Sutton Place, Surrey
Sutton Place, 3 miles NE[n 1] of Guildford in Surrey is a Grade I listed Tudor manor house built c.1525  by Sir Richard Weston (d.1541), courtier of Henry VIII. It is of great importance to art history in showing some of the earliest traces of Italianate renaissance design elements in English architecture. In modern times the estate has had a series of super-rich owners, a trend started by J. Paul Getty, then the world's richest private citizen, who chose to spend the last 17 years of his life there. Its current owner is the Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov. A definitive history of the house and manor, first published in 1893, was written by Frederic Harrison (d.1923), jurist and historian, whose father had acquired the lease in 1874.
- 1 Architecture
- 2 Terracotta elements
- 3 Painted glass
- 4 History
- 5 Descent of the manor
- 6 Entrance gates & estate access
- 7 Novel by Dinah Lampitt
- 8 Gallery
- 9 Sources
- 10 Further reading
- 11 External links
- 12 Notes and References
Bindoff (1982) stated:
The building, with its perpendicular forms overlaid with Italian ornament, bears little resemblance to any other courtier's house of the 1520s, and it ranks with the vanished Nonsuch Palace as a landmark in the introduction of renaissance ideas"
Harrison (1899) stated it to be "a landmark in the history of art", and "a cinquecento conception in an English gothic frame". He identified it as "one of the first houses built as a peaceful residence, with no thought for defence...one of the first country houses in the modern sense, instead of an imitation castle...Weston perceived that the Wars of the Barons were over, that a gentleman might live at his ease under protection of law and the king's peace". Weston was certainly daring in his choice of eye-catching decoration above his front-door, for which he surely risked being ridiculed by his manly friends, including the king himself: innocent loving children at play: the amorini. Was this a signal by an avant-gard Sir Richard to his visitors, many of whom must have been valiant and experienced soldiers, that his house was to be a haven where love and play were de rigueur, not the old-fashioned militaristic conversations and behaviours? What a different message this was to that placed above the gates of Dante's Inferno: Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch'intrate, "Abandon all hope, ye who enter here". At Sutton the defensive towers and turrets of the old castles and fortified manors have been reduced to mere pilasters, covered with decorative terracotta, cariacatures of their former selves, perhaps as symbols of a deliberate rejection of defensive elements by Weston. The symbolism of the short stretch of crenellated parapet on the roofline above the front-door, one of the most potent aspects of the old defensive fortress, has been disarmed and cancelled-out by the almost jarring sight of a covering of yet more playful amorini. A more deliberately dissonant juxtaposition would be hard to imagine, yet that is what Sir Richard ordered to be erected. Sutton is clearly a house with a message to proclaim, which would not have been, could not have been, missed by its visitors.
The house is built of red brick and was originally of four blocks enclosing a quadrangle exactly 81 ft. 3 ins. square. The northern block or wing was demolished in 1782, giving the house its present open appearance of a U-shape, the two surviving flanking wings forming a courtyard looking to the east. An unusual feature is that due to the extreme flatness of the site the entire ground floor of the whole house stands on the exact level of the soil, so that no step exists for entering the house on any side. It is set within a separately listed formal parkland at the end of a long driveway.
The decorative elements made from moulded terracotta on the facade are renaissance italianate. They consist of designs made from 40-50 different moulds, most strikingly comprising a panel of two rows of amorini immediately above the entrance door. Such Italianate influence had never before been seen in English architecture, and is thought to have resulted from designs seen by Weston during his travels on embassies to France, where he might have seen some of the newly built chateaux on the Loire. With very minor exceptions no stone was used in the building and decoration of Sutton Place, only brick and terracotta. Thus the bases, doorways, windows, string-courses, labels and other dripstones, parapet, angles, cornices and finials are all of moulded clay. Such usage is only found in two other contemporary English buildings, East Barsham Manor in Norfolk and Layer Marney Tower in Essex. Its use was however rapidly abandoned in England, to appear again only in the Victorian era. The terracotta proved very hard-wearing and was described by Harrison in 1899 as "sharp and perfect" in condition. The terracotta has however undergone in the 1980s a £12 million refurbishment involving much replacement, by the specialist firm Hathernware Ceramics Ltd, which used 18 different colour blends of clay to match the original variety of shades. Prior to that it seems the only new elements were from 1875 when 10 new terracotta mullions and window-frames made by Messrs Blashfield of Stamford from moulds of existing windows, replaced sash-windows inserted in the 18th century. Two completely new small windows were at the same time created from terracotta in the gables of the quadrangle.
