Ashlar limestone. Slate roofs. Two-storey, semi-basement and attic storey to centre block. Giant tetrastyle Ionic portico up 10 steps. Five-bay centre block and 3 window bay linking blocks to 3 x 3 bay wings with gable stacks. Attached half Tuscan column quadrant arms to 1 x 5 bay terminal pavilions, all with roof balustrade. Main block and linking blocks have 6-pane casement windows, triangular pediments and apron balustrade. Cornice above second storey. Quadrant arms altered 1870, niches between columns and central arch with freestanding lion cresting. Rear elevation of main block similar but portico with paired Ionic columns.

Interior: Entrance hall with paired Ionic pilasters and dentil cornice. End bracketed fireplaces and garlanded panel over with marble figure and child. Ailesbury motto FULMUS. Doors to main stair hall, 3 storeys high under roof light. Flying stair and galleries with cast iron balustrade and mahogany wreathed and carved rail. To right, the Grey Parlour, c1720-30 by Lord Burlington. Chaste, with marble fireplace and wood overmantel. Doors with pulvinated frieze and dentilled cornice. Two pairs oak doors between rooms. Dining Hall of 4 bays. Marble chimneypiece. Heavy moulded plaster ceiling with star centre. Billiard Room, now library, with very rich ceiling, baroque chimneypiece and parquet floor. Marble Room in right wing. Paired Corinthian pilasters in mottled grey marble on background of yellow marble. Grisaille trompe l'oeil panels. Marble fireplace and parquet floor.

Rear of right quadrant wing is former conservatory, cast iron columns and barrel vaulted roof by Richard and Jones. Heating plant by Henry Stothart. Tottenham House was built on the site of 2 earlier houses, first, of 1573-5 probably erected with advice of Sir John Thynne, and second a brick mansion by Richard Boyle, Lord Burlington, for his brother in law, Charles Bruce, part of which house is incorporated in the present building. Venetian windows flanking the portico recall Burlington's scheme drawn by Flitcroft, a direct reference to Jones's Wilton. Grounds landscaped by Lancelot Brown, 1764 for Lord Bruce, some prospects surviving.

Development News Update (1):  first published in “This is Wiltshire.co.uk” on Thursday 29 January 2004:

Earl wins praise for mansion plan:

A hotel and golfing centre for the mega rich is on course to open in Savernake Forest in about two and a half years' time. In August 2002 the Gazette revealed exclusively that Lord Cardigan was involved in talks with developers over the future of Tottenham House. On Friday [January 23rd] local councilors were invited to Tottenham House to see the plans for the lavish £50 million hotel.

They were given a briefing by Ronnie Nathan of Gold Club Investment Holdings, part of the UK-based consortium planning to convert the early 19th century mansion. Also in attendance was Mike Frost, senior partner of the Florida-based Buena Vista Hospitality Group that is also part of the consortium.  Following the meeting Lord Cardigan, who runs his family's Savernake Estate, told the Gazette that he had been keen to let the invited councilors see there would be no exterior change to the impressive façade of Grade I -listed Tottenham House. He took the group on a conducted tour and later said: "I was really keen to demonstrate to them all that when the work is finished at the house they will not see a single new brick from the public road that passes the house. "I even took them up onto the large flat roof of the mansion so that they could see that even from up there they will be unable to see any new rooms in years to come. Not one."

Those invited to the meeting included included Kennet District Council's planning chairman John Booth and the Kennet's forward planning team leader Ed White. Gordon Stone, chairman of Great Bedwyn Parish Council, in whose area the house stands, said he was fully supportive of the plans because the hotel scheme provided a safe future for Tottenham House. He said: "I have always thought it was a very good project that will secure the future of the house. Without the funding from a scheme like this then nothing will happen. This will give the place a new lease of life."

John Powell, chairman of Burbage Parish Council, whose area abuts Tottenham Park, was equally supportive. Coun Powell said: "I think it will be a wonderful thing for the area. "The way this consortium did the presentation they seem to have all the answers and they had clearly put a lot of homework into it. "They reckon they will employ as many as 200 people so there should be some local jobs." Lord Cardigan said it was envisaged that final plans would be ready for submission within about four months with permission being given hopefully by the end of the summer. The project would take about two years to complete and the hotel and golfing centre should be ready to open by the end of 2006.

Lord Cardigan said he anticipated work on converting the existing building and stable block that features on the English Heritage of buildings "at risk" would start within a few months of the planning consent being given. New bedroom suites will be built in the walled garden behind the house and will not be able to be seen from the Durley road or from the drive up to Tottenham House.

Development News Update (2): : From the Swindon Advertiser, first published Thursday 26th May 2005.

Councillors welcome £70m golf hotel plan.

KENNET planners have given an enthusiastic welcome to the proposed £70 million golf hotel at Tottenham House in Savernake Forest. The Earl of Cardigan, his wife, and son, Viscount Savernake, were at the council's regulatory committee meeting on Thursday to hear the debate. It is the biggest single leisure scheme ever in the Kennet district and possibly in the county.  About 200 jobs will be created when the 148 apartment hotel and PGA international standard golf course open. The international consortium behind the scheme said they want to have the super luxury hotel and golf course open by 2008. Some councillors queried why the planning application was in part outline although full planning consent was requested. John Kirkman, chairman of the Kennet branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, told the committee: "We have never previously seen such an incomplete application. "You should not authorise full planning permission on this outline basis."
Senior planning officer Mike Wilmott explained that because of the magnitude of the scheme the developers had submitted it partly as a full application and partly outline to avoid the huge expense of preparing complete plans only to meet a planning refusal.  He said Golf Club Investment Holdings plc had already spent many hundreds of thousands of pounds and was looking for confirmation from Kennet that the scheme could go forward.  Although it was not stated at the meeting, the report from officers to councillors also mentioned the possibility that the Deputy Prime Minister's office could decide to hold a public inquiry.  By a vote of 12-1 the committee agreed to defer a decision and delegate it to their officers.
Dr Kirkman said a satisfactory water supply was a major concern. Noel Shuttleworth who lives in Savernake Forest said: "This is pure lunacy, this is not Florida." Rob McClennan, a planning consultant representing some families in Durley, said road safety was a major issue. John Thompson, of Great Bedwyn Parish Council, said a much fuller analysis of the project was needed before granting consent. He said the parish council wanted the final decision made by elected members and not delegated to officers. Water companies had given assurances that supplies could be brought in without affecting the River Kennet catchment. The developers' planning consultant Jonathan Kamm said; "We have been trying to find something that will work to bring this historic building back into use and give it a use that will work." Lord Cardigan, who plans to lease Tottenham House and parkland to Golf Club Investment Holdings, said he had been working for 12 years to find an alternative use for the house. Ideas considered included conversion into an old people's home. Robert Kilroy-Silk, the TV presenter, had considered a TV studio complex in the house and Andrew Lloyd- Webber had expressed interest in using the house for his huge art collection but talks, in both cases, petered out. Lord Cardigan said: "This is the only scheme which makes sense”.

The Kennet DC Planning Refs are: K/50777/LBC and K50771/FUL. Both the house and stables are currently on the English Heritage Buildings at Risk register.
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Last updated 25/11/05
Tottenham House
Tottenham House - Aquatint published about 1790, showing the Burlington house of  c 1721.
Tottenham House, as built c 1720, designed by Burlington. Entrance facade