The Dining Room at Trewithen: Collection and Display

Essay by Emily Burns

A Room with a View

The Dining Room, or ‘Saloon’ as it appears on early inventories, is the largest room in Trewithen, its facade stretching across the entire south front of the property (fig. 1). Painted apple green, with plasterwork picked out in white, it harmonises with the greenery of the manicured gardens beyond.1 The rectangular space consists of a large central area flanked at the east and west ends by sections screened off by two Ionic columns supporting capitals and arches. These columns join six matching pilasters on the walls to create a small arcade, with a painting displayed under each arch (fig. 2). The south side consists of five windows, the larger central three crowned with delicate floral plasterwork swags. The two panels framing the central window currently contain family portraits. On the wall opposite are the principal defining features of the room – an ornamental fireplace inset with a display of three family portraits, framed by decorative stuccowork. As a whole, the room is a perfect fusion of the structure and symmetry of neo-Palladian architecture alternating with the organic fluidity of Rococo decoration, both popular styles during the first half of the eighteenth century. However, the Dining Room is more than purely a decorative space: the elements of design and the picture display combine to convey its dual private and public functions.

View of Trewithen from the South

Figure 1.
View of Trewithen from the South, showing the five windows of the Dining Room. Photograph.

Digital image courtesy of Simon Burt Photography. (All rights reserved)

The Dining Room at Trewithen

Figure 2.
The Dining Room at Trewithen, view to the East. Photograph.

Digital image courtesy of Simon Burt Photography. (All rights reserved)

Locating the Trewithen Dining Room within the Eighteenth-Century Architectural Practice of Sir Robert Taylor

The Dining Room at Trewithen was designed by the London architect Sir Robert Taylor (1714–1788) around 1763–4 as part of his reworking of key spaces of the house for Thomas Hawkins (c.1724–1766). This followed a campaign of piecemeal changes to the property between the years 1728 and 1758 which had involved the advice and work of a number of architects and designers.2

Taylor (fig. 3) began his career as a sculptor in the French Rococo style under Sir Henry Cheere (1703–1781) but soon gravitated towards architecture, building his own house and completing other commissions by 1750. He was of the second generation of English Palladianism, beginning his practice a few decades after Lord Burlington, Colen Campbell, William Kent and Roger Morris, whose work he studied and emulated in his early development as an architect. Taylor’s designs of the 1750s were complex and featured elaborate Rococo elements, qualities he toned down over the successive decades as his neo-classical style developed. Latterly, Taylor absorbed aspects of the neo-classical style of William Chambers and others in the 1770s, which, as Marcus Binney has observed, moved Taylor’s ‘Palladianism a long way down the road to Neo-Classicism.’3

circa 1740-1810. Oil on canvas, 150 × 100 cm. Taylor Institution, University of Oxford (PCF5).

Figure 3.
William Miller, Sir Robert Taylor, Architect of the Bank of England, Founder of the Taylor Institution, circa 1740-1810. Oil on canvas, 150 × 100 cm. Taylor Institution, University of Oxford (PCF5).

Digital image courtesy of Taylor Institution, University of Oxford. (All rights reserved)

Trewithen is one of more than fifty country houses designed or adapted by Taylor, in addition to public buildings, townhouses and other urban settlements. However, it is the only house that he is known to have worked on in Cornwall. It is possible that the commission came through the London contacts that Thomas Hawkins had made as an MP or, more likely, through his rich and well-connected in-law, James Heywood of Austin Friars, whose son John married Hawkins’s daughter Anne in 1756.4 Among other commissions given to Taylor during this period were alterations to London Bridge between 1756 and 1766 (demolished 1831); Ottershaw Park, near Chertsey, Surrey for Sir Thomas Sewell soon after 1761 (demolished 1908); Asgill House, Richmond, Surrey for Sir Charles Asgill, Baronet in 1761–4; Danson Hill, Bexleyheath, Kent for Sir John Boyd between 1762 and 1767; and Bank Buildings in the City of London between 1764 and 1766 (demolished 1844). Around 1765, soon after work at Trewithen was completed, Taylor also designed a library and dining room for Sir George Colebrooke, Baronet, at Arnos Grove, Southgate, Middlesex.

