A comparable but smaller version of the present watercolour in the collection of Earl Cawdor was included in an album compiled by the artist George Fennel Robson for Mrs George Haldimand between 1826 and 1827 (and sold in these Rooms, 18 March 1980, lot 237). The Cawdor watercolour was used for the catalogue cover illustration of the Reading Museum and Art Gallery's exhibition of William Havell (1981-2). It has been suggested that Robson visited Havell to request a watercolour for the album and on seeing the present watercolour in the artist's studio, asked him to produce a smaller version. The smaller watercolour was exhibited at the Old Water-Colour Society in 1828 (no. 352), a year after the present watercolour.
Park Place holds a remarkable record of ownership, the first house on the site was built in 1719 by Lord Hamilton (1673-1754), later Lord of the Admiralty. In 1738, he sold it to the eldest son of King George II, Prince Frederick (1707-1751), then Prince of Wales, and father of the future George III. Frederick divided his time between the house, where he planted several of the grand cedar trees that still line the park, and Cliveden, 10 miles east, now owned by the National Trust. The property and gardens underwent substantial changes when Field Marshall Henry Seymour Conway (1721-1795) bought the estate in 1752, after Frederick's death, including a shell grotto and a humped-back bridge, which delighted his cousin Horace Walpole who wrote, in his Essay on Modern Gardening of 1784, that 'Gardening and architecture owe as much to the nobility and to men of fortune as to the professors. I need but name General Conway's rustic bridge at Park Place, of which every stone was placed by his own direction in one of the most beautiful scenes in nature'. After Conway's death in 1795 his widow sold the estate to the politician and diplomat, Lord Malmesbury who was visited by various prominent acquaintances including King George IV, Lord Palmerston and William Pitt. In 1815 the house was auctioned and bought by Mr Henry Piper Spurling, who, after only a short time, exchanged it for Norbury Park, Surrey, with his cousin Ebenezer Fuller-Maitland, the lender of the present watercolour to the 1827 exhibition. After his death in 1858 it is said that Queen Victoria visited the estate with the idea of purchasing it, but decided against it. The property continued to entertain accommodate a variety of owners.
The first known owner of the present watercolour, George Hibbert (1757-1837) was born in Manchester, the son of a prominent merchant. In 1780 he moved to London and became a junior partner in the West Indies house of Hibbert, Purrier and Horton, run by two of his elder brothers. Serving as an alderman of London from 1798 until 1803, he became a director of the West India Dock Company, and was elected MP for Seaford, Sussex in 1806. He was a renowned collector of paintings, sculpture and books, helping to found the London Institution in 1805, and becoming a member of both the Royal Society and the Society of Arts.
The watercolour is subsequently recorded in the ownership of the Manley family. Manley Hall in Weedon, Staffordshire, was built in 1833 by John Shawe Manley who, in 1843, is recorded as High Sheriff of Staffordshire (London Gazette, London, February 1943, no. 20192, pp. 371-2). He was the son of Isaac George Manley who began his naval career on the Endeavour under Captain Cook, rising through the ranks to become Admiral of the White in 1830 and Admiral of the Red in 1837.