Burghley House

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Burghley House
Front of Burghley House 2009.jpg
The façade of Burghley House
Location within Cambridgeshire
General information
Architectural style Elizabethan www.burghley.co.uk
Town or city Peterborough
Country England
Coordinates Lua error in Module:Coordinates at line 668: callParserFunction: function "#coordinates" was not found.
Construction started 1558–1587
Client William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley
Technical details
Structural system Ashlar limestone

Burghley House (/ˈbɜːrli/[1]) is a grand 16th-century country house near to Stamford, Lincolnshire, England, a leading example of the Elizabethan prodigy house. Its park was laid out by Capability Brown.[2]

The house is within the boundary of the City of Peterborough in the county of Cambridgeshire; it was formerly part of the Soke of Peterborough, an historic area that was traditionally associated with Northamptonshire. It lies 0.9 miles (1.4 km) south of Stamford and 10 miles (16 km) northwest of Peterborough city centre.


Lord Burghley was the chief advisor of Queen Elizabeth I for most of her reign.

Burghley was built for Sir William Cecil, later 1st Baron Burghley, who was Lord High Treasurer to Queen Elizabeth I, between 1558 and 1587 and modelled on the privy lodgings of Richmond Palace.[3][4][5] It was subsequently the residence of his descendants, the earls and, since 1801, marquesses of Exeter. Since 1961 it has been owned by a charitable trust established by the family.[5][6]

Lady Victoria Leatham, antiques expert and television personality, followed her father, Olympic gold-medal winning hurdler and runner, IAAF President and MP David Cecil, the 6th marquess by running the house from 1982 to 2007. The Olympic corridor commemorates her father.[7] Her daughter Miranda Rock is now the most active live-in trustee.[6][8] However, the Marquessate passed in 1988 to Victoria's uncle William Martin Cecil and then to his son William Michael Anthony Cecil, both Canadian ranchers on land originally bought by the Fifth Marquess, who have not resided there.[9]

The house is one of the main examples of stonemasonry and proportion in sixteenth-century English Elizabethan architecture, reflecting the prominence of its founder and the lucrative wool trade of the Cecil estates. It has a suite of rooms remodelled in the baroque style, with carvings by Grinling Gibbons.[3] The main part of the house has 35 major rooms on the ground and first floors. There are more than 80 lesser rooms and numerous halls, corridors, bathrooms and service areas.[5][10][11][12]

In the seventeenth century, the open loggias around the ground floor were enclosed. Although the house was built in the floor plan shape of the letter E in honour of Queen Elizabeth, it is now missing its north-west wing. During the period of the 9th earl's ownership, and under the guidance of Capability Brown, the south front was raised to alter the roof line, and the north-west wing was demolished to allow better views of the new parkland.[3][5][10][12]

The so called "Hell Staircase" has substantial ceiling paintings by Antonio Verrio from 1697 and walls by Thomas Stothard who completed the work about a century later.


In the Pagoda Room there are portraits of the Cecil family, Elizabeth I, her father Henry VIII and Oliver Cromwell. Many delicately painted walls and ceilings of the house were done by Antonio Verrio.[13] The Billiard Room displays six oval portraits of members of the Order of Little Bedlam, the 5th Earl’s drinking club.[14]

Lost village

The medieval settlement of Burghley, mentioned in Domesday, was abandoned by 1450. Failure to locate its site leads to the supposition that it lay below Burghley House.[15]


Burghley House from Jones's Views of the Seats of Noblemen and Gentlemen (1829).
Part of the Grounds, lake and boathouse

The avenues in the park were all laid out by Capability Brown,[16] paying due respect to pre-existing plantings, some of which were from the 16th century or earlier.[17] Brown also created the park's man-made lake in 1775–80. He discovered a seam of waterproof "blue" clay in the grounds, and was able to enlarge the original 9-acre (36,000 m²) pond to the existing 26-acre (105,000 m²) lake. Its clever design gives the impression of a meandering river. Brown also designed the Lion Bridge at a cost of 1,000 guineas (£1,050[nb 1][18]) in 1778. Originally, Coade-stone lions were used as ornamentation. After these weathered, the existing stone examples were made by local mason Herbert Gilbert in 1844. Queen Victoria and her husband Prince Albert also planted two trees to commemorate their visit.[19]

As well as the annual Burghley Horse Trials,[20] the park plays host to the "Burghley Run" for Stamford School and an annual meet for the Cambridge University Draghounds.[21]

Recent developments have included starting a sculpture garden around the old ice house and, in 2007, a "garden of surprises" was created using traditional ideas of water traps, shell grottos and a mirror maze, but in a 21st-century style.[22] The Burghley House trust has commissioned contemporary artwork in the grounds from leading artists.[23]


The house is a Grade I listed building, with separately Grade I listed north courtyard and gate.[24] The site is open to the public.[3] A number of restoration projects are under way.

