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Trentham, formerly an Augustinian priory, was purchased in 1540 by James Leveson, a wool stapler. Over the next two centuries the family prospered commercially and gave service to the Crown and parliament, acquiring various titles that culminated in 1746 with the creation of John, Lord Gower, as Viscount Trentham and Earl Gower. By that time the house made from the priory buildings had been replaced by a much larger building, accompanied by an extensive formal landscape. Earl Gower died in 1754 and was succeeded by his third son, Granville (d 1803), a leading political figure who in 1786 was created Marquess of Stafford. He undertook extensive works at Trentham, in 1759 commissioning Lancelot Brown (1716-83) to rework the lake and park and later bringing in Brown and his son-in-law Henry Holland (1745-1806) to enlarge the south, garden front of the house. His son, the second Marquess (d 1833), was immensely rich, his father having wed thirdly the Bridgwater heiress Lady Louisa Egerton while he himself married Elizabeth, Countess of Sutherland, the greatest heiress of her generation.

After 1833 the family's huge wealth was more than matched by the extravagance of the second Marquess' son, the Duke of Sutherland, and especially that of his wife. In 1833-4 they engaged Charles Barry (1795-1860; kt 1852) to transform what was already a large house into an Italian-style palace and to lay out before it a great formal garden. Although some building continued until 1849 the main phase of work was complete by 1842. However, by 1907 the pollution of the River Trent, which runs through the site, had made the house uninhabitable, and it was demolished in 1910-11. Nevertheless, the gardens continued to be maintained as a public park, and from the 1920s huge crowds came to what was marketed as 'The Versailles of the Midlands'. In 1981 the trustees of the estate of the fourth Duke sold the estate to a local businessman; Trentham Gardens remains (1997) a commercially owned and operated leisure facility.

People associated with this site

Architect: Sir Charles Barry (born 1795 died 1860)

Designer: Lancelot Brown (born 1716 died 06/02/1783)

Gardener: George Fleming (born 15/01/1809 died 27/06/1876)

Designer: William Sawrey Gilpin (born 1762 died 04/04/1843)

Architect: Henry Holland (born 20/07/1745 died 17/06/1806)

Architect: William Andrews Nesfield (born 1793 died 02/03/1881)

Builder: Francis Smith (born 1672 died 1738)

Landscape Architect: Tom Stuart-Smith (Known to have been active 1984 to )

Architect: Charles Heathcote Tatham (born 08/02/1772 died 10/04/1842)