Houghton House

Built: around 1615
For: Mary Sidney Herbert, Dowager Countess of Pembroke
Subsequent owners: Bruce family, Russell family
House abandoned: 1794

Mary Sidney Herbert was a writer, a translator, a patron of the arts, and a chemist (Wikipedia: “She had a chemistry laboratory at Wilton House, where she developed medicines and invisible ink”).

She died of smallpox in 1621.

After that, the house went through three owners. All of Houghton’s owners had other properties.

The Bruce family owned the house from 1624, and it became their main residence. Thomas Bruce, the 2nd Earl of Ailesbury, supported the deposed James II, and went into exile around 1696. He drew revenue from the estate in the following years, so presumably rented it out. He sold it in 1738, 3 years before his death.

The new owner was John Russell. In the 1760s, the chamber above the Great Hall, which was used for private functions beforehand, was converted into a library.

John’s sons died before he did, so after he died in 1771, the estate passed to his grandson Francis.

In 1794, Francis took the furnishings and the roof, and left the house to the elements. While the house was being taken apart, The Swan Inn in Bedford acquired the great staircase from the house, where it still remains.

The house and its park were sold to the owner of Ampthill Park, a nearby estate, in 1804.

Houghton House is believed to be the inspiration forĀ  the House of the Palace Beautiful, in the late 17th Century book “The Pilgrim’s Progress” by John Bunyan.

A paragraph about the house appears in Bedfordshire Archaeological Journal #8, page 138. This describes a preliminary survey, challenging the conventional wisdom about the architect who designed the house. The Council for British Archaeology has scans of the Bedfordshire Archaeological Journal. p138 of the Journal is on page 154 of the pdf.

An archaeological Watching Brief was done when posts were put in for information boards by English Heritage. This is listed on Pastscape, Historic Environment Record for Bedfordshire, and so on. This was undertaken by Northamptonshire Archaeology. I found the pdf at the Archaeology Data Service.

Houghton House at English Heritage
Houghton House on Pastscape
Houghton House on Wikipedia
via Heritage Gateway:
National Monuments Record entry on Houghton House
Historical Environment Record for Bedfordshire: Houghton House

Mary Sidney Herbert on Wikipedia
Thomas Bruce on Wikipedia
John Russell on Wikipedia
Francis Russell on Wikipedia

Related Results
Houghton Park on Pastscape
Ampthill Park House on Pastscape
HER (Beds): Ice house at Houghton House, no longer extant
HER (Beds): Summerhouse intended for Houghton House (designed John’s son, Francis’ father, who died before John)
HER (Beds): Screen and gates, at least parts of which were taken from Houghton House
HER (Beds): Gardener’s house at Houghton House

Mary Sidney at Project Gutenberg
Mary Herbert at Luminarium.org, with transcriptions of some of her works
Mary Sidney at archive.org
Searched for the Memoirs of Thomas Bruce, found Volume II viewable online, but not Volume I.

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de Grey Mausoleum

Built: 1614
Extended: 1705
21 monuments, to 25 members of the de Grey family
Attached to the 15th Century Church of St John The Baptist


The de Grey family was influential from the 17th-19th centuries. This mausoleum was constructed to house them after their deaths. There are memorials to earlier family members who are not housed there.

The year most commonly listed as when it was built, is 1614, though some sources list the first phase of building as starting in 1605.

The de Greys lived in the nearby Wrest Park, which is also an English Heritage property.

Web Records:
de Grey Mausoleum at English Heritage
de Grey Mausoleum on Pastscape
de Grey Mausoleum on Wikipedia
via Heritage Gateway:
National Heritage List for England: Listing
National Heritage List for England: Scheduling
The Historic Environment Record for Bedfordshire’s information about the Mausoleum

Related Results:
Church of St John The Baptist on Pastscape
The Historic Environment Record for Bedfordshire’s information about the church
The Historic Environment Record for Bedfordshire’s information about railings in the churchyard

As the place is pretty intact, there’s not exactly been a need for extensive archaeological excavations. Pastscape doesn’t have anything in the Investigation History section, though it does have some things listed for the church. Interestingly, one of the things it lists for the church, is an analysis of timbers from the Mausoleum, for dating purposes.
The Scheduling entry on the National Heritage List (linked above) has a bunch of sources linked, and the “Books and journals” section mainly has some relatively recent books listed (the Historical Survey of Wrest Park looks interesting). The last item in that section says something about a gentleman’s magazine in monuments of the Grey family. Looking it up, “The Gentleman’s Magazine” was a long-running journal with many submitted articles, such that the twice-yearly “magazine” had over 600 pages. Hunting on archive.org, I found two copies of Jul-Dec scanned there, which ultimately proved to be the wrong issue. I found one of Jan-Jun, which was the right issue. And most of the article is missing. Pages 393 and 394 (by the digital page count, page 405) are just about blank. The article does seem to continue on to page 395, which is only mostly missing. When the first column returns in its entirety, you can see mentions of the village, Wrest Park, and the Church of St John the Baptist. Fortunately, the entirety of the article is present over at Google Books.
The HER (Beds) information about the Mausoleum lists a couple of events:
*The tree-ring analysis that Pastscape mentioned
*”An archaeological watching brief during the excavation of a French drain around the perimeter of the church of St John the Baptist, Flitton”. This has not been published, but is available at the Archaeology Data Service (which hosts unpublished archaeological documentation).
The HER’s “Other sources” section includes:
*An unpublished document by Northamptonshire Archaeology. Best I can tell, this is the excavation of the French drain that I just linked to.
*An unpublished document from Ordnance Survey. There’s a reference, but I didn’t find anything relevant from searching for that generally, or searching for “Flitton” at the ADS.
*An article in “Proceedings of the Summer Meeting of the Royal Archaeological Institute at Bedford in 1982”. A search for this revealed that it may have been printed in The Archaeological Journal Vol. 139. Both individual article and full publication are available at Taylor & Francis Online, but the price is somewhat prohibitive.

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