You might just have wondered why there’s a bridge beside the road, between Calvert and Botolph (pronounced ‘Bottle’ by locals) Claydon.
You may have imagined that the road’s been diverted since the bridge was built, as at Thornborough bridge (Scroll down at the link)
I don’t think it ever has. Instead, it forms a nice focal point for the last of the three lakes in the landscaped grounds of Claydon House. I also suspect that it hid the road at a point where you wouldn’t expect to see trees if there really was a small river there, instead of a minor stream.
The grounds were created between 1763 and 1776 for the impressive West front of Claydon House. This house was built by Ralph, the 2nd Earl Verney between 1757 and 1771 to rival Stowe House, a few miles away on the other side of Buckingham.
Some rooms in the West front are big enough to take the whole of the large three bed house I grew up in; roof, chimneys, the TV aerial and all, with ease. Claydon House is a Grade 1 listed National Trust property, open to the public.
But only some of the West front remains, the South range. There was also a ballroom, the North range, beyond a large central rotunda.
The outside of the ballroom matched the South range to create a symmetrical facade with the rotunda in the middle that was 256 feet long, but the ballroom was one vast single space.
It was demolished, along with the rotunda, in 1792. Materials and parts were sold off.
The iron scrollwork on the front of The George pub in Winslow is said to have come from the sale, and the impressive doorcase for the front door of the Cock hotel in Stony Stratford was possibly an internal doorcase from the sale. It’s very impressive; ‘doorframe’ just doesn’t do it justice.
My 1978 guide to the house says that the ballroom and rotunda hadn’t been given sufficient foundations, hence their demolition just nineteen years after the house was completed. I’ve also heard that the ballroom was too ambitious for the materials knowledge of the times.
All Saints church is another grade 1 building. It is less than 50 yards from the house, because the original house was in the middle of the hamlet of Middle Claydon. The hamlet and it’s occupants were removed about the time work started on the new West Front.
This is called emparking; it’s quite common. It also took place at Gayhurst and Tyringham, almost next to each other a couple of miles North of Newport Pagnell. If you want to read more about this, The Lost villages of Britain is a good book, though long out of print.
The church graveyard that was once been between the house and the church was removed during the landscaping works. Not surprisingly, the inhabitants of Middle Claydon viewed this as a serious desecration.
It’s not obvious now where the old road through the village once ran. But it’s possible that the South and North drives follow some of the route, and that the lodges at the edge of the estate are on the old road.
The Verney family still live in the red-brick south wing, which is not open to the public.
The bridge, though as well built as any bridge that has to earn it’s living, is a folly. Here is another one, at Grendon Underwood.
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