Other terracotta decorative elements include framed mongrams of "R W", the builder, and reliefs of his rebus of the concave-ended barrel, probably signifying a "waisted-tun". The "tun" was a play on the last syllable of Weston. The concave-ended barrel is sometimes shown between two goose heads, the significance of which is unclear, unless it be the French word Oie plus -"tun". Willam Bolton (d.1532), prior of St Bartholomew's in Smithfield is also known to have used the rebus of a "tun", as can be seen in his surviving oriel window within the church in the form of a barrel with a bolt of a crossbow passing through vertically. Another recurring terracotta element is a double bunch of grapes, thought by some to represent hops. Harrison believes the story of Weston having been "the King's brewer" unfounded and "a vulgar story". Similar hop-like bunches of grapes also feature at Layer Marney, and there is no evidence of Lord Marney, captain of the royal bodyguard, having been similarly a brewer.
The hall windows contain fine painted glass, much installed contemporaneously with the building of the house. These consist of shields of arms and other rebuses. There are in total 14 windows containing 92 separate lights, each containing a shield or quarry of painted glass. They are of different dates and quality, belonging to three separate epochs, but mostly relating to the builder's family. Some glass predates the house and is believed to have come from the earlier manor house of Sutton. Harrison states certain to be "of extraordinary beauty and rarity"..."of the finest painted glass of the time of Henry VIII". Apart from family arms, there are shown the arms of King Richard III and emblems of the Roses, Red and White, all relating to the Battle of Bosworth at which Edmund Weston, Governor of Guernsey, father of Sir Richard, is thought to have assisted Henry Tudor by providing the use of money, ships or even a contingent of soldiers.
Sutton Manor, within which the Tudor mansion is situated, appears in Domesday Book of 1086 as Sudtone. It was held by Robert Malet. Its Domesday assets were: 3 hides; 1 mill worth 5s, 3 ploughs, 20 acres (81,000 m2) of meadow, woodland worth 25 hogs. It rendered £5. The previous manor house stood about a quarter of a mile from the present house, on the hill now occupied by St Edward's Chapel and Vine Cottage.
Within Sutton Place was once the blood stained ruff of St Thomas More and a crystal pomegranate that once belonged to Queen Catherine of Aragon. The pomegranate emblem of the Queen features as a decoration in several places within the house, which suggested to Harrison that Weston certainly built the house before she was divorced by Henry VIII in 1533, and possibly before 1527 when it would have been known by his courtiers such as Weston that the King had turned his affections away from Catherine towards Anne Boleyn.
Descent of the manor
Sutton Place remained in the Weston family and families related to it by marriage until 1919, although let out for part of the time. The family was recusant from Tudor times, which precluded it from taking an active part in public life. Successive occupants thus lived as retiring country gentlemen of reduced means, which meant that the house escaped remodelling through the ages. A collection of portraits of the Weston, Webbe and Webbe-Weston family was sold at auction on 13 July 2005 by Sotheby's Olympia, London.
- Sir Richard I Weston(d.1541). Granted manor by Henry VIII on 17 May 1521.
- Sir Henry Weston (d.1592), grandson of Richard I. From about 1569 the fortunes of the Westons fade, they start to live more at Clandon.
- Sir Richard II Weston (1564–1613), son of Henry. Led an uneventful life, knighted 1603.
