Being illegitimate, their children were unable to inherit the title. Nephew George Wyndham, meanwhile, had been following a naval career. In 1799, at 13, he enlisted as midshipman in Nelson’s navy, serving under Jane Austen’s brother Captain Francis Austen, aboard HMS Canopus in the Battle of Santa Domingo in 1805. Wyndham retired from the navy in 1825, by then a captain, to live in Reigate in Surrey.
Here he met a young builder and aspiring architect, J.T. Knowles. Knowles was a great advocate for patented metallic cement, for its durability, economy and versatility. Such metallic cements were popular at the time, the ‘metallic’ constituent being ground-up copper slag, which contained various trace metals. Used as aggregate and mixed with lime, this provided a hard hydraulic mix.
In 1836, the old Earl died and Captain Wyndham, as heir-in-law, became 4th Earl of Egremont, although Petworth House and the vast wealth of this ancient family went to the 3rd Earl’s eldest natural son. Nevertheless, the 4th Earl embarked at once on a string of ambitious building projects, for which J. T. Knowles was architect. By far the biggest of the Earl’s projects was an ambitious pile at Silverton, built around an earlier house called Combesatchfield. He also diverted the road for greater privacy.
From 1838, Silverton Park mansion began to spring up, an extravagant prodigy of endless classical columns and rooms. It was built of brick, but rendered with the patented metallic cement and a frieze of the Exodus of the Israelites into Egypt ran round its cornice. Its many rooms were crammed with paintings and antique statues. Meanwhile, the Earl was borrowing madly from his richer relatives and squeezing his tenants hard for higher rents to fund his grandiose ambitions. He began the quadrangular stable block and coach house to match the grandeur of the house. But neither mansion nor stable would ever be finished, for the Earl died suddenly and heavily in debt in 1845. His widow died in 1876 but no purchasers were found. In 1892 the contents were sold and in 1902 the house was demolished, the unfinished stable block passing into agricultural use.
In 1987 it came onto the market again and was acquired by the Landmark Trust’s founder, Sir John Smith, to prevent it being turned into flats. For many years Landmark pondered how to restore the stable block. Its sheer scale made both its conversion and funding a challenge. Finally, in 2004, a private donor gave a sizeable donation to enable work to begin. Other donations followed and the project was finally completed in June 2008.