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The Honourable Charles Hamilton - Summary

Date of Birth: 1704

Date of Death: 18/09/1786

Period Active Earliest Date: 1737

Period Active Latest Date: 1780

Gender: male

Nationality: Irish

Occupation: Designer


The Honourable Charles Hamilton was the owner and designer of Painshill in Surrey, England.

He was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1704, the youngest son of James, 6th Earl of Abercorn. Educated in England Hamilton attended Westminster School, where he became friends with Henry Hoare (later the owner of Stourhead). He went on to Christchurch College, Oxford graduating in 1723.

Hamilton made two extended Grand Tours of Europe between 1725 and 1732. He spent much time in Italy, where he amassed a considerable collection of antiquities and paintings, and studied landscape painting.

In 1727 he became the member for Strabane in the Irish Parliament, a position he held for 33 years. In 1738, he was made a Clerk of the Household to Frederick, Prince of Wales. Under the Prince's patronage, from 1741 to 1746, he was member for Truro in the English Parliament.

Between 1736 and 1737 Hamilton purchased some 300 acres of land near Cobham in Surrey to form the estate of Painshill.  Between 1738 and 1744 he laid out much of the ornamental landscape, including the lake, planting many new tree species, particularly those from North America.

From 1746, after he had fallen out of favour with the Prince of Wales, Hamilton began to devote more time to perfecting his creation, adding many of the follies at Painshill between 1758 and 1762.  He also laid out the gardens of Holland House in Kensington, London, England for his friend Henry Fox in the late 1740s.

Money was always an issue for Hamilton, who had no independent income.  In 1743 he became Reciever General of His Majesty's Revenues in Minorca, for which he received £1,200 a year. The loss of this post between 1757 and 1763 due to military action, caused him significant financial hardship. From 1758 to 1765 he was deputy to the Paymaster General, which allowed him to continue work at Painshill.

In March 1766, Hamilton mortgaged his estate for £6,000 to his friend, the banker Henry Hoare.  Attempts to resolve his financial difficulties failed, and in 1771 Hamilton was forced to put Painshill up for sale.

Hamilton's first wife had died young, leaving two daughters, Jane and Sarah.  Hamilton was married again in 1764 to Agnes Cockburn of Ayr, Scotland. She too died at the age of 39, in 1772.

In 1773 Painshill was sold and Hamilton settled in The Royal Crescent, Bath, England. The following year he married Frances Calvert.  Over the next few years, he worked on the gardens at Bowood in Wiltshire, England for his friend, Lord Shelburne.  He died on 18 September 1786.

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