- Newnham Paddox house as remodelled by Wyatt, Courtesy Warwickshire County Record Office (ref: PH(N)888/278, photographer Victor Long)
- Postcard of Newnham Paddox lake, Courtesy Warwickshire County Record Office (Rugby Library Collection, ref: PH0352/105/56)
- View of Newnham Paddox lake courtesy of Warwickshire County Record Office (ref: RH0827/3/18)
Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown built the house at Newnham Paddox for the 5th and 6th Earls of Denbigh and created a serpentine river in the park.
Early in his career, Capability Brown was introduced to the 5th Earl of Denbigh by his employer, Lord Cobham of Stowe. Around 1741 the earl began improving the estate at Monks Kirby, Warwickshire, and Brown was probably involved at an early stage. Brown altered a formal canal to make a serpentine artificial river. From the mid-1750s he began rebuilding the 17th-century house, with work continuing there and in the grounds for the 6th earl until the early 1770s.
The 5th Earl of Denbigh kept a Building Book, in which he recorded the work he was doing on his house and gardens. This gives the date of 1746 when the formal “great canal” was altered “by a Plan and the direction of Mr Brown, Gardiner to Lord Cobham”.
Newnham Paddox house
Brown began the first phase of work on the new house in 1754, on the site of the early 17th-century mansion. He probably reused some of the materials for his building, which was brick with stone dressings. His new south façade was in the Palladian style, with two floors, a pitched roof and pyramid-roofed towers to the east and west. Beyond these towers there were wings extending north, which included a chapel.
Serpentine river and gardens
One of Brown’s first jobs at Newnham Paddox was probably the alterations to the existing Great Canal, which dated from the late 17th or early 18th century. Other than the date, which was 1746, little is known about how Brown created this serpentine artificial river. The Building Book records that Brown also altered a rectangular pond and planted it with “hanging slopes” in 1748. This piece of water, known as Middle Pond, was joined with the serpentine river in 1770.
The Building Book includes details and dates of planting at the estate, but it is not clear whether this was done as part of Brown’s scheme. Long Spinney, which runs north-west to south-east across the estate, was planted with elm and ash in 1745. The Grove, an ornamental plantation, was planted with home-grown ash and elm from Lutterworth in 1743.
The 5th Earl of Denbigh died in 1755 but work at Newnham Paddox continued, at intervals, under his son, the 6th Earl of Denbigh. It is thought that Brown may have been involved in the building of the octagonal kitchen garden, 200 metres north-west of the house, in around 1770-72. This was probably the final phase of works.
Newnham Paddox today
From the mid-19th century gardener John Fleming made further changes to the gardens for the 8th Earl of Denbigh and the house was remodelled by architect Thomas Henry Wyatt.
The house was used as a convalescent home during the First World War and was let to a school during the Second World War. It was finally pulled down in 1952. The estate remains in private use and the gardens are now listed Grade II.
Brown’s serpentine river was partly drained in 1870, during repairs to the foundations of the east wing of the house.
Historic England: historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1001191