House & Gardens
The Wyvills are one of the few landed families to have an unbroken male line that stretches back to 1066 when Sir Humphrey de Wyvill was Companion in Arms to William the Conqueror.
The Wyvill family has been in Yorkshire certainly since the 12th century but, at that time, were seated further east at Slingsby Castle, near Hovingham.
They moved to Masham, Lower Wensleydale, through marriage to Margaret, the daughter of Lord Scrope and acquired the estate on which the original Elizabethan house was built.
Constable Burton has been home to the Wyvills for over four and a half centuries, the estate having come into the family by marriage during the reign of Edward VI. The name of the house derives from their position as Constables of nearby Richmond Castle. Queen Elizabeth I was entertained here shortly after the original house was built and, in 1611, the Wyvills were among the first baronets to be created by James I.
The original Elizabethan house that stood on the site is recorded in an early 18th century Kip engraving which shows it built in a fashionable H–plan. After the death of the 6th Baronet, Sir Marmaduke Wyvill, who was Postmaster General of Ireland in 1754, his nephew - also Sir Marmaduke Wyvill - decided to improve the house according to the designs of John Carr of York.
The 7th Baronet Sir Marmaduke left the alterations and £1,500 to Carr and made his way to Scotland, having received a promise that the alterations would be complete by the winter. On his return five months later, he rode back through Wensleydale full of expectation, only to find that the majestic family home had disappeared, except for its lowest walls.
Mistakenly, Carr’s workmen had pulled down the original house, misinterpreting his instructions to demolish just part of it to facilitate the alterations. This misunderstanding meant that Sir Marmaduke incurred £10,000 in rebuilding costs, choosing to erect another house in its place.
It is possible that Carr rebuilt the house on the original Elizabethan foundations, perhaps incorporating the walls. It is also thought that Carr’s distinctive portico-in-antis could be an infilling of the original H.
Carr’s new design, one which he set about with great determination to please his somewhat unhappy employer, is a handsome mid-Georgian villa of exquisite proportions, idyllically set in a large mature park.
Entirely faced in smooth Ashlar stone, the house is reminiscent of Andrea Palladio’s Villa Emo, in the village of Fanzolo di Vedelago, near Venice. Both houses feature an almost identical recessed portico with giant, unfluted Ionic columns – a rarity in England. This creates a grand frontage, made all the more effective by the relatively restrained style of the rest of the house.
The front aspect has the typical 1-3-1 window grouping of Palladio’s villas with a tall piano nobile and lower basement and attic. The lower floor windows have Gibbs surroundings and, at the front, the staircase makes a charming leap across space akin to a bridge.
The interior of the Hall is beautifully proportioned, with stunning plaster ceilings (in the style of Adam) and fine marble chimneypieces enhancing its principal rooms.