Wrest Park belonged to the de Grey family until it was sold in 1917. They were made Earls of Kent in the reign of Edward IV and then the 12th Earl was created Duke of Kent in 1710. Confusingly he was also Lord Lucas. However, there was no heir to the Dukedom and Wrest was inherited by the Duke of Kent’s grand-daughter and her grandson in turn lived at Wrest. He’s the chap who became the 2nd Earl de Grey (inheriting from his aunt Lady Lucas and the 1st Countess de Grey) who built Wrest Park in the 1830s. Incidentally he was the first President of the Royal Institute of British Architects.
If you study the de Grey family tree it is apparent that the family had more titles than any family could reasonably be expected to hold. But it is perhaps more interesting to visit the de Grey Mausoleum attached to the parish church at Flitton, two miles down the road. There are some seventeen funerary monuments evolving from Jacobean to Victorian. Any one of them would be worth a detour but to find such a collection is remarkable. However, it takes all sorts and Pevsner is decidedly sniffy.
“The de Grey Mausoleum is one of the greatest storehouses of monuments in England. A pity that it somehow has the storehouse feeling. Few of the many tombs are of the very best quality.”
The earliest is a brass to Henry Gray (1545) which is easy to miss but unmissable is the memorial to Henry Grey, 5th Earl of Kent and his wife (1614), two carved effigies lying patiently in prayer on a tomb-chest. Above them is their coat of arms, supported by two wyverns.
Beside them is a magnificent alabaster memorial to the 9th Earl and his wife, likewise recumbent. There is a parade of kind hearts and coronets to admire. One of the finest is of Henry de Grey, Duke of Kent. The effigy of the reclining Duke, clutching his coronet, is attributed to Rysbrack. Beneath him on the right his first wife reclines. To the left there is an unoccupied space for his second wife. He gazes pointedly away from his first wife.
One of the last memorials is to Henrietta, Countess de Grey, 1848. It is a relief of her covered coffin surrounded by her mourning family with an obelisk as a backdrop.
The mausoleum is only open for a few afternoons a year but it is well worth planning a visit.