Harewood House: One of the most beautiful 18th-century country houses owned by the Lascelles family

By Gunnar Larsson – CC BY-SA 3.0

Built in the 18th century for wealthy plantation owner Edwin Lascelles, Harewood House is one of the most beautiful historic houses in England. It is located in Harewood near Leeds and was built between 1759 and 1771.

Edwin Lascelles was the 1st Baron Harewood, and throughout the centuries, the house remained in the ownership of his family. The architects who designed this grand mansion were John Carr and Robert Adam, and the landscape was one of the many amazing designs of Lancelot “Capability” Brown.

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The mansion is one of the Treasure Houses of England which houses many valuable sculptures and paintings of famous artists. The exterior of the house was made of local millstone grit, and even the interior bricks came from the Baron’s land. Before the house was built Lascelles had been a very successful businessman, so he bought the estate of Gawthorpe.

The Harewood House owned by the Lascelles family. Author: Charlie Dave. CC BY 2.0

The family claim that they arrived in Britain with William the Conqueror during the Norman Conquest. They were settled in Yorkshire by 1315 and were known as de Lascelles. They were very powerful, and many members of the family were involved in Parliament and held important military positions.

At the end of the 17th century, the de Lascelles bought plantations in the West Indies, and the income allowed Henry Lascelles to buy the Harewood estate in 1738. The foundations of the house were laid in 1759, and it was completed by 1765. The designer Robert Adam was responsible for the interiors, and he made minor changes to the plans made by Carr and also added internal courtyards.

The dining room. Author: graham elsom. CC BY 2.0

The famous furniture-maker Thomas Chippendale was commissioned to fill the house with his most beautiful items famous through all England during the 18th century. Together, Adam and Chippendale created a perfect example of the English country house estate with classical elegance.

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The yellow drawing room.

The mansion stayed in this state until the 1840s when a new architect was employed by the 3rd Earl of Harewood. His name was Sir Charles Barry, and he was hired to expand the house in order to more comfortably accommodate the Earl’s thirteen children. Extra bedrooms, formal terraces, and a third story were added, and the south portico was removed.

The state bedroom with a bed designed by Thomas Chippendale.

The most beautiful of these is the terrace garden under the south front. Today, the garden is a place for art exhibitions and special events. There is an adventure playground where visiting children can amuse themselves while their elders admire the surrounding grounds. One of the most popular sights is the bird garden, which contains 120 types of exotic birds, some of which are under threat of extinction. There are individual areas for some of them, such as the flamingos, cranes, and penguins. This garden is a member of the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

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The old library.

In 1922, Viscount Henry Lascelles married Mary, the eldest daughter of King George V. The couple lived in Goldsborough House, but after the death of Henry’s father, they moved permanently into Harewood House. They added many fine art pieces through the years into the house’s collection. Today, the house remains in the ownership of the family, and the current Earl is David Lascelles.

The house’s kitchen. Author: graham elsom. CC BY 2.0

The Harewood House Trust manages the estate today, and it is open to the public throughout the year. The famous artist Joseph Turner painted the landscape in watercolor, and Elton John performed a concert on the grounds. Part of the estate was made into a village for the soap opera Emmerdale in 1996. The house was listed as grade I protected building, and many features surrounding it were also listed as Grade I and II.