- Sir Richard III Weston(1591–1652), canal builder & pioneering agriculturalist. Son of Richard II. Last prominent member of Weston family in English public life. In 1641 he sold Clandon Park and Temple Court Farm at Merrow to Sir Richard Onslow, MP for Surrey in the Long Parliament and ancestor of the Earl Onslow.
- John I Weston (d.1690), 2nd and eldest surviving son of Richard III, his eldest brother Richard IV having died young. Married in 1637  Mary Copley da. & heiress of William Copley of Gatton, Reigate, Surrey. He sold Gatton in 1654 and Sutton Place once again became the Weston's principal residence. He constructed a new quadrangle on the side of the east wing of Sutton Place, as service quarters, and generally refitted-out the house.
- Richard V Weston (d.1701). Married Melior Nevill, da. of William Nevill of Holt, Leicestershire.
- John II Weston (d.1730), only son of Richard V, and last heir male of the blood of the founder. He married Elizabeth Gage (d.1724), sister of Thomas Gage, 1st Viscount Gage (d.1754). He refitted the upper part of the east wing which had been dilapidated since a fire in 1561, creating a long gallery. His wife Elizabeth was, in Harrison's estimation, the subject of Alexander Pope's "Elegy to the Memory of an Unfortunate Lady", published in 1717. Harrison derives his opinion from a note of Pope's appended to his letter to Mrs Weston, and states the story of the poem, involving a suicide, to be pure imagination.
- Melior Mary Weston (1703–1782), spinster, last of the Weston name. A portrait exists of her in 1723 aged 20. She bequeathed all her estates to John Webbe, a very distant cousin, on condition that he adopted the name and arms of Weston. John Webbe-Weston erected a marble tablet to her memory in Holy Trinity Church, Guildford where she was buried in the Weston Chapel built by Sir Richard Weston the founder, inscribed as follows:
"To the Memory of Melior Mary Weston of Sutton Place in the county of Surrey, Spinster. This Marble was erected as a tribute of sincere respect and gratitude by John Webbe Weston of Sarnesfield Court in the county of Hereford, Esq. who in pursuance of her last will and bequest succeeded to her name and estates. She was the last immediate descendant of an illustrious Family which flourished in this county for many successive generations, and with the ample possessions of their ancestors inherited their superior understanding and distinguished virtuesobiit, 10 Junii, MDCCLXXXII, aet. 79. R.I.P."
John Webbe erected a tablet very similar to this one in Sarnesfield Church in 1795 to the memory of his other spinster distant cousin Ann Monington, a nun who had left her Hereford estates, including Sarnesfield, to him in 1780. Ann Monington's father Edward's second wife was Bridget Webbe and he died without male heir. John Webbe, to whom Ann Monington left the Sarnesfield Estate was the son of Bridget Webbe's uncle Thomas Webbe of Hammersmith. It appears both bequests came to him due to his having adhered to the Roman Catholic religion, which other cousins in contention for the bequests had deserted, to the displeasure of the legators. John Webbe-Weston was the son of Thomas Webbe, a linen draper, of York Street, St Paul's, Covent Garden (in the 1740s) and of Brook Green, Hammersmith (in the 1770s) by Ann Tancred, daughter of Thomas Tancred, a woollen draper, of St Paul's, Covent Garden (in 1768) by Frances Gazaigne. Thomas Tancred was the grandson of Sir William Tancred, 2nd Baronet(d.1703) of Aldeborough, Boroughbridge, Yorkshire, by Elizabeth Waldegrave, da. of Charles Waldegrave of Stanninghall, Norfolk, 2nd son of Sir Edward Waldegrave, 1st Baronet. Thomas Webbe's mother was the sister of William Wolffe of St Giles-in-the-Field and Great Haseley, Oxon, who married Frances Weston, aunt of Melior Mary Weston. William Wolffe's mother was Anne Pincheon of Writtle, Essex, daughter of John Pincheon who was the son of Sir Edward Pincheon of Writtle by Dorothy Weston, sister of Richard Weston, 1st Earl of Portland, who shared a common descent with Richard Weston the founder of Sutton Place from a certain Humphrey Weston.
