The Tudor Finials Part 2: Halswell Revisited, Tom Waugh’s Workshop

After the finial designs were agreed Tom made up some designs on card, of different sizes, so we could judge the effect from the ground. This turned out to be an essential stage in the process and allowed us to understand the correct scale of each finial from the ground, or from the areas that each one was most likely to be viewed. Many are equally visible from the Baroque Wing roof and its south facing third-floor terrace as they are from down below.

It was only after that measurement stage that Tom and Gavin could start the stone carving in the workshop.

Before the other finials were started we decided the first step was to restore our remaining fragment of a Halswell gryphon, which had been placed on the Stepped Pyramid in the 1740’s when that folly was created. That gryphon appears to be the sole survivor from a set of four that once stood on stone gate piers immediately in front of the Baroque Wing (see part one for illustration). These were all removed by Sir Charles Kemeys Tynte when he started work naturalizing the landscape by removing these formal elements.

The surname Halswell stopped being used when the last heiress, Jane Halswell, married Col. Tynte 1649. The gryphon is the heraldic crest beast of the family name Halswell; the Tynte’s being a unicorn. So it leads us to believe that those four gryphon heraldic beasts may pre-date 1649, possibly even original finials that adorned the Manor House, before being moved to the gate piers after that part of the building was hidden from visitors’ sights in 1689.

The possibility of one of more gryphon heraldic beast being part of the original scheme lead us to the conclusion that we should recreate another to put on our empty finial bases. There was one finial base in particular which was large enough to accommodate the size and design of a sculpture like this; the central, widest gable on the east range of the old Manor House. Before Tom could carve a new one the original had to be repaired and its missing elements re-imagined.

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Tom holds one of the white obelisk cut-outs on a ‘kneeler’ of a gabled dormer window. With an obelisk on both sides and a pomegranate above in the centre, the prominence and scale of the obelisks is very important.

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A committee of wise elders looks on from below.

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A south façade pomegranate and a courtyard bell finial being adjusted for scale.

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The original seventeenth–century gryphon sculpture being repaired, it is holding the Halswell’s coat of arms in its talons. It appears to have sat atop the Stepped Pyramid from the earliest date as a painting from c. 1750 shows it in situ there. The brown coloured section on the left is so coloured because we found it buried in the earth, the total of those two parts meant Tom only had to re-imagine about 15% of the missing sculpture.

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The replica gryphon in the foreground, this one has a blank shield to help differentiate it from the original.

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One of the twin stone bells being carved and hollowed out. On the studio wall behind can be seen, in yellow, a two dimensional cut-out of what this bell-shaped solid stone will soon become.

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Two pomegranates being carved, their bases are yet to be carved out from the blocks below.

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Two pomegranates and one of the completed twin bell finials. The bases of the pomegranates are carved to fit the twisted spiral finial bases that remain on the house from the Tudor period.

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Four obelisks were needed, two pairs, to flank central pomegranate finials on the east range.  The classicism that remains in the Tudor manor, such as the renaissance-style rusticated ashlar oak door of c. 1590 in the courtyard, as well as the classically inspired tomb of Sir Nicholas and Lady Halswell in the church at Goathurst, lead us to decide that these were appropriate design flourishes on for the roofscape.

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Inspired by the open bell finials at the nearby Cothlestone Manor, these two bell finials top 2 of the 3 gables in the old courtyard, the other gable being capped with a large stone bellcote and iron bell.

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An open pomegranate on a twisted base, tied into the original twisted base protruding from the gable, in this instance located on the south range of the old manor. The twin bell finials are visible in the distance.

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The new gryphon being strapped up by tom and Gavin for its ascent on a pulley to the scaffolding above.

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The Halswell heraldic gryphon reborn. Though the shield the beast is clutching is currently un-carved with a coat of arms, we think it would be appropriate to carve Edward Strachan’s coat of arms on the blank shield in the future, but only as a last addition once the restoration of the entire estate is complete.

~RB

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