The History of Houghton House
Houghton House sits grandly in the Bedfordshire countryside, surrounded by magnificent views. The house, now Grade I listed, was built around 1615 for Mary Herbert, Dowager Countess of Pembroke. Mary was well known and respected for her writing and poetry, but died of smallpox shortly after the house was finished. Painting by Rev. I.D. Parry, 1827
The house was then passed onto the Bruce family in 1624. In 1696, Thomas Bruce retired overseas in exile due to his loyalty to English King James II. He never returned to England, and in 1739 sold Houghton House to John Russell, 4th Duke of Bedford. The Duke lost his son and heir, who fell from his horse during a riding accident, and therefore passed the house down to his grandson, Francis Russell. It seems that Francis may have held the house responsible for the untimely death of his father, and in 1794 he removed all furniture from the house as well as the roof. The Duke never married, nor produced an heir and he died in 1802. By this time, the house had fallen into serious disrepair. It is a sad tale, as it seems the house was never fully enjoyed as was intended.