- John Webbe-Weston (d.1823), assumed by licence in 1782 the surname Webbe-Weston, but did not adopt old Weston arms. He was descended from the sister of William Wolffe, the husband of Frances, Melior's paternal aunt. The Wolffe's of Great Haseley, Oxon., were descended from the Westons of Preston Hall, Essex. In 1782, the year he inherited Sutton Place, he demolished the dilapidated gatehouse wing He completed renovations in 1784, having rejected proposals of the architect Bonomi to remodel the house in an Italianate or neo-classical style. In 1794 he inherited Sarnesfield Court, Hereford, (demolished in 1955) from his cousin Anne Monington. He married firstly Elizabeth Lawson (d.1791, aged 34) da. of Sir John Lawson of Brough Hall, Yorks.
- John Joseph I Webbe-Weston (d.1840), son of John Webbe-Weston by Elizabeth Lawson. He married in 1811 Caroline Graham.
- Capt. John Joseph II Webbe-Weston (d.1849), only son of John Joseph I. He died in action on the Danube. In 1847 he married Lady Horatia Waldegrave, da. of John Waldegrave, 6th Earl Waldegrave. On her 2nd marriage to John Wardlaw the Weston estates passed as a life interest to Thomas Monington Webbe-Weston (d.1857) her 1st husband's uncle.
- Thomas Monington Webbe-Weston (d.1857), 2nd son of John Webbe-Weston, last of that name. He married Mary Wright and died without issue.
- Francis Henry Salvin (d. 1904), of Croxdale Hall, Co. Durham. He was the residuary legatee of the will of Capt. John Joseph II Webbe-Weston. He was a grandson of John Webbe-Weston, his mother having been Anna Maria Webbe-Weston, who in 1800 married William Thomas Salvin of Croxdale, a member of a Catholic family prominent in Yorkshire and County Durham. He lived at the relatively modest Whitmoor House in nearby Woking. He was an authority on falconry, and wrote with William Brodrick Falconry in the British Isles (1855). He kept pet otters and a pet pig named "Lady Susan" at his home in Woking and was something of a practical joker using his pig as an accomplice. He inherited Sutton Place in 1857, but not with free-possession as in 1855 it was tenanted by Charles LeFevre, who was followed by a tenancy to Caledon Alexander. In 1874 Salvin leased Sutton Place to the stockbroker Frederick I Harrison (d.1881), from whom it passed to his son Sidney Harrison. One of his younger sons was Frederic Harrison, the historian, who wrote the definitive history of Sutton Place. The Harrison family spent much care and money on preserving the house. From 1900 the tenant was Alfred Harmsworth, 1st Viscount Northcliffe(d.1922)
On the death of Francis Salvin in 1904 the estate passed to his niece's son Philip Witham, a solicitor, who died in 1921. Witham was born in 1842, 4th son of Sir Charles Witham Knt., a Captain in the Royal Navy, by Jane, daughter of John Hoy, of Stoke Priory. He was the grandson of William Witham and Dorothy Langdale. He was educated at Mount St Mary's and abroad and admitted a Solicitor in 1866. He became head of the firm of Messrs Witham, Roskell, Munster and Weld. He served as a member of the Cardinal Vaughan Memorial Committee in 1904. He married in 1878 Louisa Salvin, da. of Marmaduke Salvin of Burn Hall, Durham, and niece of Captain Francis H. Salvin. Witham had never held vacant possession of Sutton Place and sold it on the expiry of the Northcliffe tenancy in 1918. His wife Louise lived on until 1945. In July 1945 the voluminous Weston family estate papers were presented to Surrey Archives by Mrs D Wolseley of Guildford.
- George Sutherland-Leveson-Gower, 5th Duke of Sutherland (d.1963). [n 2] He modernised the interior.
