Skip header navigation

University of Stirling


Article in Journal

Rediscovering Lee’s Lost Library Ante-Chamber

Lindfield P (2017) Rediscovering Lee’s Lost Library Ante-Chamber, The Georgian Group Journal (25).

First paragraph: Thomas Barrett (1744–1803), antiquary, engaged Britain’s most prestigious architect of the day, James Wyatt (1746–1813), to reconstruct and refurbish his country pile, Lee, Kent, from 1781. John Dixon’s depiction of the house from 1785 (Fig.1), together with another watercolour from the same year now in the British Library, confirms the house’s external completion by 1785 and illustrates its Gothic, collegiate-style elevation dominated by the octagonal Library’s tower and spire modelled upon that at Batalha Abbey, Portugal.[1] Lee’s interior, partially supervised and guided by Barrett’s friend, Horace Walpole (1717–97), featured both Neoclassical spaces, not least the principal staircase hall, and Gothic apartments, including the Library and the Walpole Closet, the latter of which is now installed in the British Galleries at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.[2] This modest room (2.21 x 5.72 m), salvaged from the house shortly before its demolition in September 1953, was located at the eastern terminus of the house’s southern façade, and considered by Walpole to be a ‘delicious closet […] so flattering to me’.[3] Walpole also lavished the Library with high praise and considered it supremely medieval and in due deference to the work of William Wykeham (c.1324–1404), founder of New College, Oxford, and builder to Edward III: it ‘is the most perfect thing I ever saw […] I wish William of Wickam were alive to employ and reward Mr Wyatt — you would think the latter had designed the library for the former’.[4] Lee, consequently, is an important structure in the history of the Gothic Revival for its connections to Walpole, one of Georgian Britain’s most ardent supporters of medieval forms, and Wyatt. [1] Paul Mellon Collection, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, B1975.1; British Library, London, Add MS 32366, f. 40 (lower drawing). See Matthew M. Reeve and Peter N. Lindfield, “‘A Child of Strawberry’: Thomas Barrett and Lee Priory, Kent,” The Burlington Magazine 157, no. December (2015), p. 839. [2] See ibid., pp. 872–73; Victoria and Albert Museum, London, W.48-1953. [3] Horace Walpole, The Yale Edition of Horace Walpole’s Correspondence, ed. W.S. Lewis, et al., 48 vols., vol. 12 (London: Oxford University Press, 1944), p. 111. [4] Horace Walpole, The Yale Edition of Horace Walpole’s Correspondence, ed. W.S. Lewis, Robert A. Smith, and Charles H. Bennett, 48 vols., vol. 31 (London: Oxford University Press, 1961), p. 342.

AuthorsLindfield Peter
Publication date2017
Date accepted by journal20/10/2016
PublisherThe Georgian Group
ISSN 0963-1070

the Georgian Group Journal, Issue 25

Scroll back to the top