”…the court [yard] is enclosed by the west facade of the riding school (listed grade II), a red-brick structure designed by John Johnson in 1769.” – Historic England listing
The Riding School is a field enclosure for horse training, fronted by a long redbrick wall that faces the Gatehouse courtyard to the west. It is arcaded with ten arches which equally flank a central doorway beneath an eleventh archway that leads to the enclosed riding area beyond. At either end of this arcaded wall is a pair of rusticated redbrick gate pillars. To the north, the gateway is attached to the ‘Cider House’. To the south it connects to the farm building called ‘Old Farmhouse’. Directly behind the wall, though not exactly centred, is the much older ‘Dovecote’. This dates from at least the seventeenth century, though the reason for its unusually vast size is the subject of some debate, as well as a future blog entry.
The Riding School wall appears first on the 1771 estate map. To the rear of its decorated wall stand simple lean-to structures, which were at least partly built as stables, and were fitted out as such until the twentieth century. The irregular and undecorated façade of this east side, with its simple openings and humble appearance, is very different to the classical grandeur of the west arcaded façade.
During 2015 the entire Riding School west wall was re-pointed and the brickwork restored. This included new stone masonry all along the parapet and to the stone door surround, executed by the celebrated Somerset stone mason Tom Waugh.
The northern gate pillar (above) is attached to what was the electricity sub-station from c.1950-2015 and had such a precipitous lean that it had to be kept upright by scaffolding to prevent it from collapsing completely. In 2015 we took this pillar down brick-by-brick to its foundations, so that essential repairs to re-straighten its angle could be undertaken. The pillar was then painstakingly re-built and re-capped with its original stone entablature. The work carried out on this pillar included the complete restoration of the ‘Cider House’ – but that is for another update!