The earl’s proximity caused her to feel somewhat heated, and she moved away to look at an open-faced curio cabinet filled with
objects. They included a series of miniature watercolors depicting two houses, one an English baroque with a pretty dome. She touched its frame, admiring the lovely home depicted, with its bold white casement windows and elegant chimneys. Its parkland was a wealth of varied landscaping, with huge oaks surrounding the whole.
“Wimberley,” Lord Northam said, following her. “It has been mine since before Northam came to me.”
Wimberley was the name of Russell’s marquisate in Notorious Vow. He became marquess on the death of his maternal grandfather, long before the tragic death of his brother, which brought him the earldom of Northam.
Originally bestowed on Lady Nellie’s family by Queen Anne, the principal jewel in the marquisate’s crown was its seat in Berkshire, which greatly resembled the now lost Coleshill House (pictured above). Older than Northam Park by several decades, Wimberley was one of the first English country houses to feature a dome designed by Christopher Wren. Like Coleshill, its main staircase was Italian in design, with impressive plasterwork throughout that emphasized Wimberley’s agricultural wealth.
Coleshill has a tragic history, however. It had just been transferred to the National Trust when repairwork being carried out ignited the interior, leaving only a burned-out shell topped by its massive chimneys. Its loss has been called “grievous beyond words.” (Country Life, 1952) It contained a masterful display of decoration first introduced by Inigo Jones to the Stuart Court, and has never been replicated elsewhere.