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2002 articles 1986 articles

Holywell House: a Gothic villa at St Albans

T. S. Pattie


HOLYWELL HOUSE, when the Dowager Lady Spencer first came to live there in November 1783, was a small and rather run-down country house on the southern edge of St Albans: one of many properties inherited by John Spencer of Althorp at the death of his redoubtable and fabulously wealthy grandmother, Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough. In 1746 it passed to his son, who became the 1st Earl Spencer, and although in the latter's lifetime it was regarded by the family as no more than a convenient staging-post on the road to Northamptonshire at his death in 1783 his widow, Georgiana, fixed upon it as her dower house. The Spencers' three great houses, Althorp, Wimbledon Park, and Spencer House in St James's, now belonged to her son and daughter-in-law, and she was in any case unwilling to settle anywhere that would recall memories of her own happy married life.

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