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Visit to Southill House and Gardens


Southill has been the home of the Whitbread family for over 200 years. The house was bought in 1795 by Samuel Whitbread I from Viscount Torrington whose unfortunate uncle, Vice-Admiral the Hon John Byng, was shot at Portsmouth in 1757 for an error of judgement whilst in Command of the Fleet (‘pour encourager les autres’!).

Pevsner, in the Bedfordshire volume of The Buildings of Britain, describes Southill as ‘one of the most exquisite English understatements. That so refined and reticent a house could be demanded in 1795 by a brewer is a telling illustration of the rarely admitted cultural possibilities of the Industrial Revolution’. 

Samuel Whitbread I died in 1796, a year after buying Southill and his son, Samuel Whitbread II, a prominent Whig politician, employed Henry Holland to rebuild the existing house. Holland was the fashionable architect of the day; he reconstructed Carlton House for The Prince of Wales (later George IV) and other examples of his work may be seen at Woburn, Ampthill, the Swan Hotel in Bedford, and at Althorp. The grounds had earlier been landscaped by Capability Brown.

Today, Southill stands very much as it did in 1806, the year of Holland’s death. Much of the decoration is as Holland left it and most of the furniture was designed by him for the rooms in which it stands.

Charles Whitbread, the present incumbent, and James Collett-White, the archivist, will take us around the rooms in the house to show us the art and furniture. Southill is not generally open to the public but Mr. and Mrs. Whitbread have most kindly invited us to make this private visit.

To register and for more details, please contact [email protected] First come first served – only 25 places available!