There are several parallels between Kelham and Walton Hall, which Sir George Gilbert Scott built for Sir Charles Mordaunt near Stratford-upon-Avon. Both were built at about the same time for wealthy young landowners on the sites of earlier family homes in idyllic parkland settings. But whereas at Kelham Scott gave full vent to the elaborate High Victorian Gothic style that he had made his own, at Walton he was more restrained. And again, he seems to have worked on the design after his apparent failure in the Government Offices Competition in June 1857.
Sir Charles Mordaunt was only twenty-two when he engaged Scott to rebuild the family home that he had inherited after his father’s sudden death in 1845. This was on a large estate of some 3,500 acres, nine miles east of Stratford-upon-Avon, with a tributary of the Avon running through the park. His father was killed in a shooting accident while walking in the park and his widow it is said, ‘developed a passion for building to channel her grief’. The old house was not to the taste of the young Sir Charles and when he came of age, and apparently with the co-operation of his mother, he commissioned Scott to make the house appear more fashionable.
Unlike Scott’s other mansions, Walton has three principal stories and lacks the complicated roof-line and dormers which are such a prominent feature of Scott’s secular designs. He had learnt from the Brownsover experience and no traces of the old house seem to exist. It is entirely built of a dark local stone with dressings of a slightly paler Bath Stone. The dull appearance of the house is slightly relieved on the north-facing entrance side by two towers capped by steep-pitched roofs. Unlike Kelham there is no window tracery and pointed arches are limited to relieving arches over the largest windows.
The display of quiet opulence is much less muted inside the house. The entrance hall is two stories high with a double-height colonnade separating the hall from the staircase and the first floor corridor. Typically of its period, the house was planned to achieve the highest standards of comfort for the family, including the provision of massive service accommodation. This was built around a sixty feet square court which is entered through a spire-topped archway. The work was completed 1862, costing about £30,000, but Scott had to wait until 1877 before he was paid an outstanding £600 in fees. Perhaps this delay was due to the huge cost of divorce proceedings in those days, which could well explain Sir Charles’s tardiness. In 1866 Sir Charles Mordaunt, by now an M. P., married Harriet Moncrieff of Perthshire, but the marriage was a disaster. Constituency business, or fishing trips abroad, kept Sir Charles away from her during the London season and Lady Mordaunt acquired a string of aristocratic visitors to their house in Belgravia, and later to Walton Hall, during his absences. A child was born which she admitted was not his and this resulted in a sensational case, at which the Prince of Wales was called as a witness. Eventually they were divorced in 1875, and in 1878 he married Mary Louisa Cholmondeley. When Sir Charles died in 1897, Walton passed to the son of the second marriage, and when he died in 1934 the Mordaunt baronetcy was finally extinguished after eleven generations and over three hundred years. The house is now a country club.
Tyack, G., Warwickshire Country Houses (Phillimore, Chichester and London, 1994), pp. 66, 198.
Eastlake, C. L., A History of the Gothic Revival (Longmans, Green and Co., London 1872), p. 107.
RIBA Drawings Collection, Ledger of Scott’s Office, 1875-1914, p. 2.
Barker, F., and Silvester-Carr, D., The Black Plaque Guide to London (Constable, London, 1987), pp. 175-7.