West of Reading approx 4 miles from the centre into the Chiltern Hills Basildon Park is a resplendent Palladian country house designed by John Carr and built around 1770’s. Basildon park was used as a prisoner of war camp in the Second World War, this beautifully honey coloured stone built house was completely dilapidated in the 1950’s and considered for demolition, however almost complete restoration by Lord and Lady Iliffe saw this beautiful property reach it former glory if not looking better than before. Now being looked after by the National Trust.
Basildon Park is a country house situated 2 miles (3 kilometres) south of Goring-on-Thames and Streatley in Berkshire, between the villages of Upper Basildon and Lower Basildon. It is owned by the National Trust and is a Grade I listed building. The house was built between 1776 and 1783 for Sir Francis Sykes and designed by John Carr in the Palladian style at a time when Palladianism was giving way to the newly fashionable neoclassicism. Thus, the interiors are in a neoclassical “Adamesque” style.
Never fully completed, the house passed through a succession of owners. In 1910 it was standing empty and in 1914, it was requisitioned by the British Government as an army convalescent hospital. It was again sold in 1928 and quickly sold again. In 1929, following a failed attempt to dismantle and rebuild the house in the USA, it was stripped of many of its fixtures and fittings and all but abandoned.
During World War II, the house was again requisitioned and served as a barracks, a training ground for tanks, and finally a prisoner of war camp—all activities unsuited to the preservation of an already semi-derelict building. In 1952, a time when hundreds of British country houses were being demolished, it was said of Basildon Park “to say it was derelict, is hardly good enough, no window was left intact and most were repaired with cardboard or plywood.”
Today, Basildon Park is as notable for its mid-twentieth-century renaissance and restoration, by Lord and Lady Iliffe, as it is for its architecture. In 1978, the Iliffes gave the house, together with its park and a large endowment for its upkeep, to the National Trust in the hope that “The National Trust will protect it and its park for future generations to enjoy.
Basildon is first documented in 1311 when it was granted by the crown to Elias de Colleshull. During the 16th and early 17th centuries, the manor of Basildon was held by the Yonge family. In 1654, the Basildon estate was purchased probably on behalf of Royalist Colonel George Fane by his brother-in-law the 5th Earl of Bath who died the same year (confusion as to for whom bought caused the political state of the country at the time and by George Fane’s premature death). Lord Bath’s widow, the former Lady Rachael Fane, bequeathed the estate to her nephew Sir Henry Fane, George Fane’s son. Little is known of Basildon during the Fane ownership, but a mansion house was built with Gothic lodges. These lodges survive and serve the present house. The manor remained a Fane possession until it was offered for sale in 1766 by the heirs of the 2nd Viscount Fane, essentially, his two married sisters Dorothy Montagu and Mary de Salis.
The estate was purchased in 1771 by Sir Francis Sykes. Having made a fortune in India, Sykes returned to England to realise his social and political ambitions. For these to be fulfilled, Sykes required a grand estate conveniently close to London; he built Basildon Park to serve that purpose
Official Website: https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/basildon-park