Hartwell House in Buckinghamshire is a very fine 17th century mansion, now owned on long lease by the National Trust and operated as a Historic House Hotel. The architectural history of the house is complex, with many early 17th century features surviving, as well as a building phase dating to the 1760s. The landscape was associated with Richard Woods, a follower of Lancelot Brown. Significant restoration took place after a fire in 1963.
The social history of the building is equally complex. A family connection with the site can be traced to the Norman conquest. In Elizabethan times it was the family home of the Hampdens, and later the Lees (ancestors of General Robert E Lee). The exiled Louis VIII of France stayed there with his court during the revolutionary years of 1809 to 1814, in which time “the roof was converted into a miniature farm, where birds and rabbits were reared in cages, while vegetables and herbs were cultivated in densely planted tubs.” Later, the temperance campaigner and scientific champion Dr John Lee turned the house into “a cross between a temperance hall, a museum and an astronomical observatory”, before being threatened by a local Luddite uprising. Typically, it was requisitioned by the army during the Second World War, and later became a girls’ finishing school. It was reopened as a hotel in 1989, and given to the National Trust in 2008. (All quotes are from a fascinating account of the history of the house, available here.)
Hartwell is currently in the public eye because the projected High Speed 2 rail line will cut across the north-east edge of the park, running across what is currently a golf course between the park and the edge of Aylesbury. These pictures show the land that will be most affected by the route. As well as the visual intrusion, it is anticipated that there will be significant sound impacts, as trains run at 250 mph speed up and down the line as many as 17 times an hour. The National Trust’s statement on High Speed 2 can be seen here.