Wrest Park House and Gardens
The owner of Wrest, Nan Herbert, 9th Baroness Lucas, had decided to sell up after her elder brother, Auberon (Bron), the 8th Baron, was killed in action during the First World War.
The house had also been badly damaged by fire whilst in use as an auxiliary hospital, treating soldiers invalided back from the trenches.
This group of full length portraits around the Staircase Hall was almost lost when the house and contents were again sold in 1939.
They were included as separate lots in the sales catalogue, but were purchased by the new owners of the house, the Sun Insurance Company, who used Wrest as their wartime headquarters.
Following the sale of Wrest Park in 1917, the magnificent gardens, developed over 250 years by the de Grey family, fell into decline. The new owner, John George Murray, simplified many of the designs for easier maintenance and neglected areas furthest from the house.
The 1930s saw the sale of many of the statues and garden ornaments.
The stone edging from the Italian Garden was also sold by Mr Murray in the 1930s and taken to Ditchley, where it was used to create a new Italianate garden designed by Geoffrey Jellicoe.
In 1950 the predecessor to English Heritage, the Ministry of Works, bought back the edging and it was carefully reinstated in its original position.
After purchasing Wrest Park in 1917, Mr Murray made changes to the gardens which had been neglected during the First World War.
Amongst his earliest changes was the removal of the Rose Garden. This was replaced with a herbaceous border.
Aerial photography later revealed the location and arrangement of the original Rose Garden beds, and these were reinstated by English Heritage in 2011.
When Mr Murray left Wrest Park in 1933 he took many of the statues and garden ornaments with him to his new residence, Coles Park in Hertfordshire.
One of the items removed was Henry Wynne’s 1682 sundial. This had stood for many years within a semicircle of gravel on the south side of the terrace walk below the old house.
The Great Garden, a formal woodland garden of the early 18th century, is an amazing survival from the period of garden design before the English landscape style became fashionable.
It was created by Henry, 12th Earl and later Duke of Kent, on either side of an existing formal canal called the Long Water.
This 1730 lead statue of Diana and Greyhound by Andrew Carpenter is another ornament removed by John George Murray in the 1930s and taken to Coles Park, Hertfordshire.
The statue remained with Murray’s descendants until 2011, when it was purchased at auction by English Heritage with assistance from the Arts Fund. It has now been restored and put back in the garden at the head of Ladies Lake.
Andrew Hann, Peter Moore, Rose Arkle