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Listed Building
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West Oxfordshire (District Authority)
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BLENHEIM SP41NW, SP4416 2/1, 8/1 Blenheim Place 27/08/57 GV I Country house. 1706-29, by Sir John Vanbrugh and Nicholas Hawksmoor for the Duke and Duchess of Marlborough; carvings by Grinling Gibbons and interiors by Laguerre, Thornhill et. al. Limestone ashlar, with rusticated corner towers and details; lead roofs; stone stacks. House has 4 corner towers, and Great Court to north flanked by Stable Court to east and Kitchen Court to west. Baroque style. Two storeys. Sashes to all windows. North front has central 9-bay facade, articulated by giant order of Corinthian pilasters; 3-bay pedimented portico; carving of the Marlborough Arms in tympanum, figures of Britannia and chained slaves on pediment and centurions on parapet by Grinling Gibbons; huge cleft open pediment set behind portico, with clerestory windows to Hall ranged to rear. Quadrants, articulated by Doric engaged columns, link facade to corner towers which have banded rustication, arched windows and bracketed cornices; superstructure to each tower has curved flying buttresses and pinnacles of reversed fleurs-de-lys, piled-up cannon balls and ducal coronets. Colonnades, with engaged Doric columns and carved military achievements by Gibbons, are linked to 11 bay blocks: rusticated archways, in centre of each block and leading to Kitchen and Stable Courts, are flanked by banded Doric columns and surmounted by carvings of the Lion of England savaging the Cock of France. Clock towers behind each archway have interlocking pediments with ball finial. 7-bay end blocks have rusticated Doric pilasters to pedimented centre of north facades. East and west fronts each have central full-height bow windows, with caryatids to west, and similar corner towers to south. South front has tall 9-bay facade to centre, articulated by giant order of Corinthian pilasters progressing to columns in central portico: entablature of portico surmounted by bust of Louis XIV, taken from the city gates of Tournai after its sack in 1709. Roof has finials and military carvings by Grinling Gibbons. Kitchen Court to west: castellated parapet, and arcaded to north and south with heavy open-pedimented Doric porches; east gateway, which houses water cistern, has obelisk-shaped pillars resting on cannon balls flanking cast-iron gates of c.1890 and garlands and statues in niches by Sir William Chambers, 1766-75. Orangery to south of Kitchen Court has arcaded front with sashes and heavy Doric porch of 2 orders with open pediment. Great Court in front of palace remodelled. by Achille Duchene in 1910: military trophies, flanking steps in front of portico, carved by Grinling Gibbons; low ashlar walls surrounding Great Court have piers with wheatear festoons over medallions, and flaming urns to piers in angles of south-east and south-west corners; wrought-iron gates to front, flanked by scrolled ironwork panels. Interior: Great Hall, with 3-tier arcades and Corinthian columns and cornices carved by Grinling Gibbons, has ceiling painted by Sir James Thornhill in 1716 which shows Marlborough presenting plan of Battle of Blenheim to Britannia. Vaulted stone corridors link Great Hall to east and west wings. Stairs to left of Great Hall has iron balustrade continued in front of gallery above proscenium arch, with arms of Queen Anne carved by Gibbons, which leads from Hall to Saloon to rear. Saloon: marble fireplace by Townesend; marble doorcases with carved shells to keys by Grinling Gibbons; walls and ceiling decorated 1719-20 by Louis Laguerre. Suite of 3 rooms to left (east) have plasterwork ceilings by Hawksmoor, and marble fireplaces by Sir William Chambers; scrolls, eagles and phoenixes in coving of ceilings of c.1890, Suite of 3 State Rooms to right, (west) of Saloon have tapestries by Judocus de Vos depicting Marlborough's victories, the remainder of the set being elsewhere in the house: fireplaces by Gibbons and Chambers; Rococo decoration of c.1890, with inset portraits set in gilt frames; First State Room has portrait of 9th Duchess by Duran, Second State Room has portrait of Louis XIV by Mignard and Third State Room has portrait of Colonel Armstrong with Marlborough by Seeman. All set in