Taylor is known for his compact, innovative plans and his preference for rooms arranged around a central stairwell, as can be found at Trewithen.5 He also broke from the traditional ‘apartments’ grouping of rooms around bedrooms, instead setting the bedrooms on an upper floor and providing larger living spaces – the saloon, dining room and library – on the main floor in a format still common in modern houses today.6 However, from about 1754, Taylor’s innovations were challenged by his younger rival, Robert Adam (1728–1792). Adam summed up his views on the function of a dining room in a contemporary British interior as follows:

The eating rooms are considered as the apartments of conversation, in which we are to pass a great part of our time. This renders it desirable to have them fitted up with elegance and splendour, but in a style different from that of other apartments. Instead of being hung with damask, tapestry & c. they are always finished with stucco, and adorned with statues and paintings, that they may not retain the smell of the victuals.7

This passage provides a valuable insight into the mind-set of a leading mid-eighteenth-century architect as well as his patrons’ expectations with regard to this significant social space. Taylor and Adam must have been familiar with each other’s designs and looked to similar architects for inspiration; while they retained distinct styles, their work of the period shows some elements in common. Adam’s summary is therefore a useful framework for approaching Taylor’s design at Trewithen and the way it might have been experienced by the Hawkins family and their guests.

The Dining Room Plan

The Dining Room at Trewithen is large in proportion to the rest of the house, reflecting the fact that family and guests would spend a substantial amount of time there. Certainly, it exemplifies Adam’s vision of ‘elegance and splendour’. Rectangular in shape, the Dining Room features an arcaded, cross-vaulted screen at each end, which distinguishes it from other dining rooms designed by Taylor. Ottershaw Park, for example, had a magnificent bow-windowed salon, and at Asgill House, where Taylor was simultaneously executing a project, the architect also adopted a bow-windowed dining room plan to mirror a corresponding room on the other side of the symmetrical plan.8 He also chose a bow-windowed format for the dining room at Chute Lodge, near Andover, Hampshire, which he constructed for John Freeman around 1768, a few years after finishing work at Trewithen. (This is now private apartments; see fig. 5 for Taylor’s dining room ceiling design.) At Trewithen, however, Taylor reserved the bow window for the east-facing Drawing Room, flooding the interior with morning light (fig. 4).9

The bow-window of the Drawing Room

Figure 4.
The bow-window of the Drawing Room, Trewithen. Photograph.

Digital image courtesy of Simon Burt Photography. (All rights reserved)

The eastern arcade in the Dining Room at Trewithen is highly decorative, but it also has an important practical function in screening the servery end of the room. A room entered via lateral corridors ‘whence the proportion of the room is entirely enjoyed as it were from an external point of view’ is a common feature elsewhere in Taylor’s oeuvre.10 The same device can also be found at Braxted Lodge, Essex (1753–56, for Peter du Cane); in the Court Room at the Bank of England, Threadneedle Street, London (1767–8, since reconstructed by Sir Herbert Baker on the first floor of the Garden Court);11 at Clumber Park, Nottinghamshire (undated, for the Duke of Newcastle); and at his own house at 34 Spring Gardens, Charing Cross (before 1767, demolished 1885). Furthermore, short columns like those at Trewithen were also evident in other elements of Taylor’s designs, such as at The Oaks, Carshalton.12 That Taylor chose this plan for the dining room of his own house is a testament to his preference for it as a practical, as well as decorative, feature.

Although Taylor popularised the arcading device in dining rooms, similar designs can be found in British architecture of an earlier date, including a room at Wentworth Woodhouse (from c.1725), which consists of ‘a screen of three arches at either end resting directly on the capitals of the columns without any intervening entablature’.13 Comparable examples of arcading can also be found in the work of Robert Adam. The Dining Room (now Library) at Newby Hall that Adam designed between 1767 and 1769 shows some similarities to the plan of Trewithen: one wall has windows, the other a door, fireplace and overmantel, and each end is screened with two columns. Other examples include those at Lansdowne House, 18 Grosvenor Square, London, and at Chandos House: all three have shallow arcades with straight entablatures rather than arches.14

