The house, which has more than one hundred rooms, stands in Savernake Forest and belongs to the Trustees of Savernake Estate. Most of the present building, built for the 1st Marquess of Ailesbury, dates from the 1820s, but it also incorporates parts of earlier houses on the site.
A new house to supplant the earlier one was designed by Richard Boyle, Lord Burlington for his brother-in-law Charles, Lord Bruce in 1721; Henry Flitcroft was the executant architect. Wings were added to Burlington's block in the 1730s. Burlington's Banqueting House in the park was built in 1743 and demolished in 1824. The house was enlarged and remodelled in 1823-26 by Thomas Cundy, who had previously (1818) designed stables there for the Marquess of Ailesbury.
The Ailesbury family lived there - sharing it in the Second World War with the US Army - until moving out in 1946. Thereafter it was used by Hawtreys Preparatory School until 1994 when Hawtreys merged with Cheam School, Newbury. It was then leased for ten years to a charity called the Amber Foundation which helps unemployed troubled young people to rebuild their lives, but its work there ended due to cuts in government support.
David Brudenell-Bruce, Earl of Cardigan (born 1952) owns 49% and his son Thomas James Brudenell-Bruce, Viscount Savernake (born 1982), owns 51%. In recent years, the impoverished Earl of Cardigan has been involved in a bitter battle with the trustees.
In 2006, the House, with its 50-horse Stable Block, outbuildings and some farmland, was leased for 150 years to a consortium of Golf Club Investment Holdings, Conduit Investments, and (as Operator) the Buena Vista Hospitality Group of Orlando, Florida, with the intention of creating a luxury hotel, conference, spa, and golfing centre. Full Planning Permission was obtained, with the co-operation of the local Planning Authority and English Heritage, and an investment in the project of £50 million was announced. However 18 months later, before starting any building work, the consortium failed during the recession, and the lease ended.
In 2013, the house and Savernake estate were used as the location for a short film commissioned by British electronica pioneers Goldfrapp to promote the song 'Drew' from their album 'Tales of Us'. Shot in black and white by film editor Lisa Gunning (Nowhere Boy, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen), making her directing debut, the internal and external aspects of the house and surrounding forest feature extensively in the five minute film.
- Rudolf Wittkower, in Architectural Journal 102 1945, noted in Howard Colvin, A Biographical Dictionary of British Architects, 1600-1840, 3rd ed. 1995, s.v. "Boyle, Richard, Earl of Burlington".
- Colvin, "Boyle".
- Howard Colvin, A Biographical Dictionary of British Architects, 1600-1840, 3rd ed. 1995, s.v. "Cundy, Thomas", "Wyatville, Sir Jeffry".
- Natalie Clarke, I'm so broke I'm trying to get a job as a lorry driver: Earl of Cardigan on moving out his stately pile and why he's living on benefits, The Daily Mail, February 01, 2013
- Simon de Bruxelles, 'Penniless earl claims jobseeker's allowance after ex-wife's entire £1.5m estate goes to the children', The Times, March 07, 2013, No. 70826, p. 3
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