Althorp (/ˈɔːlθɔrp/ or /ˈɔːltrəp/) is a Grade I listed stately home, estate and small civil parish in Daventry District, Northamptonshire, England of about 13,000 acres (50 km2). By road it is about 6 miles (9.7 km) northwest of the county town of Northampton and about 75 miles (121 km) northwest of central London. It has been held by the prominent aristocratic Spencer family for over 500 years, and has been owned by Charles Spencer, 9th Earl Spencer since 1992. It was also the home of his sister, Diana, before her marriage to Charles, Prince of Wales.
Althorp is mentioned as a small hamlet in the Domesday Book as "Olletorp", and by 1377 it had become a village with a population of over fifty people. During the 15th century, the village seems to have diminished and in 1505 there were no longer any tenants living there. John Spencer's uncle – also named John Spencer – had become feoffee (feudal lord) of Wormleighton in Warwickshire and a tenant at Althorp in Northamptonshire in 1486, and in 1508, his nephew purchased Althorp estate with the handsome funds generated from the family's sheep-rearing business. Althorp became one of the prominent stately homes in England, and due to the Spencer family's wealth, and they amassed an extensive art collection and other valuable items. During the 18th century, it became a major cultural hub in England, and parties were regularly held, attracting many of the country's elite of the period. George John, 2nd Earl Spencer, who owned Althorp between 1783 and his death in 1834, developed one of the largest private libraries in Europe at the house, growing to over 100,000 books by the 1830s. After falling on hard times, John Spencer, 5th Earl Spencer, known as the Red Earl, eventually sold much of the enormous collection to Enriqueta Rylands in 1892, who was building the University of Manchester Library. Many of Althorp's possessions were sold off during the 20th century, and between 1975 and 1992 alone approximately 20% of the contents were auctioned.
The original house at Althorp was a "classically beautiful" red brick Tudor building, but its appearance was radically altered when the architect Henry Holland was commissioned to make extensive changes, starting in 1788. Mathematical tiles were added to the exterior, encasing the old red brick, and four Corinthian pilasters were added to the front. The grand hall entrance to the house, Wootton Hall, was cited by Sir Nikolaus Pevsner as "the noblest Georgian room in the county". The Great Dining Room in the east wing extension of the house was added in 1877 under John Macvicar Anderson, with walls hung with faded, red damask silk. Numerous fireplaces and furnishings were brought to Althorp from Spencer House in London during the Blitz for safe keeping and still remain. The Picture Gallery stretches for 115 feet (35 m) on the first floor of the west wing, and is one of the best remaining examples of the original Tudor oak woodwork and ambiance in the mansion. It has an extensive collection of portraits, including Anthony van Dyck's War and Peace, a John de Critz portrait of James I, a Mary Beale portrait of Charles II, and many others. Some £2 million was spent on redecorating the house in the 1980s, during which time most of the religious paintings of Althorp were sold off.
In total, the grounds of Althorp estate contain 28 listed buildings and structures, including nine planting stones. The mustard-yellow Grade II listed Stable Block, designed by architect Roger Morris with a Palladian influence, was ordered by Charles, Fifth Earl of Sutherland in the early 1730s, and the former falconry, now a Grade I listed building, was built in 1613. Gardener's House is listed as a Grade II* listed building in its own right, as are the Grade II listed West and East Lodges. The French landscape architect André Le Nôtre was commissioned to lay out the park and grounds in the 1660s, and further alterations were made during the late 18th century under Henry Holland. Following the death of Diana in August 1997, she was interred on a small island in the middle of the ornamental Round Oval lake. A Doric-style temple with Diana's name inscribed on top is situated across from the lake is a significant attraction during July and August when the house and estate are open to the public, although the exhibition centre, situated in the old stable block, closed permanently in August 2013.