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THE EARLS OF MACCLESFIELD AT SHIRBURN CASTLE:
THE ROMANTIC INTERIOR
The romantically-embattled medieval Shirburn Castle in Oxfordshire was bought by Thomas Parker (1667-1732), 1st Earl of Macclesfield in 1716 following his ennoblement by George I. As a leading lawyer, he had risen to be Lord Chancellor, and may have been drawn to the ancient castle, between Oxford and London, by a desire to enrich his medieval ancestry. The earliest part of the castle is of circa 1377 and it required much modernisation - the 1st Earl rebuilt more than three-quarters of the castle in Georgian brick. Unfortunately for him, his enemies accused him of embezzlement and in 1725 he retired from Court and spent his remaining years at Shirburn. Whilst the 1st Earl was very much a political animal, his son George, 2nd Earl (1697-1764), was an amateur of the sciences and arts, a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries from 1752 and President of the Royal Society between 1752 and 1764. He further aggrandised the Castle's collections and embarked on his Grand Tour in 1719 in search of paintings and sculpture. Amongst his embellishment of the estate was a Classical Ionic temple built to the designs of the architect Westby Gill (d. 1746). The account of his tour, noted by E. Wright in Some Observations made in travelling through France, Italy etc. in the years 1720, 1721 and 1722, London, 1730, records his visits to the studios of Giuseppe Chiari and Sebastiano Conca. The latter is likely to have executed the portrait which depicts the 2nd Earl in Rome (T. P. Connor, 'Edward Wright and Lord Parker in Italy, 1720-22', Apollo, July 1998, pp. 23-30). The 2nd Earl's antiquarian tastes mark the beginning of the family's interest in this area. While the 2nd Earl was probably responsible for the formation of the majority of the collection, it is unclear who acquired the superb 18th century lacquer screen (lot 23), or German giltwood side table of the 1750s (lot 27). However, it is clear, that the taste for the unusual and the esoteric prevailed.
The 2nd Earl's great grandson, Thomas (1811-1896), became the 6th Earl in 1850. He was Tory MP for Oxfordshire (1837-1841) and in 1842 married Mary Frances Grosvenor (d. 1912), daughter of the 2nd Marquess of Westminster, and it may well be that the large oak wardrobes (lots 20 & 21) were acquired to celebrate such a marriage and reflect their 'Antiquarian' taste.
THE PROPERTY OF THE LATE 7TH EARL OF MACCLESFIELD
SOLD BY ORDER OF THE EXECUTOR