‘Always finished with stucco’: Plasterwork in the Dining Room

In line with Adam’s recommendations concerning dining room design, no damask or tapestry can be found in the Trewithen Dining Room: the plasterwork is the main decorative feature. Interestingly, although Taylor made elaborate designs for stucco ceilings, such as that at Chute Lodge (fig. 5), Trewithen’s Dining Room ceiling is completely unadorned and no design exists to show that Taylor planned otherwise. This may have been a matter of economy but, since the cost does not seem to have been a significant factor for Hawkins, it is more likely that he did not wish to detract from the preferred focus on the splendid north wall or the extensive estate stretching to the south.

undated. Pencil, pen and black ink, one with yellow and brown wash, one with grey and black wash, 51.4 × 38 cm. Private Collection.

Figure 5.
Sir Robert Taylor, Chute Lodge, near Andover: Designs for the Ceiling of the Dining and Octagon Rooms, undated. Pencil, pen and black ink, one with yellow and brown wash, one with grey and black wash, 51.4 × 38 cm. Private Collection.

Digital image courtesy of Christie's. (All rights reserved)

In the absence of an elaborate ceiling, the fireplace and overmantel at Trewithen form the centre of attention in the Dining Room. Delicate flower swags and borders decorate the fireplace and three inset portraits on the north wall (fig. 6), as well as swags over and between the windows. Similar decorative plasterwork can be found in the saloon designed by Taylor at Harleyford Manor, near Great Marlow, Buckinghamshire (for Sir William Clayton, Baronet, c.1755), and also at Barlaston Hall, near Stone, Staffordshire (for Thomas Mills, c.1756–7).15

The North wall of the Dining Room

Figure 6.
The North wall of the Dining Room, showing the stucco decoration and family portraits. Photograph.

Digital image courtesy of Simon Burt Photography. (All rights reserved)

Drawings at the Taylor Institution in Oxford reveal that Taylor made a series of twelve designs for monuments and Rococo chimneypieces and overmantels.16 The most extravagantly Rococo of these designs shows the usual asymmetrical floral and auricular decoration, with the distinctive addition of a pair of dragons with wings aloft and a pair of stylised diving dolphins, framed by long reed-like plant fronds (fig. 7). Interestingly, this design matches the chimneypiece and overmantel in an unsigned and undated plan and elevation for the Dining Room of Trewithen in the Cornwall Record Office (CRO; figs 8).17 Furthermore, the CRO design is close in style to a plan and elevation drawing by Taylor, also at the Taylor Institution.18 Both these comparisons point to the conclusion that the CRO drawing is by Taylor,19 and that the elaborate Taylor Institution overmantel design was turned down by Thomas Hawkins in favour of a more restrained and elegant design. He preferred the inclusion of a delicate garland of stucco flowers over the chimneypiece, a motif that featured in two of the other Taylor Institution designs (figs 9 and 10) and was realised at Barlaston Hall, where a draped swag of plaster flowers is suspended over the fireplace in the Library (fig. 11). The Rococo candelabra of the plan have also been moved from the south wall to the north. Taylor’s CRO design does not feature any portraits: the only faces it shows are bas-relief heads on roundels over the doors entering the arcades which, if ever made, no longer remain. Roundels such as this did, however, make it into the fabric of Taylor’s Barlaston Hall, placed over the door in the library (see fig. 11). The differences between the CRO and Taylor Institution designs and the finished article suggest that, for this particular commission, Taylor worked closely with his patron and responded to his instructions.

Chimneypiece no. 5

Figure 7.
Sir Robert Taylor, Chimneypiece no. 5, Sir R. Taylor's Designs Bound ms.

Digital image courtesy of Taylor Institution, University of Oxford. (All rights reserved)

Plan for Dining Room

Figure 8.
Sir Robert Taylor attributed, Plan for Dining Room, Trewithen.

Digital image courtesy of Simon Burt Photography. (All rights reserved)

Chimneypiece, no 7

Figure 9.
Chimneypiece, no 7, Sir R. Taylor's Designs Bound ms.

Digital image courtesy of Taylor Institution, University of Oxford (. (All rights reserved)

Chimneypiece, no 8

Figure 10.
Chimneypiece, no 8, Sir R. Taylor's Designs Bound ms.

