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Blenheim Palace, Blenheim

Description: Blenheim Palace

Grade: I
Date Listed: 27 August 1957
English Heritage Building ID: 252983

OS Grid Reference: SP4408516102
OS Grid Coordinates: 444085, 216102
Latitude/Longitude: 51.8418, -1.3615

Location: 1 Bothy Cottages, Blenheim Palace Grounds OX20 1PX

Locality: Blenheim
Local Authority: West Oxfordshire District Council
County: Oxfordshire
Country: England
Postcode: OX20 1PX

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Listing Text

SP41NW, SP4416
2/1, 8/1 Blenheim Palace
Country house. 1706-29, by Sir John Vanbrugh and Nicholas Hawksmoor for the Duke
and Duchess of Marlborough; carvings by Grinling Gibbons and interiors by
Laguerre, Thornhill et. al. Limestone ashlar, with rusticated corner towers and
details; lead roofs; stone stacks. House has 4 corner towers, and Great Court to
north flanked by Stable Court to east and Kitchen Court to west. Baroque style.
Two storeys. Sashes to all windows. North front has central 9-bay facade,
articulated by giant order of Corinthian pilasters; 3-bay pedimented portico;
carving of the Marlborough Arms in tympanum, figures of Britannia and chained
slaves on pediment and centurions on parapet by Grinling Gibbons; huge cleft
open pediment set behind portico, with clerestory windows to Hall ranged to
rear. Quadrants, articulated by Doric engaged columns, link facade to corner
towers which have banded rustication, arched windows and bracketed cornices;
superstructure to each tower has curved flying buttresses and pinnacles of
reversed fleurs-de-lys, piled-up cannon balls and ducal coronets. Colonnades,
with engaged Doric columns and carved military achievements by Gibbons, are
linked to 11 bay blocks: rusticated archways, in centre of each block and
leading to Kitchen and Stable Courts, are flanked by banded Doric columns and
surmounted by carvings of the Lion of England savaging the Cock of France. Clock
towers behind each archway have interlocking pediments with ball finial. 7-bay
end blocks have rusticated Doric pilasters to pedimented centre of north
facades. East and west fronts each have central full-height bow windows, with
caryatids to west, and similar corner towers to south. South front has tall
9-bay facade to centre, articulated by giant order of Corinthian pilasters
progressing to columns in central portico: entablature of portico surmounted by
bust of Louis XIV, taken from the city gates of Tournai after its sack in 1709.
Roof has finials and military carvings by Grinling Gibbons. Kitchen Court to
west: castellated parapet, and arcaded to north and south with heavy
open-pedimented Doric porches; east gateway, which houses water cistern, has
obelisk-shaped pillars resting on cannon balls flanking cast-iron gates of
c.1890 and garlands and statues in niches by Sir William Chambers, 1766-75.
Orangery to south of Kitchen Court has arcaded front with sashes and heavy Doric
porch of 2 orders with open pediment. Great Court in front of palace remodelled.
by Achille Duchene in 1910: military trophies, flanking steps in front of
portico, carved by Grinling Gibbons; low ashlar walls surrounding Great Court
have piers with wheatear festoons over medallions, and flaming urns to piers in
angles of south-east and south-west corners; wrought-iron gates to front,
flanked by scrolled ironwork panels. Interior: Great Hall, with 3-tier arcades
and Corinthian columns and cornices carved by Grinling Gibbons, has ceiling
painted by Sir James Thornhill in 1716 which shows Marlborough presenting plan
of Battle of Blenheim to Britannia. Vaulted stone corridors link Great Hall to
east and west wings. Stairs to left of Great Hall has iron balustrade continued
in front of gallery above proscenium arch, with arms of Queen Anne carved by
Gibbons, which leads from Hall to Saloon to rear. Saloon: marble fireplace by
Townesend; marble doorcases with carved shells to keys by Grinling Gibbons;
walls and ceiling decorated 1719-20 by Louis Laguerre. Suite of 3 rooms to left
(east) have plasterwork ceilings by Hawksmoor, and marble fireplaces by Sir
