The building of Cliveden

A carving of the Duke of Buckingham and the Duchess of Shrewsbury at Cliveden, Buckinghamshire

In 1666 Cliveden was acquired by the 2nd Duke of Buckingham, George Villiers. The estate he purchased consisted of 160 acres and just two small lodges; however Buckingham had grand plans for Cliveden.

A site with a view

The Duke was a favourite of King Charles II and wanted a residence, close to London, at which he could entertain his mistress, the Duchess of Shrewsbury, and his friends in style. Buckingham chose a site for his house high above the River Thames with far reaching views. The land sloped steeply and massive amounts of earth were excavated and moved from the north to the south side to create the 400-foot long platform that today we call the Parterre.

Countess of Shrewsbury
Painting of the Countess of Shrewsbury
Countess of Shrewsbury

The Terrace

William Winde, Buckingham’s architect, created a terrace upon which to build the house. This terrace has formed the foundations of the two subsequent houses at Cliveden and, although altered over time, much of Buckingham’s design remains.

There are unfortunately no contemporary images of Buckingham’s house, however later descriptions in Lord Orkney’s letters describe it as a single block built of brick that was four storeys high.

The House, Terrace and Parterre at Cliveden
An aerial view of the Parterre at Cliveden, Buckinghamshire
The House, Terrace and Parterre at Cliveden

Foundations laid for the garden

Although the view from house was admired by Buckingham’s contemporaries, including the diarist John Evelyn, nothing is known of the garden that the Duke created. However, by creating the terrace and the platform that became the Parterre, Buckingham made a substantial contribution to the layout of the gardens you see today.