The White Hall


In April 1723, George Lyttelton embarked on the Grand Tour of Europe.

He wrote home to Hagley about the caprice and stubbornness of Philip V of Spain and found himself in Paris when Louis XV’s only son, the Dauphin Louis, was born in 1729. However, it is Italy whose influence is most prevalent at Hagley and the White Hall reflects perfectly the Italianate taste which he acquired from his travels.

The name of the stuccadore Francesco Vassalli appears both in Lord Lyttelton’s bank accounts for the year 1759 and, a great rarity, signed in one corner of the beautiful bas-relief over the chimneypiece. It is a copy of a lost painting by Carlo Maratta which represents Pan winning the love of Diana with a gift of a snow-white fleece. Lord Lyttelton paid £50 for this work.

In a letter to the British Ambassador in Florence, Lord Lyttelton writes about the scagliola figures standing in the White Hall niches, of Bacchus, Mercury, Venus and the Dancing Faun, which are copies of those at the Pitti Palace. Above the niches are medallions of the gods as children similar to ones at nearby Mawley Hall and Croome Court, and a larger rondel of Cybele, the earth mother of Phrygian legend. Below her, on a wall bracket, sits a George III ebonised bracket clock by Vulliamy. Either side of the clock are busts of Rubens (on the left) and Van Dyck which were modelled in 1746 by Michael Rysbrack, one of the finest sculptors of the eighteenth century.

The carved stone chimneypiece by the London mason James Lovell, one of Horace Walpole’s favourite craftsmen, is also a tour-de-force with its near-life-size Herculean figures, clad in lion skins, manfully supporting huge urns on the mantelshelf above. Their knotted clubs appear in the frieze, flanking the central bas-relief of a lion.

On brackets are two marble busts of Roman emperors which are normally found in sets of twelve. These were brought back from Italy in the eighteenth century by Lord Lyttelton.

The White Hall was thus adorned when in 1760 George, 1st Lord Lyttelton held a three-day house-warming party.