Fox Hall at Charlton, the grandest bed-sit in the country

On Sunday night we were watching Channel 4’s superb Restoring Britain’s Landmarks about the work of the Landmark Trust in turning important but neglected buildings into stunning holiday lets.

I was utterly blown away by Fox Hall in Charlton, a hunting box built for the 2nd Duke of Richmond, designed as a functional case for a magnificent Palladian bedchamber. I never knew it existed.

FoxHall_2010_JohnMiller04-1

(c) The Landmark Trust

You can see the interior here. It is amazing, and lovingly restored, tho I was more impressed by the handsome exterior, built like part of an elegant stable courtyard, or a mill on a great estate – a practical building but so beautifully proportioned and well-considered that you know at once it is by a serious architect.

Charlton was the home of the Charlton Hunt, Britain’s first fox hunt, founded by King Charles II’s son the Duke of Monmouth. By the 1730s its members had commissioned lodges and hunting boxes around the village, and had built themselves a club dining-room, a free-standing domed building designed by the 3rd Earl of Burlington. The Duke of Richmond built himself the most beautiful hunting box of all – ‘the grandest bed-sit in the country,’ says the Landmark Trust – with just one room on the main floor, which is, as the Trust says, a very grand bed-sitting room.

Lord Burlington’s name has been associated with Fox Hall too, but also I’ve seen it attributed to Roger Morris, which sounds more convincing. There is an echo of Marble Hill, which Roger Morris collaborated on with the Architect Earl of Pembroke.

Seeing Fox Hall on Sunday night was an extraordinary coincidence, because it made sense at last of these two letters from the Duke of Richmond to John Russell Clerk of the Cheque at Woolwich in 1734:

Charlton, near Midhurst in Sussex, Nov. 29th. 
 
Dear Bumbo, — We want a proper flag for this place and  you know where such things are made. I would have it a Fox, Red in a Green Field, with the Union in the corner and about the size of one of the yacht’s ensigns, so pray let  me know what it will cost and be so good as to bespeak it and you will oblige … R. 
 
Dec. 6th. Dear Bumbo, — The enclosed sketch is most  sadly drawn. The fox ought to be as big again and take up all the middle part of the flag and the union little more than a quarter as big in the corner. The fox’s tail must also be straight out and not hanging down like a horse’s ; so I beg to have a new sketch of it and the fox must be yellow and not red, as I said. Surely £3. 10. 0. is a great deal, if it is nothing but bunting as I would have it, but you are the best judge of that, however pray let me have a draught before it is begun…. I am Dear Bumbo for ever your’s R.
(Mary Eyre Matcham A Forgotten John Russell being letters to a Man of Business 1724 – 1751 1905 p.63)

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