overmantles over fireplaces. The Long Library, "Hawksmoor's finest room", has plasterwork by Isaac Mansfield and marble doorcases and giant order of Doric pilasters with triglyph frieze by Peisley and Townesend; carved wood bookcases; marble fireplaces, by Hawksmoor or William Kent, have pedimented overmantels framing paintings of seascape and landscape by Wootton after Poussin and Ore surmounted by busts by Rysbrack. Statue of Queen Anne and bust of Marlborough by Rysbrack, the latter on pedestal by Chambers. At ends of Long Library are galleried bays, with consoles supporting pierced balustrades; organ of 1871 to north bay. Corridor to Great Hall has marble basin, probably by Vanbrugh. Private Apartments in East Wing not inspected: central Bow Window Room has wood Corinthian columns and marble fireplace by Gibbons; fireplaces by Chambers in Grand Cabinet and Duchess's Drawing Room. Basement noted as having fireplaces by Gibbons. Chapel: by Hawksmoor, with giant fluted pilasters and plasterwork. Monument to Duke of Marlborough, 1733, designed by William Kent and executed by Rysbrack: Baroque figure composition set in niche with medallion portraits and military trophies to plasterwork panels. Statues of Randolph churchill, 1895, and 7th Duke of Marlborough, 1883. Organ case, reredos, pulpit and benches by T.G. Jackson, c.1890. The 8th Duke, who succeeded in 1883, was chairman of New Telephone Company and installed earliest domestic phone system in Britain here: late C19 telephone sets in Long Library and estate office in Kitchen Court. Amongst the notable furnishings are: in west corridor, connecting Great Hall to Long Library, C18 Flemish statues of nymph and youth (Parodi workshop); Emperor Vespasian and Caracalla; Cardinal Delfino and Cardinal Borromeo (C18 Italian); in Great Hall are 2 bronze statues by Soldani, removed from East Formal Garden; early C18 statue of Bacchus by Michael Vandervoort; Alexander the Great, partly Roman, and Roman bust of Emperor Hadrian; C18 Emperor Scipio Africanus. Woodstock Park, the site far Blenheim Palace, was presented by Queen Anne to John Churchill, first Duke of Marlborough, to commemorate his decisive defeat of the French army at Blenheim in 1704. As a "Royall and a National Monument" (Vanbrugh) it outclasses English royal palaces and rivals the Baroque palaces of Europe in size and splendour. Important influences were Versailles, medieval castle architecture and Elizabethan architecture especially Wollaton Hall. Amongst the masons employed were the Peisleys and William Townesend, who worked on other buildings in Blenheim Park. (Buildings of England: Oxfordshire: pp459-472; National Monuments Record; D. Green: Blenheim Palace, 1951; K. Downes: Hawksmoor, 1959; K. Downes: Vanbrugh, 1977; Article in Country Life: Vol 25 (1909), pp786-798, 834-844; D. Green and C. Hussey: "Blenheim Palace Revisited", Country Life: Vol 105 (1949), pp1182-6, 1246-1250; D. Green and M. Jourdain: "Furniture at Blenheim", Country Life: Vol.107 (1951), pp1184-6; D. Green and T. Rayson: "Restoring Blenheim Palace", Country Life, Vol.124 (1958), pp1400-01; M. Bennitt, "A Painter on the Grand Scale: Louis Laguerre", Vol 136 (1964), pp226-8; D. Green: "Rysbrack at Blenheim", Vol 149 (1971), pp26-28)

Listing NGR: SP4412416055


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number:
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Books and journals
Downes, K, Hawksmoor, (1969)
Downes, K, Vanbrugh, (1977)
Green, D, Blenheim Palace, (1951)
Pevsner, N, Sherwood, J, The Buildings of England: Oxfordshire, (1974), 459-72
'Country Life' in Country Life, (1949), 1182-86
'Country Life' in Country Life, (1949), 1246-50
'Country Life' in Country Life, , Vol. 124, (1958), 1400-01
'Country Life' in Country Life, (1909), 786-798
'Country Life' in Country Life, (1909), 226-8
'Country Life' in Country Life, , Vol. 149, (1971), 26-28
'Country Life' in Country Life, , Vol. 107, (1951), 1184-86
'Country Life' in Country Life, (1964)
Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest in England, Part 34 Oxfordshire


This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

End of official listing

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Date: 12 Jun 2007
Reference: IOE01/15818/21
Rights: Copyright IoE Mr Chris Tresise. Source Historic England Archive
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