In deepest, darkest Hampshire, tucked away down a rutted track lies The Grange at Northington one of the finest and earliest examples of Greek Revival architecture in the country.
It is open daily for exterior viewing only and is currently free of charge. However, check English Heritage's official site as it is sometimes closed for events taking place in the grounds.
The Grange became the building we see today at the beginning of the nineteenth century when the then owner, Henry Drummond, commissioned his friend, the architect William Wilkins, to transform the existing house, which was built in 1665, into a neoclassical Greek temple. Wilkins did this by wrapping the old house in Roman Cement, making this possibly the earliest example of stone-cladding in the world, albeit on a grand scale.
Like many a stone-cladding client, Drummond disliked the result, and sold the property to his neighbour, the banker Alexander Baring, 1st Baron Ashburton, before it was finished. In 1823 Baring added a magnificent Conservatory along with other rooms to the back of the property. Then in 1890 Francis Baring, the 5th Lord Ashburton, converted the conservatory into a ballroom and picture gallery.
The house has remained in the Baring family ever since, apart from the period between 1934 and 1964 when they sold it to Charles Wallach who made his money from paraffin and petroleum by-products.
On repurchasing the house, John Baring, later to become 7th Lord Ashburton, immediately demolished the rear wing of the main building, and in 1972 proposed dynamiting the rest. This prompted a furious correspondence in The Times. As a result the building was placed in the guardianship of what is now English Heritage in 1975.
The Baring family retained most of the grounds and the ornamental lake, and have reverted these back to farm land. They are not accessible to the public.
Thus the building was saved for the nation. A nation that, judging by the visitor numbers, didn't particularly want it, or have much idea what to do with it.
Only the former conservatory/ballroom/picture gallery has found a use. It was converted into an opera house in 2002, and is currently (2016) home to Grange Park Opera. From next year a new company called The Grange Festival will take over, following a dispute over the rent.