Benham Park

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Benham Park
The Valence photographed in 1904

Benham Park is a mansion (on the site of Benham Valence Manor) in the English ceremonial county of Berkshire and district of West Berkshire. It is 2 miles (3.2 km) west of Newbury within 500m of a junction of the A34 trunk road Newbury by-pass outside the town side, in the Marsh Benham locality of Speen, a village within and outside the Newbury by-pass. The house is a Grade II* listed building and park is Grade II.

Architecture and history[edit]

The manor of Benham Valence was granted by Elizabeth I to Giovanni Battista Castiglione, her Italian tutor, in 1570. He is buried at St Mary's Church in Speen.

The current house was built in 1774-1775 by William Craven, 6th Baron Craven, and was designed by the architect Henry Holland. Benham Park[1] was three storeys high, nine bays wide, in a plain neoclassical style, of stone, with a tetrastyle Ionic portico. The interiors have been altered. The Circular Hall in the centre of the building, with its large niches and fine plasterwork, is probably as designed by Holland; it has an opening in the ceiling rising to the galleried floor above and a glazed dome. The principal staircase is also original.

The house was greatly altered in 1914; the portico at the rear of the house (facing the Great Lake) had its pediment removed and replaced by a stone balustrade. The roof was lowered in pitch and hidden behind a balustrade decorated at regular intervals. The servants quarters (on the top left hand side of the house behind the loggia) were also demolished due to poor structural condition.

The house is Grade II* listed,[2] and one of its pairs of 17th-century ornate stone gate piers, removed from Hamstead Marshall, is Grade I listed.[3][4] The park itself is at Grade II and has a lake with mill beside the house and aqueducts or artificial drains leading across marshy wetland to the River Kennet to the far south.[5]

William, 6th earl of Craven, holding the Benham plans (Thomas Beach, 1778)

The house was built by Henry Holland and Capability Brown for William, 6th Baron Craven in 1775. It was later the home of his widow, Elizabeth Craven and her second husband, Charles Alexander, Margrave of Brandenburg-Ansbach.

In the late 19th and early 20th century, Benham Place was the family seat of the Sutton baronets.[6] Sir Richard Lexington Sutton sold Benham Park and 140 acres (57 ha) in 1982.[7]

The building was converted into offices in 1983[8] by the IT company Norsk Data, who used it as their headquarters for European operations (outside Norway), until the company's dissolution in 1992. Then it was home to 2e2, an ICT lifecycle services provider, until 2012 when it dissolved.[9] Also within the grounds were two office buildings built in the 1980s and these housed other companies such as mobile data solution provider CognitoIQ,[10] Exony and Idox, all of which have now moved to other premises as the phases comprising the office block were demolished.

Gates to Benham Valence, originally at Hamstead Marshall

References[edit]

  1. ^ page 161, Buildings of England: Berkshire, Geoffrey Tyack, Simon Bradley, Nikolaus Pevsner, 2010 2nd Edition, Yale University Press, ISBN 978-0-300-12662-4
  2. ^ Historic England. "Benham Park, Bath Road  (Grade II*) (1220740)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 2 September 2014. 
  3. ^ National Monuments Record
  4. ^ Historic England. "Gate piers and gates at Benham Park, West Lodge  (Grade I) (1220645)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 2 September 2014. 
  5. ^ Historic England. "Bentham Park (Park and Garden)  (Grade II) (1000173)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 12 December 2014. 
  6. ^ William Page and P.H. Ditchfield (eds). 'Parishes: Speen', A History of the County of Berkshire: Volume 4 (1924), pp. 97–110. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=62688. Date accessed: 13 February 2008. "Benham Place, recently called Benham Valence, is the seat of Sir Richard Sutton, bart." However, by 1924, he had died, and the house was the seat of his uncle Sir Arthur Sutton.
  7. ^ Richard Jinman. "A cup of tea but tight lips in historic landowner's fiefdom" The Guardian, Wednesday 23 March 2005
  8. ^ Royal Berkshire History: Benham Park
  9. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-08-24. Retrieved 2011-07-27. 
  10. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-06-19. Retrieved 2013-05-26. 

External links[edit]

Media related to Benham Park at Wikimedia Commons

Coordinates: 51°24′17″N 1°21′42″W / 51.40479°N 1.36164°W / 51.40479; -1.36164