Unravelling the mystery of Yorkshire's Newby Hall and its links with Sir Christopher Wren
Newby Hall, near Ripon, is widely acclaimed to be among the finest country seats "in ye North of England". But there is mounting evidence, and studies to agree, that it was designed by the same man behind London's St Paul's Cathedral.
As today marks 300 years since the death of Sir Christopher Wren, as the country's foremost architect of the 17th century, the clues are examined. There's the sash windows, which with a tight timeline make a compelling case, and proof of payments made between the estates.
Most critically of all are the manuscripts from the man who wrote Robinson Crusoe, Daniel Defoe, who noted down details in his visits from the time. Expert studies, published in 2008, are inclined to agree.
Stuart Gill is commercial director at Newby Hall. He said: "There are lots of little bits of evidence, that when you put it all together are fairly weighty. It's unproven, but certainly something Newby and Yorkshire should be proud of. We look forward to more research and building on it even more."
Sir Christopher Wren remains Britain’s most famous architect, having rebuilt dozens of churches following the Great Fire of London in 1666, including St Paul’s Cathedral. A scientist, mathematician and astronomer, he died on February 25, 1723.
For Newby Hall, later enlarged and adapted by renowned architects John Carr and Robert Adam, studies found the evidence "does seem to confirm" that Wren was responsible for its initial design. One by Pete Smith, called A House by Sir Christopher Wren? The second Newby Hall and its gardens, examined the issue in the Georgian Group Journal.
It could confidently state the hall was designed much earlier than first believed, fitting in with the timeline, while old drawings and manuscripts added further fuel. One in particular, by world-famous author Daniel Defoe, states that Christopher Wren not only was involved in the design but actually chose the position of the house.
Most critical is the house's window sashes, described in letters and pictures at a time when Wren's fashionable designs were so new they would only have been emerging. And there were further discoveries - notably a payment made by the home's owner Blackett to Wren - proving beyond a doubt that the men were known to one another.
Mr Gill said: "It does suggest that this house was designed by Sir Christopher Wren. And Newby is full of quality, from the designs to the furnishings and the contents of the house. The architects that were employed were the best available at the time. That is one of the reasons it's still standing, I suppose. It was beautifully built. Wren's buildings were bold and innovative, influencing the feel of the time. We are happy to live in a grey area, but it would be fantastic to get it confirmed.”