After leaving Stratfield Saye, our group will travel to nearby Basildon Park for a private tour of this stately home.
Basildon Park was originally built for Sir Francis Sykes and you can read the entire history of Sykes, his waning fortunes and the history of the house here
. The Regency history of Basildon Park is interesting and I quote from Wikipedia as follows:
"On Sir Francis Sykes' death, Basildon was inherited by his son, Sir Francis Sykes (2nd Baronet) who died a few weeks later. The house then passed to his grandson, the five-year old Sir Francis (3rd Baronet). By this time, the Sykes fortune was almost spent and Basildon was already mortgaged. The family finances suffered further as a result of the 3rd Baronet's association with the extravagant Prince Regent
. Aged just 14, he entertained the Prince at Basildon. As a result of the Prince's occupation of the North side of the second floor, where the best bedrooms are located, for many years afterwards this range of rooms were known as `The Regent's Side' as opposed to the family's less formal rooms on the South side of the floor. From the late 1820s, Sykes was suffering serious financial problems, and in 1829, the estate was placed on the market. The house was not quickly sold, as Sykes refused to accept any price less than £100,000. During this period, the house was often let. However, Sykes and his family were in residence between 1834 and 1835 when the future Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli
was a house-guest at Basildon. Disraeli, who was the lover of Sykes' wife Henrietta, immortalised her along with some descriptions of Basildon and its rooms in his novel, Henrietta Temple: A Love Story
. Another romantic attachment of Lady Sykes was to result in her husband being immortalised in a novel, this time in a less flattering light. Lady Sykes had been conducting an affair with the painter Daniel Maclise
. Her husband publicly denounced Maclise, causing an unacceptable high society scandal. As a result, Charles Dickens
, a friend of Maclise, then writing Oliver Twist
, based his villainous and cruel character Bill Sikes
on Sir Francis."
Basildon Park's literary connections did not end with Disraeli and Dickens - the house was used as the setting for Netherfield Park during the filming of the 2005 version of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice.
You can watch a short video about the filming at Basildon Park here
. The house was used as a set for another Keira Knightley film, The Duchess
, in 2008.
The interiors of Basildon Park were most recently used as the Crawley family’s London residence, Grantham House, and the elegant Georgian mansion was at the heart of the unfolding story as the family prepared for Rose’s coming out ball in the capital. Basildon Park played host to all of the much loved regular characters from the show as well as Shirley MacLaine who reprises her role as Martha Levinson and Paul Giamatti who joins the cast as Cora’s playboy brother, Harold. The episode was part of Downton Abbey's 2013 Christmas special. You can watch a video of which rooms were used in the filming and short clips from the Special here.