Robert Adam (1728-92) is my favorite architect. To be fair, my admiration for Adam is a recent development as I had never heard of him before I took up residence in the Chancognie House. The Buildings of Charleston described the house as having “Adamesque” detailing, so after reading that, I started to study Adam’s work and was absolutely smitten with it. The detailing at the Chancognie House is Adamesque in a very vernacular way, but I love to see Adam’s work in person to see if I can find parallels.
So, you can imagine how excited I was to visit Kedleston Hall, one of Adam’s earliest and finest works, during the Attingham Summer School. The Curzon family owned the land at Kedleston since the Norman Conquest, but it was not until Sir Nathaniel Curzon (later 1st Lord Scarsdale) inherited the property in 1758 that major changes took place. He tore down the ancestral home and moved the local village to create the ideal setting for a home to outdo the rival Cavendish family at nearby Chatsworth.
Curzon hired several architects before settling on Robert Adam, a young Scottish architect who had just returned from three years of study in Rome. This time heavily influenced Adam’s work at Kedleston with the dome of the Saloon (pictured at top) inspired by one of his favorite buildings in Rome, the Pantheon. Adam retained many of the components of the previous designs that incorporated elements of the work of Italian architect Andrea Palladio (1508-80) but added a more dramatic central portico on the north façade. Adam designed a new south façade drawing inspiration from the Pantheon and the Arch of Constantine in Rome.
Adam supervised almost every detail of the interior decoration from the door handles to the plasterwork ceilings until the house was finished in 1765. He oversaw the landscape and designed many of the buildings in the park including the Fishing Pavilion and the bridge. Unfortunately, Lord Scarsdale’s finances could not keep up with his ambitions and the southeast and southwest wings designed by Adam were never built. On the upside, a lack of resources among Lord Scarsdale’s 19th century successors led to few changes being made at Kedleston which has resulted in Adam’s work surviving remarkably intact.