Digital image courtesy of Taylor Institution, University of Oxford. (All rights reserved)

The Dining Room, Barlaston Hall

Figure 11.
Sir Robert Taylor, The Dining Room, Barlaston Hall, Staffordshire. Photograph.

Digital image courtesy of Mail Online. (All rights reserved)

The Family Portraits and their Display

The Dining Room at Trewithen is not ‘adorned with statues’, as Adam recommended and realised in his dining rooms, such as the ‘Great Eating Room’ at Lansdowne House for the Earl of Shelburne. Instead, Taylor and his patron made the focus of the room a more modest and personal display of family portraits. Nineteenth-century inventories of the room list ‘3 Family Pictures’, presumably the three portraits given centre stage, inset into the plasterwork above and either side of the chimneypiece (see fig. 6).20 The portraits in question depict Philip Hawkins of Pennance, MP (1700–1738) when young by Jonathan Richardson (1665–1745), in the central oval (TN32), flanked on the right by a portrait of him as an older man (TN33) and, to the left, that of his wife Elizabeth Hawkins (née Ludlow; TN31), both signed and dated by John Vanderbank (1694–1739).

Philip Hawkins was the first of the family line at Trewithen, having bought the house in 1728. He left it to his nephew, Thomas, who commissioned Taylor’s work in the early 1760s. Taylor’s original design did not feature either the central painting of Philip, perhaps intending a mirror in its place, or the Vanderbank pendants, so it may be assumed that it was Thomas Hawkins’s decision to incorporate these portraits. It is significant that Thomas chose portraits of the first generation of Hawkins of Trewithen and not his own portrait, as current owner and patron of the new works. This decision would have had the advantages of projecting personal modesty and honouring his forebear, while simultaneously highlighting to guests the power and presence of the Hawkins family lineage in that part of Cornwall. Furthermore, portraits by leading cosmopolitan artists, Richardson and Vanderbank, were held in high esteem and would have reflected well on the taste and sophistication of the owner, and his strong ties to the metropolis.

This focus on family portraiture was not always the case throughout the Dining Room’s history. Thomas’s son Sir Christopher ‘Kit’ Hawkins (1758–1829) inherited Trewithen, and the inventory of the house made after his death in 1829 reveals that the room had been transformed into a quasi-picture gallery under his direction (fig. 12). It lists ‘portraits &c’, presumably the Hawkins family portraits, but also four pictures of cattle (such as TN16, now in the Drawing Room), a coastal view of Lisbon (TN36, now in the Library) and two drawings. Two royal portraits were also on display in the room at this time – a reduced version after Van Dyck’s equestrian portrait of Charles I and a studio version of Kneller’s portrait of Charles II (TN71 and TN55), which had found its way to Trewithen from the celebrated Royalist house Stowe, Cornwall, demolished in 1739.21 The portrait of Charles II was recorded by James Boswell on a visit to the house in 1792.22 Although Boswell does not state the location of the picture, it may well have already hung in the Dining Room at the time of his visit. By the time of the 1928 inventory, the portrait of Charles II had been relocated to the middle staircase, where it remains, while the equestrian portrait of Charles I had been moved to the Nursery Corridor.23

Valuation of pictures in the Saloon, Trewithen, including four pictures of cattle ('2 pictures “Cattle &c”/ 2 D____ Do____')

Figure 12.
Valuation of pictures in the Saloon, Trewithen, including four pictures of cattle ('2 pictures “Cattle &c”/ 2 D____ Do____'), Inventory and Appraisement of Household Furniture and other Property, Trewithen, June 1829, f. 19.

