Relhan Collection : 10 Babraham, Wandlebury hill fort

Relhan, Richard, 1782-1844

Relhan Collection

<p style='text-align: justify;'><p>1801</p><p>The Iron Age hill fort of Wandlebury commands a high point of the chalk ridge of S Cambs. Excavations in 1950s interpreted it as a C3BC ditch and revetted bank, succeeded by a C1AD double bank and ditch. Excavations in 1995-6 revealed more settlement evidence in and around the fort. One ditch was levelled and two new entrances constructed over the ditches in C18, and the interior was terraced for a garden and the grounds landscaped with parkland trees. Relhan shows one of the bridges and the outer Iron Age ditch, C18 stables with cupola and clock, a small brick tunnel (in the ditch) which runs from the house, and the S side of the house in yellowish-white brick, similar to the stables. James II used Wandlebury to stable hunting horses in 1685 and part of these stables survives. The mansion house, named after a supposed hill figure of Gog Magog, was recorded by Cole as a boy in 1720 when travelling on the road to Cambridge from Babraham, a route that was stopped later in the C18.<i></i>The Wandlebury estate, with its stables and good location for attendees at Newmarket racecourse, was acquired by Tregonwell Frampton (1641-1727), keeper of the king's racehorses to William III, Queen Anne, George I and George II (<b>264</b>). He also bred his own horses, importing some from Arabia. He left most of his estate to Francis 2nd Earl Godolphin (1678-1766), a friend who shared his racing enthusiasms and whose father, Sidney 1st Earl Godolphin, was a leading politician under the Stuart monarchs from Charles II to Queen Anne. It was this long-lived and well-connected 2nd Earl (married to Henrietta, daughter of the Duke and Duchess of Marlborough, on friendly terms with royalty and aristocracy), who needed a grander residence than ‘the humble hunting box on the hills’ he inherited and who built, in 2 phases, the mansion Relhan recorded in 1801. The first phase was 1729 – 35, and the house was enlarged 1752/3, with stables and servants' quarters built to SW. The stables included a pedimented archway with cupola and clock leading into a courtyard between two wings, as recorded by Relhan and mostly surviving today. The Godolphin Arabian was buried under the archway in 1753 and is still much visited (2020). In the C19th century the house was extended to E and remained a favourite residence for the Godolphins (who became Dukes of Leeds after Mary, the 2nd Earl’s daughter, married the Duke) lived and usually died here until 1895. They were a hospitable family, much involved with the local community in Stapleford, who also held the ducal seat of Hornby Castle in Lancashire and a house in Cornwall, and so eventually sold Wandlebury in 1895. It was bought and sold three times until Harold William Stannus Gray purchased it in 1904 and lived here with his family until 1951. The Grays also maintained the house as a centre for hospitality and festivities in C20, remembered particularly for an annual fete, which 18,000 might attend for exotic entertainments. In WW2 it was a convalescent home for soldiers, with gardens and woodland converted to vegetable growing. Sir Harold Gray died 1951 and Lady Rowena 1953. Their son, Terence Gray 1895 -1986, was an exotic character. He was involved in founding the Cambridge Festival Theatre but was based in Monaco. He became an Egyptologist, married a Russian noblewoman then a Georgian princess and used the pen name Wei Wu Wei to publish books on Taoist philosophy, amongst other works. He gave Wandlebury to the Cambridge Preservation Society, now Cambridge Past, Present and Future, which runs Wandlebury as a popular public open space of much wildlife interest. The house however had become derelict and was demolished 1955, although the stables survive and were converted for housing and offices.</p><p>Clark 1985; Davis EM pers comm; Taylor 1998; VCH 1982 </p></p>

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