1736 - 1809
The Entrance of Bifrons Place

Watercolour on paper
Image size: 19 3/4 x 13 1/2 inches (50 x 34.5 cm)
Mounted and framed


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Bifrons Place was built in 1607-11 for John Bargrave. The unusual name of the house is said to mean ‘two fronts’. While it could be argued that most country houses have at least two fronts, here it was perhaps coined because the two fronts were so different (found on the entrance side and on the garden side).

The front entrance that is shown here was more formally composed, with a five-bay centre flanked by a pair of ogee-capped towers and long projecting wings beyond them. The right hand wing contained the family accommodation while the service accommodation was on the left hand side. As shown here, the five bay centre had an elaborate stone doorcase and the centre and the ends of the wings had elaborately shaped gables. It is clear that even if Bifrons was smaller than the great contemporary courtyard prodigy houses of its day, it was generously conceived and expensively finished.

The Jacobean house was completely rebuilt beyond recognition in 1770 as a rather plain neo-classical two storey building.

George Simon Harcourt

Harcourt was chiefly a politician and patron of the arts. Harcourt was elected to parliament for St Albans in 1761 and remained a member until 1767. Son of the 1st Earl of Harcourt, George Simon Harcourt was the 2nd Earl of Harcourt after his father’s accidental death on his estate in 1777.

George Simon Harcourt took drawing lessons from Alexander Cozens and was a pupil, friend and patron of Paul Sandby. Harcourt also took lessons from George Knapton in the 1750s and undertook the Grand Tour through Germany and Italy between 1754-6.