Digital image courtesy of Simon Burt Photography. (All rights reserved)

Through the expansion of his estates and his investments in tin, copper and lead mines, Sir Christopher became, as Boswell noted, ‘exceedingly rich’ yet remained ‘very economical’.24 His parsimonious reputation was the basis of a rhyme reportedly pinned to the gates of Trewithen: ‘A large park without deer,/ A large cellar without beer,/ A large house without cheer,/ Sir Christopher Hawkins lives here.’25 It seems, however, that Sir Christopher reserved his generosity for electors, to whom he was a ‘hospitable baronet’.26 He was highly involved in politics, as sheriff of Cornwall (1783–4) and for many years as a Tory MP and recorder, and became notorious as ‘the Cornish borough monger’. His support for Pitt the Younger was rewarded by a baronetcy in 1791, although he was later tried and found guilty of bribery and corruption.27 Sir Christopher’s travels on the Continent undoubtedly influenced his taste for the arts, which may go some way to explain the addition of European landscapes in the Dining Room.28 By displaying these landscapes together with royal and family portraiture by recognised British masters in the main entertaining room in his house, Sir Christopher projected a refined taste in art and – through a pointed display of his illustrious ancestry and Tory sympathies – his social and political ambitions.

The mode of display of these three family portraits – set into the framework of the overmantel and wall – is another distinctive aspect of the design of the Dining Room. One influence might have been the designer John Sanderson (active from 1730, d. 1774), whose dining room for Kirtlington Park, Oxfordshire, of 1748 shows many similarities to Trewithen, in particular the enclosing of pictures in plasterwork settings (fig. 13).29 The room also includes a chimneypiece thought to have been made by Taylor’s sculpture teacher, Sir Henry Cheere, or his brother John Cheere (1709–1787). The technique of setting pictures in plaster surrounds can be identified elsewhere in Taylor’s oeuvre, such as in the Dining Room at Barlaston Hall (c.1756–7; fig. 14). Although Taylor is not recorded as having worked on other houses in Cornwall, the device also occurs elsewhere in the county, for example at Werrington Park, Launceston, which was altered in the mid-eighteenth century by Humphrey Morice MP for Launceston (1723–1785). Here, a portrait of Morice signed by Thomas Hudson is inset in plaster high on the wall over the staircase (fig. 15). Although Pevsner suggested William Kent as the architect of the mid-century changes to Werrington, there have been more recent suggestions that the architect could have been Taylor.30 Another instance of pictures set in stucco above a staircase at about this time can be found at Castletown, County Kildare, executed in the 1750s for William Conolly by the fashionable La Franchini brothers. Robert Adam also inset pictures in plasterwork in his dining rooms, such as at Saltram, Devon, which was begun shortly after the Trewithen room, in 1768 (fig. 16). The introduction of portraits set in plasterwork at Trewithen suggests, therefore, an attempt by Thomas Hawkins to be abreast of elite fashion and taste.

1748. Wood, plaster, marble, 1097.3 × 729 × 617.2 cm. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (32.53.1).

Figure 13.
John Sanderson, Dining room from Kirtlington Park, Oxfordshire (re-installed in Gallery 519, Annie Laurie Aitken Galleries), 1748. Wood, plaster, marble, 1097.3 × 729 × 617.2 cm. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (32.53.1).

Digital image courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. (CC BY-NC 4.0)

The Dining Room, Barlaston Hall in Lewis Bouvier, 'Elegant Palladian country house in Staffordshire'

Figure 14.
Sir Robert Taylor, The Dining Room, Barlaston Hall in Lewis Bouvier, 'Elegant Palladian country house in Staffordshire', Country Life, 19th January 2015.

Digital image courtesy of Country Life Picture Library. (All rights reserved)

View of the stone staircase at Werrington Park

Figure 15.
View of the stone staircase at Werrington Park, displaying a portrait of Humphry Morice by Thomas Hudson.

Digital image courtesy of Justin Paget/Country Life Picture Library. (All rights reserved)

The Dining Room at Saltram

Figure 16.
The Dining Room at Saltram, Devon. (The mahogany chairs were acquired c.1780 and the plaster vases were purchased from Peter Vannini in 1770. The chimneypiece and ceiling are by Robert Adam.)

