Boughton House and Gardens, in Kettering, Northamptonshire, is one of Britain’s grandest and best-preserved stately homes with stunning 18th century landscaped gardens. The House itself contains an outstanding collection of fine art and is seen by many as a flagship of Britain’s national heritage.
Boughton has been home of the Montagu family and their descendants since 1528. However, the House that stands today is largely the work of Ralph Montagu, later 1st Duke of Montagu, who inherited a simple Tudor building in 1683. An English ambassador to France and patron of artists, craftsmen and decorators, the 1st Duke of Montagu wished to bring French beauty and style to the English landscape. The result was a masterpiece which is also often referred to as ‘The English Versailles’, with a plethora of courtyards, staircases, chimney stacks and roof levels.
Ralph’s son, John, 2nd Duke of Montagu had different interests to his father. His passion lay in the House’s surrounding landscape and he made great changes to gardens throughout the 18th century, with grand water features and tree-lined avenues.
Then the work simply stopped. After the 2nd Duke, the House was passed through the female line to noble families at the time. However, their main residences were elsewhere and as a result, Boughton House ‘slept’ for two centuries, preserving everything within it in a time capsule. No changes were made in the Victorian era with no one living in it. In the 20th century it became a much loved family home again to the Duke of Buccleuch and Queensberry, descendants of the Montagus, who wished to preserve this national treasure. Today, it has featured in history and arts programmes, such as ‘Treasure Houses of Britain’, presented by Selina Scott, as well as appearing in the Oscar winning “Les Misérables”.
Boughton houses several centuries worth of the Buccleuch Collection of fine art in over 30 rooms. There are items from across the decorative arts spectrum including:
• Paintings by El Greco, Van Dyck and Gainsborough
• Exceptional French furniture by cabinetmaker André-Charles Boulle
• Delicate Sévres porcelain
• Mortlake Factory Tapestries
• 16th century rugs from the Middle East
From the internationally renowned State Rooms, to the Armoury and Great Hall, visitors come from all over the world to see this truly unique private collection.
Over the last decade, the Buccleuch Living Heritage Trusts’ work has uncovered long lost waterways and lakes dating back over 300 years. Most recently, the magnificent Grand Etang was restored to its former glory as a reflecting pool for the House with a beautiful fountain that rises over 75 feet. You can read more about the Grand Etang on Boughton House’s website.
The Montagu Monuments project is another important part of the Trusts’ work. You can read more about it here.