The following was scanned from pages 454 - 457 in a nineteenth century copy of Hutchinson's "Dorset": I do not have the title page or the exact name of this set of huge books: it covers every feature of Dorset in much detail.[page 454]
Eastbury, or Gunville Eastbury. Anciently a manor, of which we have no very early accounts. The hamlet is now depopulated, and remarkable only for the seat of the late Lord Melcombe. Here was formerly a small farm, which is now entirely occupied by the house and its environs. 2 Hen. VIII Knoyle; and, 24 Hen. VIII. Leonard Knoyle held land in Gunvil Easthury of the manor of Cranborne. 16 Hen. VIII. John Leygh, at his death, held a third part of the manor of Gunvil Eastbury, of . . . . Philpot. 8 Hen. VIII. Peter Dodington held, at his death, another part of the same. After this it passed to several unknown proprietors. 7 Anne, an act passed to enable William Howe, of Somerton Early, co. Somerset, to sell the manor and farm of Gunvill Eastbury, alias Tarent Gunvil, and messuages and lands there.
About this time it was purchased by George Dodington, of Somerset, esq. In the visitation of the county of Wilts, 1565, is a pedigree of this family, styled of Dodington, Co. Somerset, of which Lord Melcombe died possessed. Peter, second son of Thomas Dodington, of that place, is styled of Woodland, in the parish of Bere, Co. Wilts, from whom seven descents are given. There was also a branch of this family seated at Bremer, co. Wilts. George Dodington, esq. before mentioned, was one of the lords of the admiralty, during the reigns of King William, Queen Anne, and King George I. He, dying without issue, left a very considerable fortune to his nephew George Bubb, esq. who was the son of an apothecary at Waymouth, and by his address in the electioneering management of that borough, raised himself to the peerage, under the title of Lord Melcombe. He was a retainer at the court of Frederick Prince of Wales, at Leicester House, and on the accession of his Majesty George III. became a devoted supporter of the measures of Lord Bute. He was a man of shrewd sense and observation, and his diary of events, published by Mr. H. P. Wyndham, exhibits, amidst a heap of trivial details, a singular chain of gross venality and low intrigue, and demonstrates the influence of petty occurrences in the administration of public affairs. Political pamphlets then reaped the harvest of corruption; a sort of open competition took place for the pen of a Ralph, a Maudit, or a Guthrie; and his Lordship’s relation of the event of the contest for their support is highly entertaining. Those who are yet ignorant of what materials courts and courtiers are composed, must profit by a perusal of the diary, which, with the introduction to Thomson’s Summer, will immortalise the noble name of Bubb. In Hogarth’s five orders of perriwigs, the first head in the second row was designed to represent Lord Melcombe. He assumed his uncle’s name and arms by act of parliament; and 4 George I. 1715, was envoy extraordinary to the court of Spain; plenipotentiary there 1716; member of parliament for Bridgewater, Weymouth, and Melcombe Regis. He held many great posts and employments in the reigns of Geo. I and II. He was created Baron of Melcombe Regis 1761, and died without issue 1762.
The following extract from Cumberland’s memoirs, written about 1756, affords a curious picture of Lord Melcombe in his house at Eastbury.