Digital image courtesy of NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel. (All rights reserved)

The prominent position given to family portraits in the original Dining Room display continues to the present day. Those three inset pictures were joined in later generations by nine other portraits, emphasising the family’s unbroken inheritance of the property for almost three hundred years. Trewithen’s inventories suggest that several of these works arrived in the space rather late in the room’s history, being first recorded in an 1828 inventory or later.31 That 1828 inventory lists a portrait of the room’s patron, Thomas Hawkins, signed and dated 1745 by Allan Ramsay (1713–1784; TN22); a remarkably well-documented portrait of 1758 by Thomas Hudson (1701–1779) of John Heywood (Thomas’s brother-in-law) in academic dress (TN23); and that of Thomas’s sister, Jane Hawkins, now attributed to Joseph Wright of Derby (1734–1797; TN24). Also appearing in the room by 1828 were a pair of portraits of the early eighteenth-century English School, previously identified as Ann and Thomas Hawkins, but more probably Mary and Christopher Hawkins (TN27 and TN28). Another pair of possible pendant pictures – of Anne Prideaux (TN25) and her husband, John Pendarves Basset (TN26) – appeared in the Dining Room only in the late twentieth century.32 Both portraits were previously attributed to the circle of Enoch Seeman (1694–1744) but the portrait of Anne has since been attributed to an artist in the circle of Michael Dahl (1659–1743).

Another branch of the extended family, the Mudges, came to be represented in the room by the early twentieth century. An inventory of 1928 records a portrait of the Reverend Zachariah Mudge and his second wife, Elizabeth Mudge, née Neell, by Joshua Reynolds (TN29 and TN30).33 Zachariah Mudge was a friend and early mentor of Reynolds, who introduced him to members of his London social set, notably Samuel Johnson. As Martin Postle discusses in his case study in this project, these portraits, and four others by Reynolds’s pupil James Northcote, were brought to Trewithen by a Mudge family descendant, Alison Raffles Flint (1890–1978), following her marriage to George Johnstone (1882–1960) in 1910.34 Their prominent position in the Dining Room underlines the importance of these portraits as emblems of the recent family union and as significant works of art in their own right.

Although the display has changed from time to time, the picture hang in the Dining Room has been shaped, first and foremost, by the choice to display portraits of key members of the Hawkins family and their descendants. During at least one point in the room’s history, the three inset family portraits were joined by other works such as landscapes and royal portraits that were deemed to reflect favourably on the owner’s tastes and affiliations. The current display embraces the original conception of the room in hosting solely family portraits, selected for the significance of family members, as well as the importance of the artists and the quality of the works in question.


The Dining Room at Trewithen was designed as the focal point of the house. It represents a balance of fashionable elegance and splendour to impress guests and fulfil the family’s social aspirations, as well as the practical function of a central domestic space. The symbiosis succeeds because of the clear vision of the room’s patron and the responsiveness of his designer. While elements from the room’s design are not entirely unique to Taylor, here they are combined in a bespoke fashion to conform to the requirements of the patron. Thus, additional ancestral portraits were accommodated on the north wall; the original Rococo design was modified to something more restrained; the columnar arcading was in keeping with contemporary fashion, yet delicate and proportionate to the room; and the south wall was amply fenestrated to maximise the potential of the view, and form a strong link between the interior and the surrounding landscape. It is highly significant that Hawkins chose to incorporate two portraits of his uncle – the first Hawkins of Trewithen – into the architectural scheme, rather than display them in a more transient fashion. The display underscores the family legacy, acknowledging not only Philip Hawkins’s acquisition of the house but also that Thomas Hawkins and his descendants were here to stay.

A more recent family portrait, which is closely related to the significance of the Dining Room, is a group family portrait by Alfred Thomson RA (1894–1979) of the early 1960s (fig. 17). The work appears to have been commissioned to mark the transfer of the estate’s ownership to Elizabeth Johnstone, the daughter of George and Alison Johnstone, following George Johnstone’s death in 1960. She is depicted together with her two eldest nephews – her sister Rachel’s son, Major Stuart Washbourne Money, and her sister Jennifer’s son, Michael Galsworthy, the property’s present owner. The portrait is a modern version of the popular eighteenth-century ‘conversation piece’, in which the subjects are grouped round a small table in the centre of the room, their gazes and gestures linking them to one another and the viewer. This dynastic portrait acts as a visual statement of continuity, recording Trewithen’s owner at that time alongside the two eldest members of the next generation, set in the most important social space in the house. The strong ties that bind the current family to Trewithen are displayed, while honour and respect is bestowed on the Hawkins ancestors, who look on, it is to be hoped, with their blessing. Philip Hawkins’s portraits are displayed on the wall beside them, while the Thomas Hawkins portrait is shown on the far left of the back wall, where it still hangs. The family inhabit the space in much the same way as their ancestors might have done, using it, as Robert Adam recommended, as an ‘apartment of conversation’.

