sezincote case study: the legacy of sezincote


Spa Cottage for use

Figure 14: Spa Cottage, Lower Swell, Gloucestershire. Photograph by Jan Sibthorpe © 2014.

The Legacy of Sezincote

In terms of a legacy to British architecture and the impact of empire on domestic Britain, Brighton Pavilion is the only notable building influenced by Sezincote, beyond this, no national style really endured. In 1806 Humphry Repton had recorded his appreciation of the Indian style he saw developing at Sezincote:

It happened that a little before my first visit to Brighton [1805], I had been consulted by the proprietor of Sesincot, in Gloucestershire, where he wished to introduce the Gardening and Architecture which he had seen in India. I confess the subject was then entirely new to me; but from his long residence in the interior of that country, and from the good taste and accuracy with which he had observed and pointed out to me the various forms of Hindu Architecture, a new field opened itself; and as I became more acquainted with them through the accurate Sketches and Drawings made on the spot by my ingenious friend Mr. T. Daniell, I was pleased at having discovered new sources of beauty and variety, which might gratify the thirst for novelty… [1]


Invited to submit designs for the further development of Brighton Pavilion, it was probably Repton who first alerted the Prince Regent to the wonders of Sezincote, encouraging him to visit in 1807, thus giving him the inspiration for ‘Indianising’ Brighton Pavilion. Despite producing one of his Red Books, Designs for the Pavilion at Brighton, which included a discourse on Indian architecture and in which the drawings and plans suggest that Sezincote was a strong influence on his designs, the commission for the work at the Royal Pavilion did not fall to Repton, instead it went to John Nash. Some small-scale localised imitations did occur in the Cotswolds; Spa Cottage at Lower Swell bears motifs probably copied from Sezincote, and New Market at Cheltenham, designed by Edward Jenkins, bore the ‘Mughal’ style seen at Sezincote (see figures 14 and 15).[2]

Cheltenham image for use

Figure 15: Edward Jenkins, View of the Arcade and Entrance to New Market House, Cheltenham, engraving, 1826, in Griffiths New Historical Description of Cheltenham and its Vicinity (Cheltenham, 1826), p. 22. Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum, 1956.22.4 © Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum. Note the similarity in the arches to the peacock tail windows at Sezincote.

fig 11 cropped

Figure 16: Worcester Lodges, Sezincote, as depicted on the1884 sale particulars in the private collection at Sezincote. Photograph by Jan Sibthorpe © 2013.

If the house at Sezincote did not create a national style as a legacy, then the Worcester Lodges at one of the entrances to Sezincote may have taken up this mantle. Designed by Charles Robert Cockerell at the behest of his uncle, the lodges with their curvilinear roofs resembled the Bengal huts often depicted in Oriental Scenery (see figure 16).[3] Head suggests they were the first buildings in Britain to represent Indian vernacular architecture, and that they were the forerunners of the bungalow.[4] The lodges have since been remodelled. This subject requires more research beyond the reach of this case study but is interesting from the perspective of the impact and legacy of empire on domestic Britain.  

By the 1820s Charles Cockerell appeared to be in some financial difficulties, confiding in his nephew that ‘he had spent more than his income for many years.’[5] This may account for the state of disrepair the Reverend Witts recorded in 1828. Following the death of Sir Charles Cockerell’s son, Sir Charles Rushout Rushout, in 1879, Sezincote had to be sold to realise the assets for distribution to claimants on the estate of Sir Charles (junior).[6] The estate was first put up for auction in 1880 but it was to take four years to sell. Interestingly, the Sezincote sale particulars dated 1884 depict the Worcester Lodges on the front cover; the house itself is depicted inside, in colour (see figure 1). The sales particulars make no mention of the ‘Indianising’ of the house but do refer to the ‘Pleasure Grounds’ as being ‘embellished with a variety of Ornamental Buildings…from designs by Thomas Daniell Esq., R.A.’, and list the ‘Serpent Bridge’, ‘The Temple’  ‘Fountains’ and ‘Grottoes’. [7] They also list a peach house and two vineries, a stove house and forcing houses, such as had caught the attention of Mirza Abu Talem Khan. But it would seem that the ‘Indianising’ of the house was somewhat downplayed in the 1880s.

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[1] Humphry Repton, An Enquiry into the Changes of Taste in Landscape Gardening, 1806, quoted in Archer, ‘The Daniells in India’ p.444.

[2] Head, The Indian Style, pp.44-5.

[3] Head, ‘Sezincote’, p. 81.

[4] Ibid., p.81.

[5] Cited in Head, ‘Sezincote’, p.83.

[6] Charles Rushout Cockerell changed his surname to Rushout by Royal license in 1849 in an  (unsuccessful) attempt to inherit the Northwick estate and title of his mother’s family. Firth, The Book of Bourton-on-the-Hill, Batsford and Sezincote, p. 57.Documents in Gloucester archives make reference to mortgages on properties within the Sezincote estate.

[7] Original Copies of the 1884 sales particulars are available for viewing in the National Art Library, London, 609.AD.0048. The 1880 sales particulars are available for viewing in Gloucestershire Archives, D1388/SL/6/78.