Moor Park

Moor Park is a Grade I listed Palladian mansion set within several hundred acres of parkland in Hertfordshire, England. It is called Moor Park Mansion because it is in the old park of the Manor of More. The original house was built in 1678–9 for James, Duke of Monmouth, and inherited by his wife, Anne Scott, 1st Duchess of Buccleuch after he was beheaded. Before her death in 1732, Benjamin Hoskins Styles, who had made a fortune in The South Sea Company before the notorious Bubble burst, purchased it; the current appearance of the mansion can be traced to him.

The house was remodelled for Styles in the 1720s. The principal architect was Giacomo Leoni , who was initially assisted by the painter Sir James Thornhill. Leoni refaced the house with Portland stone and added its great Corinthian portico on the south front and Tuscan colonnades (since removed). Inside, Thornhill was commissioned to paint the Great Hall and the Grand Stair , complete with a dome in imitation of that at St. Peters, Rome. However, Thornhill quarrelled with Styles and left the project before its completion. The paintings on the Grand Stair date from 1732 and depict the Origin of the Seasons from Ovid's Metamorphoses by Francesco Sleter, a Venetian artist who studied under Jacopo Amigoni. All that remains of Styles' work on the Grand Stair is a single panel over a doorway, uncovered during restoration work in 2002. After the fall out with Styles, Amigoni was commissioned to paint the four pictures in the Great Hall - the story of Jupiter and Io, again from Ovid's Metamorphoses. The wall paintings in the erroneously named Thornhill Room are probably by Sleter and Amigoni, while ceiling was painted somewhat earlier by Antonio Verrio, and depicts Aurora and the Dawn.

In 1752 the house was bought by Admiral Lord Anson who commissioned Capability Brown to remake the formal gardens in sweeping "landscape style" with a small lake. Horace Walpole was not impressed: "I was not much struck with it, after all the miracles I had heard Brown had performed there. He has undulated the horizon in so many artificial molehills , that it is full as unnatural as if it was drawn with a rule and compasses. Further owners succeeded at regular intervals until the enlarged estate was sold to the Grosvenor family in 1828. The Earl Grosvenor, son of the duke of Westminster, built the gateway at Batchworth Heath and planted the pleasure grounds with trees and ornamental shrubs. It is said that the commercial strawberry, a hybrid of the European strawberry and a Chilean species, was first cultivated in the kitchen gardens of Moor Park, as had been the "Moorpark" fuzzless apricot in an earlier day.

Lord Leverhulme commissioned golf course designer Harry Colt to lay out the courses that now surround the mansion. These opened in 1923.

During World War II the mansion was requisitioned, becoming the Headquarters of the 1st Airborne Corps who planned Operation Market Garden - the abortive 'Bridge Too Far' mission at Moor Park. The Operation was planned in a first floor room, now named 'the Arnhem Room' for the mission. Moor Park Golf Club now has its clubhouse in the building, and since buying the freehold of the Mansion, has completely restored and refurbished the building and paintings. The work was supervised by Jon Moore, Chief Executive of Moor Park Golf Club and George Fletcher, Director of Premises. The work on the paintings was carried out over a three year period by IFACS of Bristol.

There are two courses operated from there; the High Course and the West Course. At almost 7000 yards, the High Course is longer and more demanding. The West Course is nevertheless a good test of golf, rewarding accuracy and good positional play. Both courses have fast, undulating greens which test the nerves of even the best putters. Moor Park's courses have hosted a number of professional tournaments including the News of the World Championship, Uniroyal Tournament, Four Stars Championship and the Silver King Championship. Several English Golf Union events, including the Carris Trophy every year until 2001, and now every 4th year have also been held at Moor Park.

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