Research Trips & Excursions

Postgrad Forum Away Day: Harewood House

This year, on 21 June, we had our first Postgraduate Forum Away day. Our destination was Harewood House, built in 1759. The finest craftsmen were involved in building Edwin Lascelles’ family home: York-born architect John Carr, interior designer Robert Adam, Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, and Thomas Chippendale.


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Situated just outside Leeds, the Harewood estate has generous grounds (over 100 acres!), was the home of Princess Mary, and was even used as ‘Pemberley’ in ITV’s Lost in Austen (2008). It is currently also home to an exhibition celebrating the 300th anniversary of Thomas Chippendale’s birth – in fact, Chippendale was born just eight miles down the road from Harewood in Otley.

Armed with a guide book and our various interests in country houses, we made a beeline straight for the house. We had a few challenging questions for each other and the room guides as we explored gaming table design, the mechanics of servants’ bells, and the design of oriental-style mural wallpaper. Other highlights included the library (naturally), which looks out over the estate and the Terrace garden, a portrait of Lady Worsley by Reynolds, and the Diana and Minerva commode.

From furniture making to the baking of exquisite dishes, we had lots of food for thought

As part of the exhibition, invoices from Chippendale were on display, allowing us to see the cost of individual pieces of furniture within the collection. The grand bed in the State Bedroom is one of Chippendale’s most extraordinary creations, and was only used twice! Meanwhile, the gallery features the only pelmets made by Chippendale. These wooden ‘curtains’ mimic the appearance of a heavy fabric and only give themselves away once you realise that they fall too perfectly.

While the state rooms were, of course, impressive, we were very taken aback by the parts of the house that are rarely on display, such as Princess Mary’s toilet and bathroom, and several of the rooms below stairs; the kitchen, pastry and still rooms were particular points of interest. The kitchen has a vaulted ceiling and the original paintwork and shelving can still be seen. Wanting to learn more about life below stairs, we couldn’t resist the opportunity to get ‘stuck in’ to the life of the household in a little more detail, learning more about the roles of different servants.

Our own motley assembly of maids, scullery maids, and governess (with varying levels of enthusiasm for household tasks!)

In the afternoon, we made the most of the summer weather and set out to explore the grounds. Designed by Capability Brown, there was certainly much to see and admire. The flamingos were out in the lake, and plenty to explore in the Lakeside, Himalayan, and Walled gardens. While walking through the grounds, we also came across various information boards, not just identifying the types of trees on the estate, but informing us which pieces of furniture in the house had been made from each type of wood.

We had an amazing day out and are already looking forward to next year’s outing – wherever that may take us!




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