William Chambers; scrolls, eagles and phoenixes in coving of ceilings of c.1890,
Suite of 3 State Rooms to right, (west) of Saloon have tapestries by Judocus de
Vos depicting Marlborough's victories, the remainder of the set being elsewhere
in the house: fireplaces by Gibbons and Chambers; Rococo decoration of c.1890,
with inset portraits set in gilt frames; First State Room has portrait of 9th
Duchess by Duran, Second State Room has portrait of Louis XIV by Mignard and
Third State Room has portrait of Colonel Armstrong with Marlborough by Seeman.
All set in overmantles over fireplaces. The Long Library, "Hawksmoor's finest
room", has plasterwork by Isaac Mansfield and marble doorcases and giant order
of Doric pilasters with triglyph frieze by Peisley and Townesend; carved wood
bookcases; marble fireplaces, by Hawksmoor or William Kent, have pedimented
overmantels framing paintings of seascape and landscape by Wootton after Poussin
and Ore surmounted by busts by Rysbrack. Statue of Queen Anne and bust of
Marlborough by Rysbrack, the latter on pedestal by Chambers. At ends of Long
Library are galleried bays, with consoles supporting pierced balustrades; organ
of 1871 to north bay. Corridor to Great Hall has marble basin, probably by
Vanbrugh. Private Apartments in East Wing not inspected: central Bow Window Room
has wood Corinthian columns and marble fireplace by Gibbons; fireplaces by
Chambers in Grand Cabinet and Duchess's Drawing Room. Basement noted as having
fireplaces by Gibbons. Chapel: by Hawksmoor, with giant fluted pilasters and
plasterwork. Monument to Duke of Marlborough, 1733, designed by William Kent and
executed by Rysbrack: Baroque figure composition set in niche with medallion
portraits and military trophies to plasterwork panels. Statues of Randolph
churchill, 1895, and 7th Duke of Marlborough, 1883. Organ case, reredos, pulpit
and benches by T.G. Jackson, c.1890. The 8th Duke, who succeeded in 1883, was
chairman of New Telephone Company and installed earliest domestic phone system
in Britain here: late C19 telephone sets in Long Library and estate office in
Kitchen Court. Amongst the notable furnishings are: in west corridor, connecting
Great Hall to Long Library, C18 Flemish statues of nymph and youth (Parodi
workshop); Emperor Vespasian and Caracalla; Cardinal Delfino and Cardinal
Borromeo (C18 Italian); in Great Hall are 2 bronze statues by Soldani, removed
from East Formal Garden; early C18 statue of Bacchus by Michael Vandervoort;
Alexander the Great, partly Roman, and Roman bust of Emperor Hadrian; C18
Emperor Scipio Africanus. Woodstock Park, the site far Blenheim Palace, was
presented by Queen Anne to John Churchill, first Duke of Marlborough, to
commemorate his decisive defeat of the French army at Blenheim in 1704. As a
"Royall and a National Monument" (Vanbrugh) it outclasses English royal palaces
and rivals the Baroque palaces of Europe in size and splendour. Important
influences were Versailles, medieval castle architecture and Elizabethan
architecture especially Wollaton Hall. Amongst the masons employed were the
Peisleys and William Townesend, who worked on other buildings in Blenheim Park.
(Buildings of England: Oxfordshire: pp459-472; National Monuments Record; D.
Green: Blenheim Palace, 1951; K. Downes: Hawksmoor, 1959; K. Downes: Vanbrugh,
1977; Article in Country Life: Vol 25 (1909), pp786-798, 834-844; D. Green and
C. Hussey: "Blenheim Palace Revisited", Country Life: Vol 105 (1949), pp1182-6,
1246-1250; D. Green and M. Jourdain: "Furniture at Blenheim", Country Life:
Vol.107 (1951), pp1184-6; D. Green and T. Rayson: "Restoring Blenheim Palace",
Country Life, Vol.124 (1958), pp1400-01; M. Bennitt, "A Painter on the Grand
Scale: Louis Laguerre", Vol 136 (1964), pp226-8; D. Green: "Rysbrack at
Blenheim", Vol 149 (1971), pp26-28)

Listing NGR: SP4412416054

This text is a legacy record and has not been updated since the building was originally listed. Details of the building may have changed in the intervening time. You should not rely on this listing as an accurate description of the building.

Source: English Heritage

Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.