September 2016

Excitingly, there’s less than two months left until Crown of Blood is published, I can’t wait! Later this month I’m hoping to go and visit the newly refurbished Visitor Centre at Bradgate Park, and I’ll be speaking there about the book in November too – do check it out if you get the opportunity.

You can also read my short interview in the current issue of BBC History Magazine – I talked about what it’s like to be a historian and a writer as part of the History Study Guide, and where my inspiration came from.

Whilst I was working on Crown of Blood, I spent a great deal of time researching Syon Park, and it reminded me of a mini project I did about the influence of Robert Adam on Syon when I was an undergraduate.

Syon Park has the imprint of the Grand Tour all over it, largely thanks to its owners, the first Duke and Duchess of Northumberland, and the eighteenth century architect, Robert Adam. All of these had been on the Grand Tour, and were highly influenced by the ideas of Ancient Greece and Rome which they had seen abroad. The Duke and Duchess were keen to make their mark on Syon, and saw Adam as a means of achieving this. The Duke was Adam’s greatest patron, and had very clear ideas about how he wanted his house to look.

Interestingly, the vision recreated by the Grand Tour is only evident on Syon’s interior, the exterior retaining its Tudor architecture and character.

Adam was commissioned to re-design the interior of Syon in the Classical style, his exact instructions being ‘to create a palace of Graeco-Roman splendour’. In 1761 he published his designs for the interior of Syon, although it transpired that only five rooms in the house were remodelled.

However, this was ample opportunity for Adam to place his stamp on Syon, with the results still visible today. It has been said that ‘at Syon the Adam style was actually initiated’. Nowhere is this great-hall-syonstyle more clearly demonstrated than in the Great Hall, built between 1762 and 1769. Adam aspired to created the interior of an earlier era, modelling the Hall on a Roman Basilica. The result was a double cube, painted entirely in white, save the black and white chequered marble floor. Around the room were genuine Antique statues imported from Rome, as well as bronze statues and scagliola columns imported from the same. There were also two Doric columns to lend support to the room’s structure. The room is startling, creating a magnificent impression for visitors when they step into the house. It also revealed the wealth and cultural taste of its owners, both important factors in eighteenth century circles.



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