I want to start with Temple Newsam House, Leeds because without a doubt it is a local authority gem, and mainly as I used to work there! Described in the current guidebook as ‘one of the great historic houses of England, famous as the birthplace of Lord Darnley, husband of Mary Queen of Scots in 1545, and sometimes called “The Hampton Court of the North”‘.
The land here belonged to the Knights Templar in the early Middle Ages; a connection which gives the ‘Temple’ prefix. The house on the current site was originally built by Thomas Lord Darcy. Begun as a courtyard house with a gateway to the north in about 1480, it was probably completed by c.1520. Darcy’s involvement in The Pilgrimage of Grace led to his execution for treason in 1537, and the house passed to the Crown. It was then presented as a gift by Henry VIII to his niece Lady Lennox and her husband, whose son Lord Darnley was born and brought up here. However, Lady Lennox’s schemes to see her bloodline on the English throne once again saw the house confiscated by the Crown.
Eventually the original Tudor building fell into decay until it was ‘rescued’ by Sir Arthur Ingram in 1622 when he bought it from a descendant of the Lennox family for £12,000. He extensively remodelled the old Tudor courtyard house by demolishing the east wing and rebuilding the north and south wings; uniting the whole with an external inscription in the stone balustrade.
Ingram’s descendants lived here for the next 300 years, when in 1922 the house and parkland were sold to the Leeds Corporation. Rather tragic for the time, the then owner the Hon. Edward Wood offered the contents for an extra £10,000 but the Corporation declined and many of the goods were dispersed. A few items were left in the house as a gift to the citizens of Leeds, and several lots were purchased at the sale in order to furnish a caretaker’s flat!
In 1923 the house opened to the public with new visitor routes added internally. The house developed as an art museum over the next few decades until the late 1970s when Leeds City Council and curatorial staff began the slow road to refurbishment in order to establish Temple Newsam as both a fine and decorative arts and country house museum. Some of the original treasures have been rediscovered and bought back; often placed in their original settings throughout the house according to inventories and sale catalogues.
Today Temple Newsam House contains many rich collections on wallpapers, textiles, silver and ceramics. There are fine pieces of Thomas Chippendale (and the Younger) furniture too, as well as what is considered to be the most significant part of the furniture collection – the suite of gallery seats by James Pascall, repatriated in 1939 when it was bought from the Hon Edward Wood to enliven the beautiful yet sparse Picture Gallery space in the north wing.
I worked at Temple Newsam House for five years whilst studying for my research degree. Many of the staff are fantastic and there are always educational activities and holiday workshops. A few years ago there was a severe restructuring of Leeds City Council and a few museum and gallery staff found their jobs had been put asunder. Attitudes and opinions have changed throughout local authority owned museums and galleries where restructure and finances have been at the forefront of management. And so, with the speedy cuts being made in the current economic climate to our public services, I fear that the modern faces of Temple Newsam will be changing again.
Links: The Leeds City Council website for Temple Newsam www.leeds.gov.uk/templenewsam. This is quite comprehensive, and I definitely recommend using this as a source for learning a great deal more about the house, its owners and collections. Contacts for the house are;
Temple Newsam House
House: 0113 2647321
(Please note that 0113 2645535 is the general estate number you may find in publications and websites.)
(And for a bit of laugh: www.hauntedleeds.co.uk/templenewsam.htm )