Curzon, Nathaniel, first Baron Scarsdale 1726-1804, art collector, was born 23 December 1726 at Queen Square, Bloomsbury, the elder of the two surviving sons of Sir Nathaniel Curzon, fourth baronet, MP and barrister of the Inner Temple, and his wife Mary, daughter of Sir Ralph Assheton, second baronet. He was educated at Westminster School and while there, in 1742, led three other friends into carving their names on the back of the coronation chair. He attended Christ Church, Oxford, in 1745-9, and was made DCL in 1749. Following Oxford he made a brief tour through northern France and the Low Countries. At Newmarket in 1751 Curzon and Lord March (William Douglas, later the notorious fourth Duke of Queensberry, qv.) rode their horses, Silver Leg and Chance, against wagers of £50 and £100 of which Curzon won the second encounter.
It is for the splendid house and the surrounding park at Kedleston that Curzon will be especially remembered. When he succeeded as fifth baronet in 1758 he was ready to rebuild the house. Several years before inheriting he had been formulating his plans in which he brought together important features of a number of great buildings he had seen and admired. Several architects made their contributions, the most significant being Matthew Brettingham the elder, James Paine the elder, and particularly Robert Adam [qqv.], who was also responsible for much of the interior decoration. However, the inspiration for the magnificent hall and saloon was entirely due to Curzon. The picture collection is an important one, much extended in character and size by Curzons purchases and commissions. The other arts were catered for in the music room with organ and harpsichord, and the library, including fine bookcases by Adam. For Horace Walpole [qv.], the dining-room was in the best taste of all. In the park Curzon replaced the formal rides, canals, and ponds of the 1720s with a series of lakes and a softening of the landscape, for which Adam designed a magnificent bridge and other architectural features.
By the good offices of John Leveson-Gower, first Earl Gower [qv.], Curzon was appointed chairman of committees in the House of Lords (1775-89), which took up much time, but provided a regular income to help in completing the house.
Curzon became first Baron Scarsdale on 9 April 1761. In 1750 he married Caroline, daughter of Charles Colyear, second Earl of Portmore. They had five sons, three of whom predeceased their father, and two daughters. Curzon died at Kedleston 6 December 1804 and was succeeded in the barony by his eldest son Nathaniel.
Archives at Kedleston
T. H. Taunton, Portraits of Celebrated Racehorses, vol. i, 1887
L. Harris, The Picture Collection at Kedleston Hall, Connoisseur, July 1978
L. Harris, Robert Adam and Kedleston, 1987
J. C. Sainty, Origin of Chairman of Committees in the House of Lords, House of Lords Record Office Memorandum, no. 52, 1974.
Contributor: Leslie Harris