Tuesday, July 8, 2014


Sezincote, from the south end of the curving Orangery.
Photo via Petersham Properties.
Continuing the series of posts related to the quintessential Cotswold country house Daylesford, Sezincote is a nearby house that was also the work of architect Samuel Pepys Cockerell.

Sezincote, set in the Cotswolds Hills
near Moreton-in-Marsh.
Photo via Petersham Properties.
Colonel John Cockerell, brother of the architect, purchased the Sezincote estate in 1795, just prior to his retirement from the East India Company.  He had served on the staff of Governor-General Warren Hastings of Daylesford, and it was common practice for the retired officers to retire near their former leader.
Sezincote, view to the entrance front.
Photo via Wikimedia.
The name Sezincote, pronounced "SEE-zin-kit" according to The DiCamillo Companion Guide to Pronunciation of House Names,  is derived from Cheisnecote, meaning the home of the oaks, "la chene" being French for an oak tree and "cot" meaning a shelter or dwelling in Old English.  This name is recorded in the Domesday Book, the record of the survey completed in 1086 to assess property holdings and their value, on orders of William the Conqueror.  The existing Jacobean gabled manor house was acquired from the Earl of Guilford.  There were some improvements by S.P. Cockerell, but John  died three years after purchase and left the property equally to his two brothers, the architect and the youngest brother, Charles Cockerell when the estate was settled in 1801.

Architect S.P. Cockerell
in a portrait by his friend George Dance, 1793.
Image from the British Museum.
Although S.P. was an established architect at the time of John Cockerell's death, his brother Charles had served profitably in India, amassing a fortune.  Charles Cockerell bought his brother's interest and commissioned him for the renovation, but rebuilding did not start until about 1805.  S.P. Cockerell was involved at nearby Daylesford between 1790 and 1796 where he introduced the "Hindoo" style.  But Daylesford was basically a neo-classical house, with the exception of the dome, with the exotic theme primarily being introduced by the furnishings and art.  Charles Cockerell wanted a more dramatic architectural statement than that presented at Daylesford.

Sir Charles Cockerell by George Hayter.
Note Sezincote in the background.
Image via Wahoo Art.
The extensively reworked and expanded house was a collaboration between the owner, his architect brother and the artist Thomas Daniell.  The garden designer Humphry Repton was also a collaborator, but to a lesser degree. 

The Basement (Ground Floor) Plan of Sezincote
in an 1805 drawing by S.P. Cockerell.
The partitions of the existing house
to be removed are noted.
Document image via RIBA.
Charles wanted the prestige of high-style architecture to advance his social status and his political career.  (He sat in the House of Commons for most of the period between 1802 and 1837, sitting for five different constituencies.  He was granted the title 1st Baronet in 1809).  Warren Hastings had commissioned William Hodges to travel through India between 1781 and 1783 to draw and paint the architecture, resulting in the publication of SELECT VIEWS OF INDIA; this was credited in influencing the dome at Daylesford.  Picking up on the practice of patronage, Charles commissioned Thomas Daniell and his nephew William to conduct a ten year study in India, painting and sketching, using a camera obscura to project the images to be traced for accuracy, returning to London in 1794; thirteen years were spent to produce ORIENTAL SCENERY in six volumes.

Sezincote in an aquatint by John Martin, 1817.
Image from Royal Pavilion, Libraries & Museum,
Brighton and Hoven.
Charles Cockerell had a genuine interest in Indian architecture and art, it would seem, despite his goal of improving his social standing.  After the 1803 British occupation of Delhi, there was a huge surge in interest for the imperial romance promised by the subcontinent.  At his Robert Adam-designed London house at Hyde Park Corner (purchased in 1793, now demolished), he displayed a bas-relief of two satyrs in front for public view.  Amid objections that the sculpture was obscene, Cockerell stood his ground on the terms that it was art, reinforcing it as a symbol of his superiority.

The north pavilion of the main house
was used by Charles Cockerell as his bedroom.
Photo: Country Life.
Cockerell's own bedroom at Sezincote was in the north pavilion, the opposite end of the house from the Orangery.  The interior was decorated in the style of a Moghul tent, no doubt reflecting on the culture of the vast empire that covered what is today India, Bangladesch, Pakistan, Afganistan, Nepal, Bhutan, and Tajikistan.  The bed faced the rising sun.

