Houghton House today is the shell of a 17th-century mansion commanding magnificent views, reputedly the inspiration for the ‘House Beautiful’ in John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress.
It was built around 1615 for Mary, Dowager Countess of Pembroke, in a mixture of Jacobean and Classical styles: the ground floors of two Italianate loggias survive, possibly the work of Inigo Jones.
Information panels describe the house, its owners and the surrounding hunting estate.
Houghton House is a ruined mansion house in the parish of Houghton Conquest, though just outside the town of Ampthill. It is a Grade I listed building, positioned on the top of the Greensand ridge, with excellent views northwards.
The house, which was an unusual mix of Jacobean and classical design, was built in the years 1615 to 1621 by the Countess of Pembroke, a well-connected member of the royal court, on land granted to her by James I. On her death, the estate passed to Robert Bruce, Earl of Ailesbury. It is said that the house was the model for House Beautiful in John Bunyan’s ‘The Pilgrim’s Progress’.
In the early 1770s the Earl of Upper Ossory commissioned Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown to landscape nearby Ampthill Park. He included Houghton House as a feature in the design even though it lay outside the boundaries of his estate.
The house was abandoned in 1794 and dismantled three years later, with its interiors and roof sold off as building supplies.
The property is now owned by English Heritage and is open to the public, with free access during daylight hours.
More information can be found HERE