The house at Piercefield previous to the present one dated back in origin to the Middle Ages, but it was probably a mainly C16/C17 one when the estate was purchased by Valentine Morris in 1736 (or possibly 1740). Coxe recorded a chimneypiece dated 1553 when he visited before 1801, and this presumably came from the old house. It was Valentine Morris's son, also Valentine, who was to lay out the walks which were to bring Piercefield such fame as a destination for discerning tourists in the late C18 and early C19. In 1736 the estate was some 300 acres (121.5 hectares), approximately the size of the present park within the wall. The elder Valentine Morris died in 1743, leaving the estate in trust for the younger Valentine Morris, who took over the house in 1752 and had extended the estate to 2130 acres (862.7 hectares) by the time he left in 1772, when he became Lieutenant-Governor of Antigua, having been bankrupted by the expenses of keeping up Piercefield and welcoming all the visitors to it. In 1784 it was finally sold to George Smith, the tenant since 1772, who then commissioned Sir John Soane to design a new house. His design was not used, but the house as built, designed by the local architect G V Maddox, is very dependent on Soane's ideas and is clearly similar to his Shotesham Park in Norfolk, which had been built 1785-8. The house was put up for sale unfinished (it had no roof) in 1793 when Smith was bankrupted following the failure of the Monmouthshire Bank (the sale particulars survive and record an estate of 2130 acres (862.7 hectares)), and it was purchased in 1794 by Colonel Mark Wood who pulled down the rest of the old house and extended and finished the new one, using the architect Joseph Bonomi, who designed the twin pavilions which flank the central block and which are now listed separately (qv), as well as adding the curving Doric portico (now gone) to the central block and the lavish interiors. Colonel Wood owned it until 1802 when it was bought by Nathaniel Wells, who died in 1852. It was he who built the lodges on the perimeter wall in 1833. Wells had not lived in the house for some years before his death and the tenant Thomas Thompson did not leave until 1856 when the estate was sold to John Russell of Wyelands who then sold to Henry Hastings Clay in 1861. It passed on his death in 1874 to his son Henry Clay, who died in 1921, and then to his grandson Charles Lee Clay, who moved from Piercefield to the new Wyndcliffe Court in 1922. The estate was then sold to the Chepstow Racecourse Company in 1925 and racing began in 1926. The dismantling of the house, with the removal of fittings, seems to have begun at this time, but the park was requisitioned in the war, and the house, which may have already been roofless and in ruins, was further damaged by American troops who camped in the park and are reputed to have used it for target practice. It is said to have been burnt, but there is little sign of this on the surviving walls. The rest of the estate was sold off, but the racecourse company continues to own all the land within the park wall including the ruins of Piercefield House, while the wooded cliffs and the walks are managed by Forest Enterprise.