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Harewood House Leeds

The History of Harewood House

Harewood House is one of Britain’s finest stately homes and it’s particularly special as it works hard to tell its story from a number of perspectives, both from above and below. In the 1807 exhibition, Harewood traces its links with the slave trade. Harewood was designed by the finest of its day. Scottish architect Robert Adam and John Carr of York were commissioned by Edwin Lascelles in 1753 to build this ornate neo-classical home. Building work started in 1759 and construction took 12 years, with the completion of the gallery following a year later. Adam is widely considered the finest of the late 18th century architects.

Harewood House & The Slave Trade

By 1787 the Lascelles family had interests in 47 sugar plantations and owned thousands of slaves in Barbados and across the West Indies. The Lascelles weren’t unique – most merchants of the period were involved in the slave trade and the opulence of Harewood was essentially funded off the back of the slave trade.

Lascelles commissioned the finest for the interior. During your guided tour through the many state rooms including the Old Library, Dressing Rooms, State Dining Room, China Room and Yellow Drawing Room you’ll discover plenty of Chippendale furniture (Harewood was Chipendale’s largest commission!). You’ll also see Antonio Zucchi wall paintings and Joseph Rose and William Collins plaster work. Later in the 19th century alterations were commissioned with Sir Charles Barry adding the third storey and Terrace Garden. Further remodelling took place between 1929-39 under the sixth Earl and HRH Princess Mary.

Harewood House Gardens & Family Attractions

Harewood’s extensive spectacular landscaped gardens are as much a part of the house as the interior rooms. Gardens and house were constructed at the same time, with the garden design undertaken by Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown. The Terrace however is the later work of Barry. Moving into the modern, which Harewood does particularly well, The Adventure Playground within the grounds is a magnet for kids. You can also now enjoy scenic boat trips on the lake – the boat is aptly named ‘The Capability’.

Other popular features within the house and grounds include Harewood’s detailed ‘Below Stairs exhibition. Wander through the scullery, old kitchen and servants’ hall to discover the history of life at Harewood from the perspective of those who worked here. The Maids and Mistresses Trail digs deep into the roles of women here at Harewood, with some rather interesting facts emerging on the ‘outrageous’ (in her day) behaviour of Lady Worsley and others. Harewood is also a veritable feast for art lovers, with numerous portraits on display including a selection by Joshua Reynolds – look out for the portrait of Lady Worsley by Reynolds on display in the house. You’ll find work here by Turner and others, alongside an eclectic collection of Chinese Art.

In 1988 around 20 rolls of Chinese wallpaper were found in one of Harewood’s outbuildings. These rolls, considered by many as one of the finest existing examples of Chinese hand painted wallpaper in existence, have recently been painstakingly hung in the East Bedroom at Harewood for all to see.

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