The Marlborough House


Sarah, widow of the great Duke of Marlborough, having made a fortune in the South Sea Bubble, bought the Manor in 1723 and, at the age of 70, started to build a new Palladian mansion. Lord Herbert planned the house which reflected her desire for "plainness, convenience and comfort". At the time principal rooms were normally placed on the first floor but because the Duchess required that they be reached without steps the whole house was sunk "in a saucer". In designing the gardens Charles Bridgerman then had to cut away the north face of the hill to provide a view across the park. The servants' wing was in fact a separate building some distance from the house, linked to it by a brick-lined tunnel.

On her death in 1744 the house was inherited by her grandson, John Spencer, who died young and passed it on to his own son John, later to become Earl Spencer,  who was only 12. In 1765 he employed Capability Brown to landscape the park with a winding drive, less formal clumps of trees and a spectacular new lake (now Wimbledon Park Lake).