“In the summer of this year, being now an ex-secretary of an ex-statesman, I went to East bury, the seat of Mr. Dodington, in Dorsetshire, and passed the whole time of his stay in that place. Lord Halifax, with his brother-in-law Colonel Johnstone of the Blues, paid a visit there, and the Countess-Dowager of Stafford and old Lady Hervey were resident with us the whole time. Our splendid host was excelled by no man in doing the honours of his house and table; to the ladies he had all the courtly and profound devotion of a Spaniard, with the ease and gaiety of a Frenchman towards the men. his mansion was magnificent, massy, and stretching out to a great extent in front, with an enormous portico of Doric columns, ascended by a stately flight of steps; there were turrets and wings that went I know not whither, though now they are levelled with the ground, and gone to more ignoble uses. Vanbrugh, who constructed this superb edifice, seems to have had the plan of Blenheim in his thoughts, and the interior was as proud and splendid as the exterior was bold and imposing. All this was exactly in unison with the taste of the magnificent owner, who had gilt and furnished the apartments with a profusion of finery that kept no terms with simplicity, and not always with elegance or harmony of style. Whatever Mr. Dodington’s revenue then was, he had the happy art of managing it with that regularity and economy, that I believe he made more display, at less cost, than any man in the kingdom but himself could have done. His town house in Pall Mall, his villa at Hammersmith, and the mansion above-described, were such establishments as few nobles in the nation were possessed of. In either of these he was not to be approached but through a suite of apartments, and rarely seated but under painted[page 455]
ceilings and gilt entablatures. In his villa you were conducted through two rows of antique marble statues, ranged in a gallery floored with the rarest marbles, and enriched with columns of granite and lapis lazuli; his saloon was hung with the finest Gobelin tapestry, and he slept in a bed encanopied with peacock’s feathers in the style of Mrs. Montague. When he passed from Pall Mall to La Trappe it was always in a coach, which I could suspect had been his ambassadorial equipage at Madrid, drawn by six fat unwicidly black horses, short docked, and of colossal dignity. Neither was lie less characteristic in apparel than in equipage; he had a wardrobe loaded with rich and flaring suits, each in itself a load to the wearer, and of these I have no doubt but many were coeval with his embassy above-mentioned, and every birth-day had added to the stock. In doing this he so contrived as never to put his old dresses out of countenance by any variations in the fashion of the new; in the meantime his bulk and corpulency gave full display to a vast expanse and profusion of brocade and embroidery, and this, when set off with an enormous tye-perriwig and deep-laced ruffles, gave the picture of an ancient courtier in his gala habit, or Quin in his stage dress: nevertheless it must be confessed this style, though out of date, was not out of character, but harmonised so well with the person of the wearer, that I remember when he made his first speech in the house of Peers, as Lord Melcombe, all the flashes of his wit, all the studied phrases and well turned periods of his rhetoric, lost their effect simply because the orator had laid aside his magisterial tye, and put on a modern bag-wig, which was as much out of costume upon the broad expanse of his shoulders as a cat would have been under the robes of the lord chief justice.
“Having thus dilated more than perhaps I should have done upon this distinguished person’s passion for magnificence and display, when I proceed to enquire into those principles of good taste, which should naturally have been the accompanyings and directors of that magnificence, I fear I must be compelled in truth to admit that in these he was deficient. Of pictures he seemed to take his estimate only by their cost; in fact he was not possessed of any, but I recollect his saying to me one day, in his great saloon at Eastbury, that if he had a half a score pictures of a thousand pounds a-piece, he would gladly decorate his walls with them, in place of which I am sorry to say he had stuck up immense patches of gilt leather, shaped into bugle horns, upon hangings of rich crimson velvet, and round his state bed lie displayed a carpeting of gold and silver embroidery, which too glaringly betrayed its derivation from coat, waistcoat, and breeches, by the testimony of pockets, button-holes, and loops, with other equally incontrovertable witnesses, subpoenaed from the tailor’s shophoard. When he paid his court at St. James’s to the present Queen, upon her nuptials, he approached to kiss her band decked in an embroidered suit of silk, with lilac waistcoat and breeches, the latter of which, in the act of kneeling down, forgot their duty, and broke loose from their moorings in a very indecorous and uncourtly manner.
“In the higher provinces of his taste we may contemplate his character with more pleasure, for he had an ornamented fancy and a brilliant wit He was an elegant Latin classic, and well versed in history ancient and modern. His favourite prose writer was Tacitus, and I scarce ever surprised him in his hours of reading without finding that author upon his table before him. He understood him well, and descanted upon him very agreeably, and with much critical acumen. Mr. Dodington was in nothing more remarkable than in ready perspicuity and clear discernment of a subject thrown before him on a sudden; take his first thoughts then and he would charm you; give him time to ponder and refine, you would perceive the spirit of his sentiments, and the vigour of his genius, evaporate by the process, for though his first view of the question would be a wide one, and clear withal, when lie came to exercise the subtlety of his disquisitional powers upon it, he would so ingeniously dissect and break it into fractions, that as an object, when looked upon too intently for a length of time, grows misty and confused, so would the question under his discussion, when the humour took him to be hypercritical. Hence it was that his impromptu in Parliament were generally more admired than his studied speeches, and his first suggestions in the councils of his party better attended to than his professed opinion.
