Newtown House is a Georgian mansion, the date 1716 appearing on the enormous six pillar portico, which occupies half of the front of the house. The most striking feature of the property, until its demolition in 1958, was an observatory on the top. However, there is evidence that it started as a relatively small Queen Anne farmhouse, around which the Georgian structure was built, and later enlarged. The original observatory was removed but a similar version has since been recreated.
Sir John Hadley D’Oyly purchased Newtown Park in about 1789. At the age of 10 he had inherited the Baronetcy and a great deal of debt. He restored his family’s fortunes by joining the East India Company; his residency at Murshidabad was considered the most lucrative post in the Company’s service. As Resident he handled the financial transactions of the Nawab of Bengal and had many opportunities for self-enrichment; he sold this position on his retirement back to England. When he returned home he was able to pay off his father’s debts and restore his family from its ruined condition. Sir John renamed the estate ‘D’Oyly Park’, spent and lost huge amounts of money while there and eventually had to move out to a cottage in Milford.
The house stood in a lawn of about 30 acres and consisted of “an entrance hall, breakfast room, morning room, dining room and library on the ground floor, with large and extensive offices of all descriptions in the basement; a very spacious and handsome drawing room, four principal bedrooms, with dressing rooms, a boudoir and water closets, on the first floor; two good bedrooms and five others of smaller dimensions, on the second floor; an observatory commanding beautiful and extensive sea and land views; and seven bedrooms for servants over and adjoining the offices”. There was also a dairy, a laundry room, a fuel house, brew house and bake house.
Jules and Emma Duplessis bought Newtown Park in 1858 for £10,000. They had met in Paris where Jules was a dashing young French cavalry officer and Emma a recently widowed wealthy young lady from London. Emma’s family considered Jules to be a penniless adventurer who was after her money. As their grandson Hugo wrote: “In fact he came from a family of merchants and landowners in Arras, and unlike Emma could claim a pre-revolution title. Her grandfather had kept a pub in the East End of London and all her money had come from her first husband whose father had run a furniture shop in Oxford Street on the edge of Mayfair. He had been a shrewd investor in property… Emma had ambitions. A country estate was a path to respectability.”
The estate at Newtown was always small (about 400 acres including woodland) and with the problems of entails and Trusts, it was never sustainable. The farmyard next to the house was redeveloped by Jules in about 1910 and some of the buildings demolished and rebuilt. After the First World War, Gerald Duplessis took over the farm but realised with the slump in agriculture it was never going to make money and sold up just in time. The farm was let to Captain Lucas who did go bust.
Newtown remained in the Duplessis family for 100 years until 1958 when it was bought by Robert Pretty, who quickly sold it on again to John Howlett. Howlett revelled in the size and scale of Newtown. There were coach houses, stables and sheds for rearing pheasants, where they raised 3,000 birds a season. There were wide lawns around the house, a Lebanon cedar with a seat underneath it and a walled garden with peach trees espaliered on the walls.
In the greenhouse there were vines with white and purple grapes. Inside the house the dining room could seat 30 and there was ‘a drawing room to be grand in’ with antique gilded furniture, gilt mirrors and chandeliers. The house also had a little library where, according to Howlett, ‘a man can have some quiet’. The fireplaces were massive, the curtains thick and in the hall there was an old oak table with a copper bowl on it always full of flowers.
Howlett did not change Newtown Park because it was special – ‘you need something bigger than you are, more lasting than you are and better. And then you know the job is done’.
The following images show more of the estate and families who lived there.