Tart Hall Experiments

A Platt and Description of Tart Hall House with the Gardens (a nineteenth-century copy of a seventeenth-Century plan) c. 1800, Maps Crace Port.11, London, British Library

In 1633 Lady Arundel acquired Tart Hall, a building built between 1611 and 1614 she had been renting for a long time. The extensive property of Tart Hall was on the border between the parishes of St. Martin-in-the-Fields and St. Margaret, within walking distance of both the nearby Whitehall Palace and the more distant Arundel House in The Strand (Elizabeth Chew, The Countess of Arundel and Tart Hall 2003 and Dianne Duggan, A Rather Fascinating Hybrid: Tart Hall, Lady Arundel’s Casino at Whitehall 2003).

From ointments for pain and for the care of wounds – like the Balsamo Locatelli – to tinctures, tablets, essential oils, distilled waters, emetics and electuaries like the theriac, fortifying broths, powders, perfumes and pomanders to jelly, dried, candied and pickled fruits, syrup, confectionery, baked goods, and cosmetics, Lady Arundel and her servants prepared a wide selection of effective agents according to the recipes.

The Countess continued in the tradition of her mother-in-law, who had become widely known for being an active and gifted healer not only in the immediate context of her family, but also in much larger circles:

Another kind of Almes besides all these she practis’d very much, consisting in medicines, salves, plasters and other remedies to all kind of people who (…) came to her for the cureing of their wounds and distempers (…) not only neighbors, but several out of other shires (…) did resort unto her to that end, and scarce a day pass’d in which many did not come, sometimes more than threescore have been counted in one day (…).”

Henry Granville Fitzalan-Howard, Duke of Norfolk, The Lives of Philip Howard, Earl of Arundel and of Anne Dacres, his Wife 1857

Though it is not known whether Lady Arundel, like her mother-in-law, was visited by sick people from near and far several times a day, the multitude of pharmaceutical recipes and even more so the multitude of their sources suggest an active medical practice, which the Countess discussed and improved in exchange with other experts. To practice her art, Lady Arundel was in need of a dedicated space where medicines could be produced in an environment adequate to her high status at court (Alexandra Shepard, Accounting for Oneself: Worth, Status and the Social Order in Early Modern England 2015). Such a space had to meet the practical requirements for the production of the different pharmaceuticals and possibly also for the diagnosis of diseases, all the while still reflecting the self-image of a high-ranking noblewoman and lady in waiting of the Catholic Queen Henrietta Maria.

Frederick de Wit, Platte Grondt der Stadt London met de Aenwysinghe hoe die Afgebrandt is (detail), 1666, Maps.Crace I, London, British Library

The architecture and location characterize Tart Hall as a villa, a type of building strongly influenced by Italy, especially English visits to the Veneto. Marked by its suburban location between city and rural seclusion and its compact, less hierarchical structure, the villa was strongly connected to Italian lifestyle. Tart Hall’s main house in a U-shape was surrounded by extensive gardens. Two parallel galleries framing the inner courtyard and the numerous outer windows offered a view over the fields and trees of the property, as well as the garden with mulberry trees. The gardens are clearly visible in the copy of a contemporary map from the 19th century.

After the purchase of Tart Hall, the entire property was rebuilt and a new, even larger main house was added. With Burghley House, Jill Husselby describes an earlier example of such a country palace (The Politics of Pleasure: William Cecil and Burghley House 2002). Balthazar Gerbier mentions Tart Hall in 1663 in his dedication of his Counsel and Advise to all Builders to Lord Stafford, Lady Arundel’s son:

“The Advice giver to Builders, must less pass by the precinct of Tart-hall, then of all those famous great Seas which (…) the Earl of Arrundel, and Surrey (…) did possess, but of all such as the very aspects of number of Brick-buildings (…) hath manifested to have been the main cause that some of them Bear-like whelps (…) have gotten some fashionable like shape (…).”

Balthazar Gerbier, The Counsel and Advise to all Builders, 1663

When the work on Tart Hall was complete in 1638, an ideal complex had been created for the upscale entertainment of high-ranking guests. The desire to escape the strict hierarchies at the experience coincided with the need for for medical research, the gathering of knowledge and the cultivation of nature.



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