1963. Oil on canvas. Trewithen.

Figure 17.
Alfred Reginald Thomson, Miss Johnstone at Trewithen, with Michael Galsworthy and Stuart Money, 1963. Oil on canvas. Trewithen.

Digital image courtesy of Simon Burt Photography. (All rights reserved)


  • Screenshot 2020-07-22 at 17.15.39

    Dr Emily Burns is a curator and art historian specialising in British art and collecting, with a particular interest in portraiture. She is currently Editor of the forthcoming Jordaens Van Dyck Journal, and was previously Vivmar Curatorial Fellow at the National Gallery (2018–20) and Assistant Curator at the National Portrait Gallery (2013–18).

    Emily holds a doctorate on art and collecting in England during the Civil War and Interregnum, c.1640–1660 (University of Nottingham, 2018), and remains engaged in research into mid-seventeenth-century painting. She was Co-convenor of the Paul Mellon Centre's Early Career Researcher Network between 2018 and 2020, and has contributed essays and catalogue entries on Trewithen House, Raynham Hall, and Petworth House for the Art & the Country House project.


  1. The original colour of the walls in the Dining Room is unknown. In 1953 Christopher Hussey noted that they were painted ‘apple green and white’, the present colour: Christopher Hussey, ‘Trewithen Cornwall – II’, Country Life Magazine, 9 April 1953, p. 1073.

  2. Details of the evolution of the building and design of Trewithen can be found in this project in [electronic link when the material is on the website] Rodolfo Acevedo Rodriguez, ‘Trewithen House and the Hawkins Family: A Building History’.

  3. Marcus Binney, Sir Robert Taylor: From Rococo to Neoclassicism, London: George Allen & Unwin, 1984, p. 19.

  4. For an outline of Taylor’s other City connections, see ibid., p. 32.

  5. John Harris and Malcolm Baker, ‘Taylor, Sir Robert (1714–1788)’, in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, January 2013, (accessed 8 March 2018).

  6. Binney, 1984, p. 92.

  7. From the caption for Plate V, ‘plan of the principal floor of Sion House’, in Robert and James Adam, The Works in Architecture of Robert and James Adam, 3 vols, London: printed for the Authors and sold by Peter Elmsly, 1778–1822, vol. 1, no. 1, p. 48.

  8. For the symmetrical bow-windowed format at Asgill House, see the design for Asgill House, Richmond, Surrey, featured in Colen Campbell, Vitruvius Britannicus, or The British architect, London, 1767–71, vol. 4.

  9. See plan of ‘the window Roome’ at Trewithen, inscribed with instructions on paint colours, undated and unsigned, but here attributed to Robert Taylor. CRO DD J/2/37.

  10. C. R. Cockerell in his Royal Academy lecture of 1845, quoted in David Watkin, The Life and Work of C. R. Cockerell, London: Zwemmer, 1974, p. 61.

  11. See RIBA library image taken of the Court Room, Bank of England, Threadneedle Street, City of London, in 1939. RIBA Collections, London, RIBA60018/ 20164/232.

  12. For discussion of the arcade device in Taylor’s work, see Binney, 1984, p. 74.

  13. Ibid.

  14. For discussion of these Adam designs, and for images of the interiors, see Eileen Harris, The Country Houses of Sir Robert Adam, London: Aurum Press, 2007, pp. 104–11, 136–41, 146–9, 150–5.

  15. Binney attributes Barlaston Hall to Taylor: Binney, 1984, p. 94. The house was restored in 1992 with the assistance of English Heritage and the Historic Buildings Council, having fallen into disrepair due to local mining subsidence. See Lewis Bouvier, 'Elegant Palladian country house in Staffordshire', Country Life, 19th January 2015.

  16. Sir Robert Taylor, ‘Sir R. Taylor’s Designs for Chimneypieces’, 1750s?, Taylor Institution, Oxford: bound MS, ARCH.TAY.2.

