Blenheim Palace and Vanbrugh

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Blenheim Palace and Vanbrugh

One of the great treasure houses of England, Blenheim Palace was designed by Sir John Vanbrugh and a gift from a grateful Queen Anne to John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough for his victory at the Battle of Blenheim in 1704.

Vanbrugh and Blenheim Palace

When the great Duke of Marlborough, John Churchill, returned to England in triumph after defeating the French in the early 18th century, a grateful nation was keen to offer a suitable reward.

To honour his victory at the Battle of Blenheim in 1704, Queen Anne granted the family her ancient estate at Woodstock, just north of Oxford, as well as £240,000 to build a palace.

The result is Blenheim Palace, one of the grandest private homes in Britain. A masterpiece of flamboyant Baroque architecture, with more than 180 rooms, it looks over a magnificent 2,000-acre park laid out by Capability Brown, the leading landscape architect of his day.

The Duke’s chosen architect was a man of startling versatility.  Sir John Vanbrugh was not only a brilliant designer, although with no formal training, but also a leading playwright. 

Vanbrugh’s flamboyant nature meant that his relationship with his patrons was far from smooth.

Many attribute Vanbrugh’s architectural success to the assistance he received from the highly-experienced architect Nicholas Hawksmoor who had worked with Sir Christopher Wren.  His technical skill and firm attention to detail complemented the theatrical creativity of Vanbrugh.

Vanbrugh wanted to build a spectacular national monument while the Duke’s wife wanted a more modest home. There were constant squabbles over money and therefore building took many years longer than could ever have been anticipated. In the final leg of the construction Vanbrugh fell out spectacularly with the Duchess and was eventually excluded from the site. 

Giles Worsley, architectural journalist says: “With England triumphant at land and sea, Vanbrugh's buildings reflect the confidence of his age. Indeed, they are best understood as distillations of the essence of English architecture, particularly medieval and Tudor architecture, reconfigured for a modern age.”

Today the Palace is acknowledged as an architectural marvel and remains a family home for the current 12th Duke of Marlborough, Jamie Blandford.

John Vanbrugh Oxford Hotel

Blenheim Palace Pond

We had a very enjoyable stay at Vanbrugh. The hotel location is great, just a block from the centre of town, yet our room was very quiet, and had a lovely large private patio. We could easily walk to all the sights we wanted to see.

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