Sunday, 7 October 2018

Juniper Hall - French exiles in Surrey

cc-by-sa/2.0 - © Ian Capper -

This solid-looking English house is Juniper Hall near Dorking,  which, during the French Revolution, became the somewhat unlikely refuge for Madame de Staël, her lover the comte de Narbonne and several other members of the exiled French liberal aristocracy.  Faced with hostile British conservative opinion in the capital, the group preferred to seek sanctuary in the English countryside.  It is not known why this particular house was chosen, though Mme de Broglie took a modest cottage in nearby Mickleham at roughly the same time.

Juniper Hall  c. 1844, 
Sketch in Dorking Museum
Then as now, Juniper Hall, was a substantial red-brick mansion, tucked at the bottom of a wooded hill with gardens looking out across fields and woods towards Box Hill; the cedars that shaded the entrance today were only a dozen years old in 1792.

The house had originally been a coaching inn, the Royal Oak alehouse.  Sir Cecil Bisshopp (d.1779), who purchased the estate in 1762, had it converted into a residence, adding two wings, a classical portico and tall arched windows. In 1779 the estate was sold to Mr David Jenkinson, an affluent lottery-keeper, who built himself a new house on the down opposite Norbury;  no doubt he was pleased to find suitable tenants.

Today the house is owned by the National Trust and is used as a Field Studies Council residential centre.

The only surviving 18th-century feature of the house is the drawing room, decorated with delicate plasterwork in Robert Adams style.  In all probability this is the work of Lady Templeton,  a gifted amateur artist who worked with Wedgwood. Swags and garlands, in white and gold and pastel colours, frame sculpted panels of showing classical scenes. The centrepiece is a tall carved fireplace in grey and white marble. The plaque on the wall above represents "Friendship comforting Affliction", one of Lady Templeton's favourite themes.

The Templeton Room, Juniper Hall
It was at Juniper Hall that Fanny Burney met her future husband, Alexandre d'Arblay, a former aide-de-camp to Lafayette.  The pair were married in July 1793 in the church at nearby Mickleham.  Modern stained-glass windows on the staircase at Juniper Hall, by Harry Stammers (1902 – 1969),  commemorate the couple.  Fanny is shown with a copy of her novel Evelina;  D'Arblay presents Fanny with a cabbage from the garden of their new home, Camilla Cottage.


Field Studies Council - Juniper Hall, virtual tour

Historic England - Listing for Juniper Hall.
Plans and "Heritage Statement" for proposed alterations at Juniper Hall, April 2018

Nicholas Lapthorn, "A brief history of Juniper Hall"  on Le Prince de Talleyrand [website]

Burford Corner, Westhumble.  The modest cottage where Mme de Broglie once stayed is/was behind this main building.

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