A taste of Italy and Regency splendour in Shropshire
Attingham was given to the National Trust in 1947 by Thomas, 8th Lord Berwick. The collection that remains today is mainly indigenous to Attingham, with very few loan items. The objects tell the story of this family of spenders and saviours. The Italian theme running through the collection is rather unexpected in rural Shropshire.
Attingham is a late-Georgian mansion with Regency interiors and collections. The heyday for the Hill family was during the time of Thomas, 2nd Lord Berwick who inherited Attingham in 1789. Sadly, Thomas’ extravagant spending led to financial ruin and a sixteen-day sale of Attingham’s contents in 1827. Luckily, some of the items were saved from the sale and subsequent members of the family introduced their own collections and gave Attingham its Italian twist.
The collection includes Regency furniture, silver, paintings, porcelain and textiles which reflects the changing fortunes of the family. Some of the impressive collection items from the time of Thomas 2nd Lord Berwick are below.
Thomas 2nd Lord Berwick: Grand Tour Glories
As a young man in his 20s Thomas travelled to Italy on his Grand Tour accompanied by his Cambridge university friend, Edward Daniel Clarke, who acted as his tutor. Whilst in Rome in 1793, Thomas commissioned the famous artist, Angelica Kauffman, to paint his portrait and two large paintings which were intended for Attingham. These three paintings can be seen in the Drawing Room at Attingham today.
Thomas also commissioned sculpture and bought antiquities such as Etruscan vases, sadly later sold. Paintings by the Irish art dealer and painter, Robert Fagan, were brought back to England by Thomas and were installed in the Entrance Hall and Outer Library.
Upon his return from the Continent, Thomas began working with the architect, John Nash, to create a large gallery for his paintings. Thomas purchased Old Master paintings as well as commissioning new works of art. Fine furniture was made by the cabinet maker and gilder Thomas Donaldson, who lived locally in Shrewsbury.
Gillows of Lancaster supplied furniture for other rooms in the house, such as the Dining Room chairs, and created designs for curtain drapery.
Thomas spent extravagantly and described his behavior to his brother in 1810 as ‘not having resolution to abstain from building and picture buying’. All came to a head in 1827 with a sixteen-day sale of Attingham’s contents where large portions of the collection were sold off. A copy of the sale catalogue is in the collection at Attingham.
You can discover more about the collection at Attingham on the National Trust Collections website below.