The building period of the house extended over a period of 32 years. We know from the State Papers that the east range was erected in 1555 and work continued on the east and south ranges until 1564. Sir William Cecil had purchased Theobalds Manor, Hertfordshire in 1563 and for a whole decade was fully engaged there in the building of his great ‘prodigy’ house.
At Burghley in August 1564, Edmund Hall, the surveyor, promised that the south side should be finished by winter. Thereafter, little more work was done until 1575 when the team of masons was reassembled. The west front with its great gate-house (it was originally intended to be the main entrance) was finished in 1577. The north front was completed in 1587.
In the late 17th century, the 5th Earl inserted arched windows on the south front to enclose a gallery and possibly to repair damage caused during the Civil War, when Cromwell’s forces subjected the house to a brief bombardment.
When Brownlow, the 9th Earl, inherited in 1754, he promptly employed Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown to mastermind the modernisation of the Garden, the surrounding parkland and aspects of the House itself. Brown levelled the roofline elevation of the south front, constructed extensive stables, a fashionable Orangery and a Gothic garden Summerhouse. He also demolished the single storey north-west wing to open up the north courtyard and to give views of the newly planted parkland.
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