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Changing Times | A history of Goodwood estate over the centuries

Goodwood House is a country estate in Westhampnett and is a source of great pride for local residents. The estate not only boasts a beautiful Grade 1 listed building as the seat of the Duke of Richmond, but also houses a motor circuit, a racecourse and a golf course.


The estate was bought in 1697 by the 1st Duke of Richmond. The house, which had originally been used as a hunting lodge, had previously belonged to the 9th Earl of Northumberland, whose main home was at Petworth.


Goodwood has over the centuries been famous for its Cedars although a number that didn’t survive were replanted with Beech. In 1754 there were 30 different kinds of Oak along with 400 different American trees and shrubs.


The 5th Duke of Richmond (1791–1860) was a notable collector, and in fact donated many objects to the museum when it was in its previous embodiment as the Chichester Literary and Philosophical Society, some of which may still be in the collection today. Both the 2nd Duke (1701-1750) and the 3rd Duke (1735-1806) were great art collectors.


The 2nd Duke went on a Grand tour visiting Florence, Venice and Rome; he returned with a great interest in classical architecture and in London built Richmond House. The 2nd Duke kept a Menagerie at Goodwood which included a lion and monkeys; he did get an elephant but it died at sea. He was also Canaletto’s first English patron.


Matthew Brettingham was employed by the 2nd Duke of Richmond to enlarge the house to the south, including the addition of a pedimented front. Unfortunately the Duke died in 1750 before this could be finished and it was left to William Chambers to complete the interior of the property. His son the 3rd Duke of Richmond also took to remodel the property, extending the North Wing in 1771.


Later the 3rd Duke also built the two wings onto Goodwood House to showcase the family’s extensive art collection, which had previously been housed in the family’s main seat, Richmond House in Whitehall, London which had unfortunately burnt down in 1791. The 3rd Duke was also an avid collector of Sèvres porcelain which he acquired while he was an ambassador in Paris.


He supported the American cause in their War of Independence (1776) and as a consequence he may have received a parchment copy of the American Declaration from the philosopher Thomas Paine. This is now housed at the West Sussex Record Office and was rediscovered by Harvard University researchers in April 2017.


The wife of the 4th Duke (1764-1819) hosted what has been described as one of history’s greatest parties in Brussels on the eve of the Battle of Waterloo in June 1815. In the 19th century the 6th Duke (1818-1903) was a political figure; he was aide-de-camp to the Duke of Wellington (1842-52) and to Lord Hill (1852-54). In the House of Lords he became leader of the Conservative party, he was President of the Council in 1874 and in 1885-86 Secretary for Scotland.


Overall the estate has 12,000 acres of land of which 3,400 acres make up Home Farm. In the 2000s the then farm manager Karl Barton initiated the conversion to an organic and self-sufficient farm. Sheep, beef and dairy cattle, pigs and chickens are reared and fed from within the estate. To help sustain the organic approach, wildlife is supported by the regeneration of hedgerows. Since 2008 Goodwood Home Farm has been managed by Tim Hassell.


In the 1920s the 9th Duke (1904-1989) worked in the motor industry at Bentley and in World War 2 he served with the RAF. Afterwards in 1948 he used part of the estate’s wartime airfield, RAF Westhampnett, for the Goodwood Motor Circuit which closed in 1966, although the Circuit remained in use as a testing and track day venue.


On September 18 1998, the 9th Duke’s grandson, now 11th Duke of Richmond (b.1955), re-enacted the opening of the track at the very first Goodwood Revival meeting. He used the same Bristol 400 that his grandfather had used half a century earlier on the same track. Each year the Festival of Speed and Goodwood Revival are held at the circuit.


The 10th Duke, Charles Henry Gordon-Lennox (1929-2017), had in earlier times worked as a chartered accountant. He took over running the estate in 1969 when he was forty. When his son, the Earl of March reached forty the Duke then handed on the running of the house and estate to him. He has brought in a number of successful innovations including the revival of motor racing. As well as Home Farm and the motor circuit the estate has two golf-courses, a 92-room hotel, a fleet of vintage aircraft plus its own cricket pitch.


The Novium Museum would like to pass on their condolences to the family of the 10th Duke of Richmond who sadly passed away on the 1st September.


By Pat Saunders Volunteer and Portia Tremlett Museum Assistant at The Novium Museum


Posted in Lifestyle.