Corsham Court

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Corsham Court
South front of Corsham Court
Grid reference: ST87327074
Location: 51°26’6"N, 2°10’57"W
Village: Corsham
Built 1582
Country house
Owned by: Lord Methuen
Website: Corsham Court

Corsham Court is a country house in Wiltshire, within a park designed by Capability Brown. It is beside the little town of Corsham, 3 miles west of Chippenham.

The house is and is notable for its fine art collection, based on the nucleus of paintings inherited in 1757 by Paul Methuen from his uncle, Sir Paul Methuen, the diplomat. It is currently the home of the present Baron Methuen, James Methuen-Campbell, the eighth generation of the Methuens to live there.

Early history

Corsham was a royal manor in the Anglo-Saxon period, reputed to have been a seat of Ethelred the Unready. After the Norman Conquest, the manor continued to be passed down through the generations in the royal family. It often formed part of the dower of the Queens of England during the late 14th and early 15th centuries, becoming known as Corsham Reginae. During the 16th century, the manor went to two of Henry VIII's wives, namely Catherine of Aragon until 1536, and Katherine Parr until 1548.

During the reign of Queen Elizabeth I the estate passed out of the royal family; the present house was built in 1582 by Thomas Smythe. The owner of Corsham Court in the mid-seventeenth century was the commander of the Parliamentarian New Model Army in Wiltshire; his wife, Lady Margaret Hungerford, built what came to be known as the Hungerford Almshouses in the centre of town

Methuen family

The house was bought in 1745 by Sir Paul Methuen for his cousin, also named Paul Methuen, whose grandson became Baron Methuen. The house remains the seat of the Methuen family.

In 1761-64, Lancelot 'Capability' Brown was commissioned to redesign and enlarge the house and landscape the park.[1] Brown set the style of the present day building by retaining the Elizabethan stables, the Riding School, and the great gabled front to the house, which he doubled in depth and provided gabled wings at either end of the house, creating the Picture Gallery and State Rooms in the east wing and a library and new kitchens in the west wing. The Picture Gallery was designed as a triple cube and boasts a coffered plasterwork ceiling over a high cove stuccoed in scrolls, designed by Brown[2] and carried out by Thomas Stocking of Bristol (1763–66). The Long Gallery contains Italian Old Masters, with a famous marquetry commode and matching pair of candlestands by John Cobb (1772) and four pier glasses designed by Robert Adam (1770).

In 1795 Paul Cobb Methuen commissioned Humphry Repton to complete the landscape, left unfinished at Brown's death with the lake still to be completed, and in 1796 commissioning John Nash to completely remodel the north façade in the Strawberry Hill Gothic style, beating out the experienced James Wyatt for the commission: Wyatt was furious. Nash further embellished other areas of Brown's external building works, including Brown's Gothic Bath House in the North Avenue, as well as reorganising the internal layout to form a grand hall and a library, at the centre of which is the large library table associated with a payment to Thomas Chippendale's partner Haig, in 1779.[3] By 1808 much of Nash's work was replaced with a more solid structure, when it was discovered that he had used unseasoned timber in beams and joists; all of Nash's work at Corsham save the Library was destroyed in remodelling by T. Bellamy (1844–49),[4] during the ownership by Paul Methuen the first Baron Methuen who served as a Member of Parliament for Wiltshire.

The Sham Ruin

The layout of grounds and gardens by "Capability" Brown represent his most important commission after Blenheim Palace.[5] Brown planned to include a 50,000 m² lake. This lake, however, was not completed until some forty years later, by Humphry Repton, who formed his long working relationship with Nash at Corsham Court. They laid out avenues and planted the specimen trees, including American oaks, Quercus coccineus and Quercus phellos, and the magnificent Oriental Plane. The grounds also incorporate a folly ruin, built by Nash c. 1797, incorporating some mediæval stonework and some material from the eighteenth-century Bath House built by Brown.[6]

Bath Spa University

In 1946 following damage to their building during Second World War, Bath Academy of Art (now Bath School of Art and Design and part of Bath Spa University) moved to Corsham Court,[7] The academy stayed until 1986 during which time the teachers included many of the key figures in British fine art such as Kenneth Armitage, Terry Frost, Peter Lanyon, Adrian Heath, Bernard Meadows, William Scott and Sir Howard Hodgkin. Walter Sickert was one of the staff and became a mentor to Lord Methuen RA, who was the owner of the Court during that period.[8]

In 2008 the university returned to the Court, opening facilities for research projects, postgraduate and research studios and study areas for artists and designers undertaking Masters level study and Doctorates.[9]

As film location

Films using Corsham as a location include:

  • Barry Lyndon (Stanley Kubrick, 1975)
  • The Remains of the Day (1993)

Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Corsham Court)


  1. F.J. Ladd, Architects at Corsham Court, 1978:45-69; Ladd notes that Henry Keene's designs for Corsham, (1759-60) remained unexecuted.
  2. The design had recently been turned down by Brown's patron at Burton Constable, Yorkshire.
  3. Christopher Gilbert, The Life and Work of Thomas Chippendale 1978, vol. I:288.
  4. Ladd 1978.
  5. Edward Hyams, Capability Brown and Humphry Repton, 1971:40f.
  6. Dept. of Environment, 63rd List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historical Interest, (1986): District of North Wiltshire, Parish of Corsham, pp 52, 54.
  7. "Wiltshire Council - Wiltshire Community History Get Community Information". Retrieved 2010-11-08. 
  8. "Corsham Court". Bath Spa University. Retrieved 2009-07-18. 
  9. "A New University Centre... And A Homecoming To Corsham Court". Bath Spa University. Retrieved 2009-07-18.