Friday, 9 December 2016

Basildon Park - Berkshire

Some places survive despite all the odds.

Basildon Park began its existence in 1311. Not much is known about the grand house that graced the park for some four hundred years. In 1771 Sir Francis Sykes returned from India with vast wealth and bought the park. In 1776 he began to oversea the building of his new home, in the Palladian style, but in 1783 he called a halt to the proceedings, and the house was never properly finished.

The park bustled for a hundred years, but then met a very sharp decline. By 1910 it was empty and during WWI it was used as a convalescence hospital for wounded service men.

In 1929 it was bought by George Fernando with the intention of selling it in America, knocking it down brick by brick and reassembling wherever the new owner lived. Some preparatory demolition occurred, but the project failed and the house languished even more.

In WWII it was used first as a barracks and then as a Prisoner of War camp, and by 1952 it was a complete wreck.

It was bought by the Iliffes and they made a spirited attempt to reconstruct the housed and furnish it as it should be. They spent 25 years on this project and deserved to succeed, but fell at the final hurdle.

In 1978 the house and park was entrusted to the care of the National Trust, and they have done a good job in making this an interesting house to visit.


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