Lot 1
  • 1

#- Wren, Christopher.

7,000 - 10,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Autograph letter signed ("Chr Wren"), to Sir William Fermor
providing detailed practical advice over his building plans at Easton Neston including the appropriate height of garden walls and the construction of greenhouses, hoping that work would soon continue on the main house ("...I hope you provide to carry up one story at least of the great house next yeare it will be better worke to give it time to settle the stone & brick together..."), and advising him in particular to purchase timber that will provide high quality floor boards ("...the boardes that are there are only for your pigsties..."), 1 page, folio, 5 September [1685-1687], with integral address leaf, mounted, framed and glazed, seal tear, nicks at folds


Sir William Fermor, 2nd Bt., 1st Baron Leominster (circa 1647 - 1711); thence by descent to Lady Charlotte Fermor, sister of the 3rd Earl of Pomfret, who married Peter Denys; thence by descent to Sir Francis Denys of Draycott Hall, Richmond, Yorkshire, who presented it to Sir Thomas Fermor-Hesketh in 1899; and thence by descent


K. Downes, 'Hawksmoor's House at Easton Neston', Architectural History, 30 (1987), 50-76; The Letters of Horace Walpole (1857); Giles Wosley, 'The Puzzles of Easton Neston', Country Life, 25 August 2005, 53-55 


Condition is described in the main body of the catalogue, where appropriate
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

"...the walls on the Corner of the Garden next the church ... must not be higher then will give you the Libertie of a prospect towards Towster from the great garden & also that the windowes of your parlor may looke over them, Let the workemen set up some small poles & tack a board levell upon them which you may set higher or lower till you are yourselfe satisfied what highth the walls may be not to prejudice your prospect..."

practical advice from england's greatest architect. Sir William Fermor (1648-1711), later Lord Leominster, solicited the advice of Wren in the 1680s when he had decided to rebuild his house at Easton Neston in Northamptonshire. Wren and Fermor were related by marriage so the great architect was happy to advise Fermor despite his involvement in several other major projects. The details of the development of Easton Neston have proved difficult to reconstruct, but drawings by Wren's student Nicholas Hawksmoor in the V&A that are evidently related to the work discussed in this letter, and another related drawing by Wren himself at All Souls, show that the two men were working on the project together in the mid-1680s. Wren himself may have designed the wings of the house (although this is disputed), but the main house, which was completed by 1702, was the work of Hawksmoor and is justly described as his first masterpiece.

This letter dates from the early period of work on Easton Neston which focused, as was often the case, on the gardens. Integration of house and grounds is of course critical to the success of a country house, and Wren here shows sensitivity to the southward prospect towards Towcester. Wren also discusses the design of heated greenhouses, used in the 17th century for overwintering delicate greens and growing exotic fruit such as pineapples. There appear to have been two greenhouses, one of which later housed Classical statuary, as Horace Walpole reported: "in an old greenhouse is a wonderful fine statue of Tully [Cicero], haranguing a numerous assembly of decayed emperors, vestal virgins with new noses, Colossuses, Venuses, headless carcases, and carcaseless heads, pieces of tombs, and hieroglyphics" (letter to George Montagu, 20 May 1736).

letters by wren on architectural subjects are exceptionally rare at auction.