First mentioned in the 10th Century as Afintun, Avington originally belonged to the Cathedral of Winchester until King Henry VIII granted the estate to Edmund Clerke, who built the banqueting hall, now the Orangery.
In the mid C17th, Avington was owned by George Brydges, Groom of the Bedchamber to Charles II. He enlarged the house to accommodate the King and Nell Gwynne. The 3rd Duke of Chandos, a cousin, inherited the property and made many improvements, adding the leaded statues, fountain, redecorating and gilding the state rooms, as well as laying out the gardens and parkland, planting avenues and vistas.
His only child, married the Duke of Buckingham and Stowe, who became the Duke of Buckingham and Chandos, inheriting Avington, and played host to King George IV and Mrs Fitzherbert. The estate was sold in 1847 to Sir John Shelley, brother of the poet, and was sold to Lt. Col and Mrs Hickson in 1951, and is now in trust with their family.
Whilst the interiors mainly depict a Georgian stately home, the history of the house delves much deeper, a guided tour is greatly suggested, please visit our Public Opening page for more details.
George 1st Mirror returned to Avington Park after 65 years absence.
A giltwood mirror sold in 1951 following the death of Sir John Shelley-Rolls, has been bought back by the Estate and re-hung in its original spot. We believe the mirror was commissioned by the Earl of Leicester for his estate at Penshurst in the 18th Century, and later became part the Shelley collection. It was adapted by Sir Bysshe Shelley in 1806 to include his arms which are emblazoned on the cartouche, and a baronet badge.The mirror was passed on to Sir John Shelley-Rolls and when the Estate was broken up following Sir John’s death, the mirror was shipped to the US having been sold again by London antique dealer Phillips & Harris in the 1970s.The 7ft by 3ft giltwood mirror originally hung at the bottom of the main staircase, above a similarly dated console table. It bears the label of Thomas Ponsonby (1767-1848), a carver, gilder and glass grinder, with Royal Warrant appointments from both George IV (1823) and William IV (1830).
Ponsonby is almost certainly responsible for ‘updating’ the mirror including the painting of Sir Bysshe Shelley’s arms, re-gilding the frame and providing a new mirror plate. He also added a pierced carving which overlays the top of the mirror where there would have been a ‘rebate’ at the point of overlay between the original upper and lower mirror plates.The mirror’s journey back to the UK took several months to achieve and it is now reinstated in its original position for visitors to admire on their tour of the house. The Bullens are so please that the mirror has returned.Many months were spent preparing for the mirror’s return to Avington Park, its history in the house dates to at least the mid 19th Century as part of the Shelley-Rolls collection. It arrived back in the UK earlier this year. Now hung, it looks as if it has always been here. The House is well known for its mirror collection, which also includes a Grinling Gibbons mirror in the state rooms and being able to add the Georgian piece to the collection was an opportunity that couldn’t be missed.