Nether Winchendon House, Buckinghamshire

Nether Winchendon House in Buckinghamshire has a distinctive profile but you can spot outstanding architectural features from several periods.  The layout is medieval, the spiralling chimneys irrepressibly Elizabethan, the panelling 17th century while the cupola, battlements and windows are cheerfully Gothick. The whole is a harmonious blend which gives the house an air of great antiquity.  It is the home of the Spencer Bernard family whose ancestor Sir John Goodwin bought a medieval house, still at the core of the building, as a wedding present for his daughter who was joining the Tyringham family. In 1771, it was inherited by a cousin and thereby came to the Bernard family where it remains, an unbroken succession of almost 450 years.


How did Nether Winchendon get its distinct architectural style?


The most extensive alterations to the house were the work of Sir Scope Bernard who had married Harriet Morland, daughter of a wealthy London banker in 1785.  His wife’s fortune allowed him to add flourishes to the architecture at Nether Winchendon in fashionable Strawberry Hill gothic style. The house was now approached through an arched stone screen and not only acquired crenellations but also gothick windows, a gabled porch and a jaunty cupola.  Sir Scrope’s father, Sir Francis Bernard had been Governor of the American colony of Massachusetts for 10 years from 1760. His enforcement of Government legislation made him so unpopular in the increasingly fractious American colony that he was recalled to England in the years leading up to the infamous Boston Tea Party.  He continued as an advisor to Lord North’s government and several towns in Massachusetts are named after him.  He died at Nether Winchendon in 1779.


What needs to be restored?


The timber framework of the South West tower needs to be replaced if the Elizabethan bay window that it supports is not to collapse.  The Historic Houses Foundation grant agreed in March 2019 will be used to replace this oak beam which has suffered from exposure to the elements and is now unstable causing cracking in the wall.  With the replacement of the beam, the external appearance of this important English house can be preserved for at least the next 500 years.