S.P. Cockerell's drawing with specifications
for the bridge at Sezincote, 1809.
Image via RIBA.
S.P. Cockerell produced drawings and specifications for all facets of the house and gardens until his retirement due to health in the 1820s, when his architect son Charles Robert Cockerell took over for him.  But Thomas Daniell produced many of the drawings used for the construction as did John Martin; both Daniell and Martin had exhibitions of the drawings that they had made for the creation of Sezincote.

Thomas Daniell's color study for the
bridge at Sezincote.
Image via RIBA.
The bridge and Serpent Fountain
at Sezincote, published 1939.
Photo:  Country Life.
The argument could be made that the auxiliary buildings at Sezincote are more exotic than the main house.  Using the main entrance to the estate, the drive crosses the River Evenlode with an 1800 to 1805 limestone bridge adorned with Brahmin bulls, originally for carriages but now used by cars; it is a Grade II listed structure.  The design of the bridge is said to be inspired by the Caves of Elephants in Mumbai Harbor. The other entrance is through the farm buildings complex which is hardly less picturesque.

An elevation drawing of the Gardener's House and Stables
at Sezincote, circa 1805, by Thomas & William Daniell.
Image via RIBA.
A view of the Gardener's Cottage in the
walled garden in a 1931 photo.
The Coachman's House in the Stable Yard
as seen in a 1931 photo.
The Farm Buildings as seen in 1931.
Photo via RIBA.
The Temple Pool is also a Grade II listed structure.  The temple is dedicated to Surya, the Hindu sun god.

Thomas Daniell's drawing of the Surya Temple.
Image via RIBA.
John Martin's 1817 view of the Temple Pool.
Image via the British Museum.
The ha-ha at Sezincote is made of local Cotswold stone.
Photo by Kendra Wilson via Gardenista blog.
Despite the exotic trappings, the main house at Sezincote is essentially a neo-classical house in both plans and elevations, but with "Moghul" elements.  The dominant feature is the weathered copper onion dome set on a plinth.

The entrance front of Sezincote.
Photo by Pippa Mackenzie Photography.
The horizontal beam over the main entrance, the shaped pillars, and the peacock tail arches over the windows of the principal floor show a Hindu influence.  The wide over-hanging eaves, chajja, to give deep shadows and the four small minarets, chattris, that mark the four corners of the central block, show the Muslim influence.

A view towards the main block of Sezincote
from the north wing, published in 1939.
Photo from Country Life Library.
The Regency period ironwork has a tracery quality reminiscent of Moghul filigree, especially now that it is painted turquoise to approximate the color of the patina on the dome.

Horse-mounting steps at the entrance to Sezincote.
Photo by Kendra Wilson via Gardenista blog.
The south front, facing the garden, has a more exotic look with the big bay and the grand curving Orangery of colored glass in a peacock tail pattern. 

The south bay of Sezincote
with the arched windows of the
Saloon above the Billiard Room.
Image via Flickr.
George, the Prince of Wales (who would become Prince Regent in 1811 and George IV in 1821), visited Sezincote in 1807 to see the uncompleted house that he had heard so much about.  Sezincote is credited with influencing the transformation of George's beloved Royal Pavilion at Brighton from a simple farmhouse into an exotic fantasy.  Starting with the riding school and stables completed by William Porden in 1808, the extensive redesign and extension of the Royal Pavilion was carried out by John Nash from 1815 to 1822.

More of the story of Sezincote, along with photos of the interior, will continue as Part II in the next post of The Devoted Classicist.  See the regular on-line version of this blog to leave a comment and to search the archive for past posts.


  1. What a fascinating post John! I would love to go and visit the Cotswolds again and view this stately pile!
    The English have had such a love affair with their homes...


    1. D.F. the house and gardens at Sezincote may be visited. Also, the whole property is available for rent up to six times a year for a special wedding or other occasion. Thank you for commenting.

  2. Wow and thanks: "peacock tail arches"

    1. T., although I personally prefer more chaste details, it is nice to have variety, is it not? Thank you for your comment.

  3. John truly a fascinating account of the history and building of Sezincote. I like the location of the master bedroom in the north pavilion and look forward to reading Part II.

    The Arts by Karena

    1. K.A., thank you for commenting. In the next post, you'll see that the master bedroom was relocated.

  4. So many surprises here! Nice to see the bridge along with Thomas Daniell's lovely rendering of it. But the biggest surprise was learning the correct pronunciation of the house as See-zin-kit. And all these years I've been saying "Chumley".

    1. T.W., I have learned so much from Curt DiCamillo's Pronunciation Guide (linked in the post). I would have never ever figured out some of them. Thank you for commenting.


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