Oatland's garden facade

Oatlands

Oatlands, literally "lands where oats were grown", gave its name to the Tudor Palace in Oatlands Park in Surrey, which was already an established residence when Henry VIII forced its owner to cede him the title in 1538. He built a sumptuous Palace for the reception of his new Queen, Anne of Cleves. Although she never lived there, it did become the home of Elizabeth I, James I, and Charles I, who is believed to have planted the fine cedar tree beside the driveway of the Oatlands Park Hotel, to celebrate the birth of his son, Prince Henry of Oatlands. After a parliamentary survey in 1650, the palace was pulled down and the name Oatlands was passed to a former Tudor Lodge, built on the 'highest part of the park'.


After the Restoration, the Earl of Torrington lived there until the estate was bequeathed, around 1716, to the 7th Earl of Lincoln, who built a new mansion. His second son, the 9th Earl of Lincoln who became Duke of Newcastle, destroyed his father's elaborate formal garden, converting the canal and other adjoining ponds into a long lake known as the Broadwater. The most notable feature of the gardens of Oatlands was the famous Grotto. Possibly the finest in England, the Grotto, with a ceiling studded with artificial stalactites, was built around 1760 with additions in the 1770's by Joseph and Josiah Lane, masons of Tisbury, perhaps on the recommendation of Charles Hamilton of Painshill Park fame. Sadly demolished in 1948, shells identical to those lining the walls of the Grotto still exist in the wall at the top of the driveway into the car park at Oatlands Park Hotel.


Frederick Duke of YorkFrederica Charlotte Duchess of YorkIn 1790, the Duke of York, Frederick Augustus of Hanover (1763-1827) 2nd son of George III, took up residence in Oatlands. Oatlands is located near the village of Weybridge in Surrey. After marriage ceremonies on Wednesday 28 September 1791 in Berlin and 24 Nov in London, the twenty-eight year old Duke brought his new twenty-four year old Duchess, Princess Frederica Charlotte Ulrica (1767-1820) the daughter of the King of Prussia, to Oatlands. He was the "Grand Old Duke of York, who had ten thousand men" of the children's nursery rhyme. Theirs was truely a state marriage; the Duke only saw his wife when he came to Oatlands or their London home York House. His wife, the Duchess of York, spent her days lavishing her affections on the menagerie of animals which surrounded her, and helping the poor and needy. The Duchess of York breakfasted at four a.m. and spent her day with her menagerie, which included parrots, horses that were never ridden, and up to twenty dogs. In 1795, Henry Bernard Chalon (1770 -1849 ) was appointed animal painter to the Duchess of York for whom he did many small scale paintings of her dogs. The cemetery for her dogs was situated near the Grotto and many of the surviving stones are set in the lawn on the north-west side of the hotel. A map of this cemetery and a gravestone to "Billey" are displayed at Weybridge Museum.

A fire broke out on June 7 th, 1794. The Duke of York was away in Flanders, but the Duchess remained composed seeing to the safety of her animals first. Henry Holland who was already working on a temple for the grounds was retained as architect for the rebuilding of Oatlands House. The Duke of York wished to retain the Gothic style of the original house. Holland, whose experience of designing in Gothic was limited, consulted antiquarian draughtsman John Carter. There are few delineations of the new house, but three watercolors of the garden front painted by C. Brauns in 1810 are at Windsor. The paintings show the garden front façade as an irregular composition with a central block of three bays and two stories, with buttressed extremities, and an oriel window over a buttressed entrance. East of this are an assortment of gabled and turreted buildings, and on the west a small tower and a single story wing. All have castellations, and most of the windows have drip-stones. The material is stone, or ashlar over brick. While Carter could rightly claim to have assisted in the work, he took to himself the whole credit for the new house in the dedication of his book "Ancient Architecture" which went to press after Holland's death in 1806.

Famous guests include Czar Alexander I who came for a visit to the mansion along with the Duchess of York's half brother King Wilhelm III of Prussia during the Peace Celebrations in June 1814. Princess Charlotte and Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha honeymooned there after their 2nd of May 1816 wedding. Such was the Duchess of York's popularity with local villagers that, on her death in 1820, a monument to her memory was erected on Weybridge Green, now known as Monument Green.

After his wife's death, the Duke of York sold Oatlands to Edward Hughes Ball-Hughes, a regency dandy, nicknamed 'The Golden Ball' on account of his great wealth. Nevertheless, he went bankrupt and the estate was put up for sale eventually being leased to Leveson-Gower until 1847. In 1856, the Oatlands Mansion became a hotel.


See a medal struck in honor of the marriage of Frederick, Duke of York, and Princess Frederica of Prussia.

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