"Bramham Park is a grand and unusual house, but its gardens are grander and even more unusual" wrote Prof. Nikolaus Pevsner. Robert Benson, (1st Lord Bingley) 1675-1731, was the son of a lawyer, who managed to prosper under Charles I, the Commonwealth and the restored Charles II. He was twice Lord Mayor of York and five times MP for the City. When he died in 1676, he left the infant Robert "£3,000 per annum in land and £120,000 in money". From his mother, Dorothy, a daughter of Tobias Jenkins, he also inherited St.William's College in York (which remained in the family until the turn of the C20th). Benson completed his education in 1697 with a Grand Tour of Europe. In Rome he met the future Earl of Aylesford, whose sister he was later to marry. More important he started to formulate his grand design for Bramham, based upon what he had seen of Italian architecture and French garden design. He probably masterminded the choice of site, the layout of the house, gardens, park, water and woodlands himself. Away from Bramham, Robert Benson's career prospered both in politics and business. He was elected MP for York in 1705 and joined the Government in 1710, first as Commissioner of the Treasury and then Lord Treasurer to Queen Anne. In 1713 he became Ambassador to Spain and was created Lord Bingley. In business, he was a director of the South Seas Company. An angry mob is reported to have stoned his carriage in Cavendish Square after the South Sea Bubble burst. His daughter, Harriet Benson, 1705-1771, inherited £100,000, a rent roll of £7,000 per annum and her father's talent for landscape design. She and her husband, George, were responsible for building most of the temples at Bramham.
The estate was inherited for life by their illegitimate daughter Mary, who had married Sir John Goodricke of Ribston Hall and died in 1792. It then passed to the first Baron's nephew, James Fox-Lane, who considerably improved the estate. From him the estate went to his son George Lane-Fox, known as "The Gambler", who was the MP for Beverley. Following a serious fire in 1828 he was obliged to move to nearby Bowcliffe Hall. The Bramham Park house was then left empty and derelict for 80 years until restored for his grandson George Lane-Fox under the supervision of the architect Detmar Blow in about 1908. George became 1st Baron Bingley of the third creation when the title was recreated in 1933, but had four daughters and no sons meaning that the barony was extinguished for the third time upon his death. The house was inherited by his eldest daughter Marcia, whose husband Joe Ward-Jackson adopted the Lane-Fox surname. Their son George Lane Fox (1931-2012), after 20 years in the Household Cavalry, moved into the Hall and put the estate on an up-to-date financial footing, founding the annual Bramham Horse Trials in 1974. The interior of Bramham Park was completely restored in the early part of the 20th century, having mostly been abandoned after the fire of 1828. The central Great Hall, double storey in height and severe in its Baroque design, still bears the smoke staining on its stone walls.
Bramham Park represents an important stage in British architecture and garden design: the House is neither baroque nor typically palladian and the gardens are somewhere between the formal and the picturesque. The Bramham Landscape covers 350 hectares or nearly 900 acres, of rolling countryside. Some of it (especially the area in the immediate vicinity of the House) is easily accessible in a vehicle or a wheelchair, but some of it is only passable on foot and includes some steep slopes. Ground conditions can also play a part: many of our walks are grass and may become soft in wet weather. Dogs of all sorts are always welcome, but please keep them on a lead at all times. The ground and principal floors of the House are accessible to wheelchair users (there are ramps and a lift), but you may need to close your eyes as you pass through the "lived-in", family parts of the House. In addition there are a number of endurance and horse events as well as the Leeds Festival - click here for more information.
Location : Wetherby, West Yorkshire LS23 6ND
Transport: Leeds (National Rail) then bus. Bus routes : The 770 TransDev Harrogate to Leeds bus stops at Bramham Park's Terry Lug Gate.
Opening Times : Weekdays by appointment only.
Tickets Gardens: Adults £4.00; Concessions £2.00.
Tickets House:£10.00 per person - minimum of 10 per party.
Tel: 01937 846000