“Being a man of humble birth, he seemed to have an innate respect for titles, and none bowed with more devotion to the robes and faces of high rank and office. He was decidedly aristocratic. lie paid his court to Walpole in panegyric poems, apologizing for his presumption by reminding him that it was better to be pelted with roses than rotten eggs. To Chesterfield, to Winnington, Pulteney, Fox, and the luminaries of his early time, he offered up the oblations of his genius, and incensed them with all the odours of his wit; in his latter days, and within the period of my acquaintance with him, the Earl of Bute, in the plenitude of his power, was the god of his idolatry. That noble Lord was himself too much a man of letters, and a patron of the sciences, to overlook a witty head that bowed so low; he accordingly put a coronet upon it, which, like the barren sceptre in the hands of Macbeth, merely served as a ticket for the coronation procession, and having nothing else to leave to posterity in memory of its owner, left its mark on the lid of his coffin.
“During my stay at Eastbury we were visited by the late Mr. Henry Fox and Alderman Beckford; the solid good sense of the former, and the dashing loquacity of the latter, forming a striking contrast between the characters of those gentlemen. To Mr. Fox our host paid all that courtly homage which he so well knew how to time and where to apply; to Beckford he did not observe the same attention, but in the happiest flow of his raillery and wit, combated this intrepid talker with admirable effect. It was an interlude truly comic and amusing: Beckford loud, voluble, self-sufficient, and galled by hits which he could not parry, and probably did not expect, laid himself more and more open in the vehemence of his arguments; Dodington, lolling in his chair in perfect apathy and self-command, dozing, and even snoring, at intervals, in his lethargic way, broke out every now and then into such gleams and flashes of wit and irony, as, by the contrast of[page 456]
his phlegm with the other’s impetuosity, made his humour irresistible, and set the table in a roar. He was here upon his very strong ground, for no man was better calculated to exemplify how true the observation is, “Ridicuhim acri Fortius ac melitis”
At the same time he had his serious hours and graver topics, which he would handle with all due solemnity of thought and language, and these were to me some of tile most pleasing hours I have passed with him, for he could keep close to his point if he would, and could be not less argumentative than he was eloquent when the question was of magnitude enough to interest him. It is with singular satisfaction, I can truly say, that I never knew him flippant upon sacred subjects. He was generally courted and admired as a gay companion rather than as a grave one.
I have said that the Dowager Ladies Stafford and Hervev made part of our domestic circle, and, as the trivial amusement of cards was never resorted to in Mr. Dodington’s house, it was his custom in the evenings to entertain his company with reading, and in this art he excelled ; his selections however were curious, for he treated these ladies with the whole of Fielding’s “Jonathian Wild”, in which he certainly consulted his own turn for irony rather than theirs for elegance, but he set it off with much humour after his manner, and they were polite enough to be pleased, or at least to appear as if they were.
Lord Melcombe bequeathed his whole property (a few legacies excepted) to his cousin Thomas Windliam of Lainmnersmith, who died 1777, and by his will left to Henry Penruddock Wyndimam, esq. all Lord Melcombe’s political papers, letters, and poems, requesting of him not to print or publish any of them but those that are proper to be made public, and such only as may in some degree do honour to his memory. Mr. Wyndham published, 1784, The Diary of the late Lord Melcombe, from March 8, 1748, to Feb. 6, 1761, giving as a reason, that in the late Mr. Wyndham’s, as well as his own, opinion, Lord Melcombe wrote for the public, and intended that his diary should in a future season be produced to light as an apology for his political conduct, which, however palliated by the ingenuity of his own pen, is shown to have been wholly directed by the base motives of avarice, vanity, and selfishness; for such motives only could have induced him to quit the service of George II. and prefer the protection of Frederick Prince of Wales to that of his old master, and have made him discontented and miserable while he remained in the court of that Prince, where a party was quickly combined against him, which, unfortunately for him, was actuated by the same selfish principles as he himself was. The same motives tempted him, after the death of the Prince, to court the Pelhams with the most abject servility, and at the same time in secret opposition to his great patroness the Princess Dowager. At the Prince’s death, he had set on foot, by means of the Earl of Shaftesbury, a project for an union between the independent Whigs and Tories, by a writing renouncing all tincture of Jacobinism, and affirming short but constitutional principles. Lord Shaftsbury’s good heart and understanding made him indefatigable, and so far successful that there were good grounds to hope for a happy issue. These parties so united were to lay the papers before the Prince, offering to appear as his party now, and upon those principles to undertake the administration when he was King, in the subordination and rank among themselves that he should please to appoint.