  17. CRO, DDJ/2/29; the drawing was reproduced in Hussey, 1953, p. 1073.

  18. Sir Robert Taylor (1714–1788), Plan and elevation drawing, DATE. Bound MS, f. 115. Taylor Institution Library, Oxford, ARCH.TAY.1.

  19. Binney, 1984, caption to fig. 57, attributes the drawing to Taylor: ‘Taylor’s drawing of the Dining Room at Trewithen’.

  20. Inventories citing ‘3 Family Pictures’ include CRO J/1/1695/A, Inventory of household goods and furniture, Trewithen, Probus, 1799 and 1801–5, f. 9; J/1/1696, Inventory of household goods and furniture, Trewithen, Probus, 1804–10, f. 14; J/1/1697, Inventory of household goods and furniture, Trewithen, Probus, 1810–28, f. 17; J/1/1698, Inventory of household goods and furniture, Trewithen, Probus, n.d. (probably after 1810), f. 20.

  21. Trewithen House archive, Inventory and Appraisement of Household Furniture and other Property at Trewithen in Probus taken June 1829 by Joseph Tregoning, 1829, f. 19.

  22. James Boswell, ‘Jaunt to Cornwall’, The Private Papers of James Boswell from Malahide Castle, 18 vols, Mount Vernon, NY: W. E. Rudge, 1928–34, vol. 18, p. 143.

  23. Trewithen House archive, Inventory and Valuation, W.E.F. March 1928, Trewithen, Grampound Road, Cornwall, p. 106.

  24. Boswell, 1928–34, vol. 18, p. 142.

  25. S. Baring-Gould, Book of the West, vol. 2: Cornwall (1899), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008, p. 235.

  26. Richard Polwhele, Biographical Sketches in Cornwall, 3 vols, London: Nicholas and Son, 1831, vol. 2, p. 18.

  27. Sir Christopher was acquitted: R. Thorne, ed., The History of Parliament: The House of Commons 1790–1820, 1986, (accessed 8 March 2018).

  28. Richard Polwhele, The Civil and Military History of Cornwall; with Illustrations from Devonshire, London: Law and Whittaker, 1816, p. 123 n.

  29. The Kirtlington Park room was acquired by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York in 1933, Department of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts, 32.53.1. See William Rieder, ‘The Kirtlington Park Room, Oxfordshire’, Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History, New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–; online May 2009, (accessed 8 March 2018).

  30. Pevsner put forward William Kent (c.1685–1748) as a likely architect: Bridget Cherry and Nikolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Devon, Pevsner Architectural Guides, 2nd edn, London: Penguin, 1989, pp. 896–7; the attribution was upheld by Roger White, ‘Werrington Park’, Country Life, 24 May 2017, pp. 64–71. However, Richard Hewlings, responding to White’s article, gives evidence ruling out Kent and Roger Morris: ‘the front range is dated by the diary of Lord Sandys. He visited the house in September 1751 (Country Life, November 30, 2000) and noted that the owner, Humphrey Morice (1723–85), was then “adding a handsome apartment to the house”. This presumably rules out William Kent, who died three years previously, as its designer. Likewise, Roger Morris died in 1749, although he could plausibly have designed the church’. Hewlings states that Richard Garnier has attributed the building to Robert Taylor, ‘whose career began shortly after Morris’s death’ and whose ‘early buildings share much in common with those of Morris’, the conclusion being that ‘Werrington Park may, therefore, be an instance of Taylor succeeding to Morris’s practice’: Richard Hewlings, letter, Country Life, 21 June 2017, p. 49.

  31. CRO J/1/1697, Inventory of household goods and furniture, Trewithen, Probus, 1810–1828, p. 17.

  32. TN 25 and TN 26 were not in the Dining Room at time of the 1928, 1947 or 1969 inventories.

  33. Trewithen House archive, Inventory and Valuation, W.E.F. March 1928, pp. 95–6.

  34. Martin Postle, ‘Patrons and Painters: Portraits by Joshua Reynolds and James Northcote at Trewithen’. [Link to this essay on the website, but leave as is for now]



by Emily Burns
20 November 2020
House Essay
CC BY-NC International 4.0
Cite as
Emily Burns, "The Dining Room at Trewithen: Collection and Display", Art and the Country House,