Boughton House is a country house about 3 miles north-east of Kettering. Residing in an estate of 11,000 acres, it is one of the seats of the Duke of Buccleuch, and famed for its beauty, its collections, and the fact it has survived virtually unchanged since the eighteenth century. While possessing a medieval core, its exterior evokes an opulent French chateaux, causing it to be termed The English Versailles. The original house was a monastic building but Sir Edward Montagu, Lord Chief Justice to King Henry VIII, purchased it in 1528 just prior to the Dissolution of the Monasteries and began to convert it into a mansion. Most of the present building is the work of Ralph Montagu, 1st Duke of Montagu (d.1709) who inherited the house in 1683. Ralph Montagu, 1st Duke of Montagu, was a patron of many Huguenot craftspeople. The Huguenot movement played an important role in his creation of The English Versailles. Montagu was a former English ambassador to France, and Boughton House shows strong French architectural influences. His son, John Montagu, 2nd Duke of Montagu, made little alteration to the house, but made sweeping changes to the landscape and gardens after his return from campaign in Europe with his father-in-law, John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough.
Following the death of George, 3rd Duke of Montagu, in 1790, the house passed, through the marriage of his daughter, Elizabeth, to Henry Scott, 3rd Duke of Buccleuch, 5th Duke of Queensberry. From the mid-eighteenth century, Boughton House was little used or altered, but was well cared for. Because of this it has some of the best preserved baroque state rooms in the British Isles. In the late twentieth century, Boughton became the dower house of Mary ("Mollie"), Duchess of Buccleuch, widow of the 8th Duke, who brought it back to life. The noted diarist Chips Channon, who was a guest in 1945 wrote: "It is a dream house with a strange, sleepy quality, but its richness, its beauty and possessions are stupefying. Everything belonged to Charles I, or Marie de Medici, or was given by Louis XIV to the Duke of Monmouth...There are 72 miles of drives in the park...The long view from the terrace here is like a Claude Lorrain...But it is the stillness, the curious quiet of Boughton that impresses the most."
In keeping with the French style of its exterior, Boughton House is set amidst a highly impressive formal, yet arcadian garden of strict geometry, designed on the golden ratio. Vast swathes of turf, planes of reflecting water, strong lines of trees and linear earth forms create an intellectually meditative landscape indicative of the Age of Enlightenment and the idea that a garden could be a journey of the mind, yet acknowledge the natural world. The 2nd Duke, who had been nicknamed John The Planter, swept away the previous ornamental parterres, multiplied the avenues of elms and planes, and developed the role of water which structures the garden. Later, the landscaper of the garden at Stowe, Charles Bridgeman, who was under his employ, is believed to have created the sculptural earth forms.
Restoration of the garden was begun by the 9th Duke, and has continued under the 10th Duke. It included returning the River Ise to its eighteenth-century width, which required two miles of green oak boarding, fixed by coach bolts. In 2009 landscape designer Kim Wilkie was commissioned to create a new work to complement an existing pyramidal grassed mount. The result, called Orpheus, is named after the famed musician of Greek mythology who, when his wife Eurydice died, went down into the underworld to try to reclaim her. His music was so beautiful that Hades relented and allowed Eurydice to return to the world of the living. This striking landform seamlessly continues the garden's intellectual dialogue via an immense inverted pyramid and spiral rill, both set within a golden ratio. In 2015 The Grand Etang, or ‘large lake’ in French, a long-vanished lake of almost one-acre with a water jet was recreated, to once again reflect the main frontage of Boughton. Located immediately to the north-west of the House, it is one of the earliest surviving features from the original gardens and designed landscape. It was created in the early 18th century as a reflecting pool for the house and was also used for ice-skating in the winter.
With the inherent restrictions of a listed historic building not all areas are fully accessible. They do offer a ground floor only tour and would be happy to help you plan your visit in advance. The gardens, cafe and gift shop are wheelchair accessible. Assistance Dogs are welcome. NOTE. They are only open in August.
Location : Boughton House, Kettering, Northamptonshire NN14 1BJ
Transport: Kettering (National Rail) then bus (8). Bus Routes : Centrebus 8 and 62 stop nearby.
Opening Times House: Tours from 13:00, last tour 15:30. 1st to 31st August.
Opening Times Gardens: Daily 12:00, last tour 17:00. 1st to 31st August.
Tickets House + Gardens: Adults £10.00; Children (5 - 16) £8.00.
Tickets Gardens: Adults £10.00; Children (5 - 16) £8.00.
Tel: 01536 515731