The Lincolnshire county boundary crosses the park between the town of Stamford and the house. Burghley is located in the ancient Soke of Peterborough, once a part of Northamptonshire but now for ceremonial purposes in Cambridgeshire; for planning and other municipal functions the house is in the Peterborough unitary authority.[25]


The courtyard of Burghley House, as drawn by Joseph Nash in the 19th century, but with figures in Elizabethan costume

Burghley House has been featured in several films. Its virtually unaltered Elizabethan façades and a variety of historic interiors make it an ideal location for historical and period movies.

Films and television programmes made at Burghley include:

See also

The Burghley Nef, 1527-1528, France, V&A Museum no. M.60-1959
  • Burghley Nef, a silver-gilt salt cellar now in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum
  • Cecil House, 16th and 17th century demolished London residences
  • Theobalds House, second house half-way to London, built by the founder in Hertfordshire


  1. Brown's works costs equate to between £120000 (auto-generated on minimum basis) or £138000 (2011) (Bank of England calculator).


  1. "Burghley or Burleigh". Collins Dictionary. n.d. Retrieved 23 September 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Turner, Roger (1999). Capability Brown and the Eighteenth Century English Landscape (2nd ed.). Chichester: Phillimore. pp. 110–112.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 "Burghley House", Pastscape, Historic England, retrieved 25 June 2010<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Alford, Stephen (2008). Burghley: William Cecil at the Court of Elizabeth I.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Leatham, Lady Victoria (1992). Burghley:The life of a great house. Herbert Press Ltd. ISBN 978-1-871569-47-6.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. 6.0 6.1 "Charity commission summary for charity 258489 Burghley House Preservation Trust Limited".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. "Great Houses". Daily Telegraph.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. "Burghley House Preservation Trust Limited".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> at Burghley's web site
  9. "Martin Cecil mural fills missing piece of 100 Mile House history". BC Local News. 21 September 2011. Retrieved 9 August 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. 10.0 10.1 Pevsner, Nicholas. The Buildings of England. Northamptonshire.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. Leaflet published by the Trust
  12. 12.0 12.1 Leatham, Lady Victoria (2000). Great Houses of Britain. Burghley House (3 ed.). Heritage House Group Ltd. ISBN 978-0-85101-351-0.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. Historic England. "Details from listed building database (1127501)". National Heritage List for England.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. http://www.discoverbritainmag.com/Editorial.aspx?brand=HeritageOnline&category=Latest%20Features&story=SPED20+Aug+2012+15%3A14%3A15%3A480&page=9168
  15. "National Monument record for the deserted medieval village of Burghley".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. "National Monument record for the park, describing stages of remodelling".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. "National Monument record for original park".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. Bank of England Inflation Calculator, see below
  19. "South Gardens". Burghley Trust. Retrieved 9 August 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  20. "Burghley Horse trials".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  21. "Cambridge University Draghounds meeting calendar, showing run at Burghley".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  22. "Burghley's web page for the Garden of Surprises".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  23. "Fresh Take". Burghley Trust. Retrieved 9 August 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  24. Historic England. "Details from listed building database (1331234)". National Heritage List for England.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  25. Historic England. "Burghley House (1000359)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 3 April 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  26. "Pride and Prejudice". The Castles and Manor Houses of Cinema's Greatest Period Films. Architectural Digest. January 2013. Retrieved 2 January 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  27. "Burghley House". TV.com. Retrieved 9 August 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Lewis, Samuel, ed. (1848). A Topographical Dictionary of England. pp. 266–269, 'Marston-Maisey – Martin-Hussingtree'. Retrieved 1 January 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> description of the St Martin's parish, with mention the visits of Queens Elisabeth & Victoria to Burghley House

Further reading

  • Gifford, Gerald (2002). A Descriptive Catalogue of the Music Collection at Burghley House, Stamford. Ashgate. ISBN 978-0-7546-0460-0.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

Video clips

External links

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