- J. Paul Getty, who purchased the estate in 1959,was then or shortly thereafter the world's richest private citizen. His choice of Sutton Place for his principal residence made the property well known. He adopted a very low personal profile locally being occasionally seen by Sutton Green villagers driving through in a very old model Cadillac coupé.
- Stanley J. Seeger. Sutton Place was sold in 1980, after Getty's death in 1976, by his Getty Oil Corporation, for £8 million, to a company owned by Stanley J. Seeger who established the Sutton Place Heritage Trust to maintain the property. He was an American heir to a family fortune from lumber, petroleum and other sources, who had begun collecting art whilst a student at Princeton University. He was noted as a patron of arts and educational charities and endowed a chair of Hellenic studies at Princeton. He is never known to have given an interview. He redecorated it and hung some of his finest modern paintings there including a Bacon triptych. Although Mr Seeger stated he spent almost £1m a year on maintaining the house he rarely lived there.
- Frederick R. Koch. After 10 years Seeger sold it to another American, Frederick R. Koch, who set up the Sutton Place Foundation, and in his turn redecorated the house and used it to display his own art collection to the public. According to the Guardian newspaper he is said never to have spent a night under its roof and to have sold it for £32m in 1999. In January 2003 it was offered for sale at £ 25 million. The estate at this time comprised 21 properties including the 18-bedroom Lady Grove Farmhouse.
- Alisher Usmanov, the Russian businessman, is the present owner in 2011. Some of the properties together with part of the estate land have now been sold. Lady Grove Farmhouse has been redeveloped into luxury housing. The property underwent extensive renovation work for its new owner from 2007— 2009. Restoration and improvement works to the interiors of Sutton Place House to provide domestic residential accommodation.
Entrance gates & estate access
There are two 16th century gatekeeper's lodges which flank the main entrance gates located on the north side of the A3 London road between London and Guildford. A secondary entrance which tradesmen were obliged to use, having a similar pair of lodges, is located on the west side of the estate on a minor road. These gate lodges, which control all estate access by vehicles, were manned and controlled from the 1960s and were likely to have been so in historic times. Mr Getty was renowned for his like of privacy. Those having business on the estate were obliged to hoot their horns to get a gatekeeper's attention before being admitted after their purpose had been ascertained. The exception was on Sunday mornings, as the Roman Catholic parish church of St Edward's is located within the estate boundary and parishioners were granted free access from the Blanchard's Hill gate for weekly Sunday mass, the gates being left open. There exist long-established historic footpaths and rights of way for pedestrians into and across the estate.
Novel by Dinah Lampitt
A historical romance by Dinah Lampitt titled "Sutton Place" was published in 1983, the first volume of a trilogy. It supposes that a curse has been placed on all occupants of the manor since pre Norman times, a supposition for which little historical evidence exists as naturally all ancient manors have been the scenes of many misfortunes, indeed Sutton Place has suffered fewer than many. The front cover depicts the north wing gate-house as it might have appeared in Tudor times. 
- Harrison, Frederic. Annals of an Old Manor House: Sutton Place, Guildford. London, 1899 (The author's family held the lease of Sutton Place and resided there from 1874 to post 1899)archive.org on-line text
- Victoria County History, Surrey, vol.3, 1911, Woking parish, Sutton Manor, pp.381-390
- Sutton Place, notes by Philip Arnold
- The Weston Chapel, www.holytrinityguildford.org.uk
- Sutton Place & St Edward's Church, notes by Jim Miller, 2002
- Willis, Dr. David & Albion, Rev. Gordon. St. Edward's, Sutton Park, Guildford: A Guide to the Church & its Treasures, c.1972.
- Taylor, Brian. The Catholics of Sutton Park.
- Aubrey, John, Natural History & Antiquities of the County of Surrey, 5 vols., 1673, 1718, 1768 etc., vol. 3, p. 228.
- Manning, Owen, History and Antiquities of the County of Surrey, with a facsimile Copy of Domesday, Engraved on Thirteen Plates, 3 vols., London, 1804,9,14, vol.1, p. 136 et.seq.
