By Anna Mercer
The Stephen Copley Award enabled me to consult a range of eighteenth-century manuscripts located at the Gloucester Archives. The purpose of this research trip was to consult the papers of Elizabeth, Dowager Duchess of Beaufort (1713-99), to investigate whether she commissioned any significant architectural works during her widowhood (1756-1799). Significantly, when her brother Norborne Berkeley died in 1770, Elizabeth inherited Stoke Park (Bristol) which she adopted as her dower House. The manuscripts that I consulted at Gloucester related predominantly to her tenure of Stoke Park (1770-99) and luckily proved to be extremely fruitful.
At Gloucester I consulted accounts, correspondence, bills and disbursements which all supported my hypothesis that Elizabeth was an avid architectural patroness during her widowhood. I discovered evidence that proved that she redecorated her dower house at least three times during her tenure of Stoke, demonstrating that she was conscious of the latest aesthetic trends. She also commissioned a series of architectural improvements to the house ranging from the remodelling of the Dining Room, to the insertion of new water …read more