The seat and estate, which came by a family settlement to Richard Earl Temple, descended to his nephew George Nugent Grenville Temple, second Earl Temple, created Marquis of Buckingham Nov. 30, 1784; of whom it was purchased by Josiah Wedgwood, esq. before mentioned, and by him sold to James John Farquarson, esq. the present owner. Mr. Dodington before mentioned, uncle to Lord Melcombe, by his will directed that the sum of 30,000L. should be laid out on Eastbury, which was to come in reversion to the Grenville family: his nephew, dissatisfied with this estate, applied this sum to the purchase of an estate close to it, which he intended for the Wyndham family ; but this deemed a misapplication of the devise, the purchase was declared void. The house itself was entirely taken down, and its materials removed, amid nothing left but some part of one of the wings or the offices, converted into a convenient dwelling house for a private family, and inhabited some time afterwards by the Rev. Mr. Camphin, son to the Marquis’s steward, and again subsequently by Mrs. Wedgwood, widow of time celebrated Josiah Wedgwood, esq. F.R.S. &c. of Etruria in Staffordshire, by whose improvement and perfection of the Manufacture of pottery a large fortune was acquired for his family, and his country derived infinite advantage. He was father of Josiah Wedgwood, esq. of Gunville ; and his third son Thomas Wedgwood, esq. who sometimes resided here, with his mother, died at this phace, after a very long illness, July 1805, in his 34th year.
This house was one of the grandest and most superb in this county ; and indeed in the kingdom. George Dodington, esq. began the building about 1718 ; but only finished the offices. His portrait was over the saloon chimney. The house was begun about 1724, by his nephew Lord Melcombe, amid the whole entirely finished about 1738, at the expense of 140,000L. The gardens were very extensive and beautiful, adorned with vistas amid plantations of trees, many of which were removed hither some miles off, after fifty years growth, and weighed three tons. The canals were supplied by an engine worked by horses. The elegant furniture of the house was all sold 1763, and the house taken down and sold piecemeal about ten or twelve years after. Adjoining to the house Lord Melcombe inclosed a park, part of which lies in the parish of Tarent Hinton.
The approach to the house was through a
[page 457] beautiful lawn, whence you passed through a grand arcade, on each side of which the offices were ranged, and you landed from a flight of steps eleven feet high, under a noble Dome portico, crowned with a pediment extending 62 feet, the pillars whereof were 46 feet high, opening into a magnificent hall, adorned with statues and busts. This saloon was richly decorated; at one end of it were three noble apartments, one hung with crimson velvet, another with flowered velvet, a third with satin, all richly laced with gold. At the other end were a drawing-room and a large dining-room. The marble tables in these rooms were very curious and valuable, purchased in Italy.
The main body of the house extended 144 feet, and was 95 feet in depth, to which joined the arcades which formed the great court, which was 160 feet in breadth in the clear, and its depth from the house to the entrance was 210 feet. The arcades were 10 feet wide. The offices, placed on each side of the arcades, in the centre of them, extended each 133 feet, and were in depth 161. The inner courts of these offices were 161 by 80, in the clear. Beyond these, other buildings were carried in the same line 50 feet each way, forming two other courts. So that the whole front of the buildings and offices extended 570 feet. These buildings being of different heights, and the turrets at each corner of the house, with the Venetian windows, rising above the rest, gave the whole structure a very grand appearance. Campbell’s Vitruvius Britannicus, vol. iii. pp 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, exhibits this house and gardens. Plate I. is an exact plan of the gardens. II. A general plan of the house and out-offices. III. An elevation of the principal front, with a rusticated portico of the Doric order. IV. A plan and elevation of the great portico placed at the end of the garden facing the house. This portico was the most magnificent of its kind in England, Corinthian hexastyle; the columns three feet in diameter. V. A plan and elevation of the bagnio in the garden, fronting the bowling green. All designed and executed by Sir John Vanbrugh, 1718.
Vanbrugh also gave designs for temples here, says Dallaway; but he could only repeat himself, and they are merely parts of his houses in miniature.