- Hathernware Ceramics Ltd, 1980s terracotta restorer
- youtube: Getty at Sutton Place Getty at Sutton Place endorses financial institution E.F. Hutton.
- Weston estate papers, 1382-1852, part 1 of 2, Surrey Archives, G65
- Weston estate papers, 1382-1852, part 2 of 2, Surrey Archives, G65
- English Heritage Grade I listing text, Sutton Place
- English Heritage Grade I listing text, Sutton Place, Entrance Lodges
Notes and References
- Harrison, F.(1893) estimates after much research 1523-25 and must be taken as most reliable; Manning, vol. 1, p.136, gives 1529-30; Aubrey, History of Surrey, 1673, vol.3, p.228, gives 1521
- Guinness Book of Records, 1966, p.229
- Bindoff, S.T. (ed.), History of Parliament: House of Commons 1509-1558, vol 3, Weston, Sir Richard, pp. 590-2
- Harrison, preface vii
- Harrison, p. 2
- Harrison, p. 5
- Harrison, F, p.171
- Harrison, F, p.172
- [http://list.english-heritage.org.uk/mapsearch.aspx Ordnance Survey map identifying listed formal parks and buildings, courtesy of English Heritage
- Harrison, pp.161–2
- Harrison, p.153. Exceptions include stone tops of semi-octagonal turrets flanking the main entrance door (p.162, note 1)
- Hathernware Ceramics Ltd — terracotta restorer here in the 1980s
- Harrison, pp.162-3
- Harrison, pp.200-201
- Harrison, p.44-5
- Harrison, p.152
- Harrison, p.151
- Sotheby's Olympia, London, sale no.W05703, 13 July 2005
- Harrison, p.57
- Harrison, p.13
- Harrison, p.133
- Harrison, p.116
- Harrison, p.134
- Harrison, p.137
- Harrison, p.138
- Harrison, p.141
- Harrison, p.143
- Harrison, p.144
- Weston archives; Payne, John Orlebar (ed.), Records of the English Catholics of 1715, Compiled Wholly from Original Documents, London, 1889, p. 79, gives the following summary of the will of Charles Tancred: "WEST RIDING OF YORK: CHARLES TANCRED, of St. Paul s, Covent Garden, in his will of loth May, 1725, proved 28th November, 1733, names his son Thomas, then married, and his two das. Mary and Ann. The will of Frances Tancred, of St. Paul s, Covent Garden, widow of Thomas T. aforesaid, dated 26th March, 1748, was proved 2Oth March, 1753. She names her sister Mary, wife of Thomas Fraser, apothecary, and Ann F., their daughter ; her three das. Eliz. Tancred of Liege ; Ann, wife of Thomas Webb ; and Henrietta, wife of Robert Kirby ; leaving her " business of a woollen draper " to her sons-in-law, " both of St. Paul s, Covent Garden, Esquires," in trust for her eldest son John, second son Walter, and da. Barbara T.
- Harrison, p.131
- Harrison, p.145
- Burke's Landed Gentry, 1937, pp.1979-1980, Salvin of Croxdale
- Burke's Landed Gentry, 1937, pp.1979-1980, Salvin of Croxdale
- History of Jacob's Well: www.jwhistory.org.uk
- Harrison,op.cit., dedication
- Sutton Place, from: www.oldwoking.org/Sutton
- Catholic Who's Who & Yearbook, 1908, p.429
- Surrey Archives, G65
- New York Times, 12 Feb. 2001
- Guardian Newspaper, 29 March 2001
- "Christmas at Sutton Place", private diary of Christmas 1973, by a former Getty employee 
- Lady Grove Farmhouse in Sutton Park - Grade II listing English Heritage. "Details from listed building database (1264429)". National Heritage List for England.
- Planning Ref. No: PLAN/2007/0435 Validated: Thu 17 May 2007 Status: Application Permitted