The Tudor Finials

Part 1: Design and Planning

Since the late-seventeenth century the Tudor and Elizabethan ranges have been mostly forgotten, eclipsed by the creation of the Baroque Wing in 1689 they were left to crumble and put to utilitarian use as service wings. Their former grandeur was purposely hidden from sight behind garden walls and hedges and their grand rooms were put to new less grand uses such as kitchens, sculleries and servant rooms.

Though occupying an enviable south-facing garden position with views past the dovecote and through the ancient parkland up to Rook’s Castle hill, almost all of the older manor house had been relegated to service areas and languished, much unloved, for over 300 years until the current comprehensive restoration programme was begun.

The vision for the old manor is to bring it back to its Tudor glory days before the Baroque Wing was built and to compliment that new house through the strengths of the older one. Doing this entails repairs of all kinds but it is the exterior in particular that is currently enjoying the final stages of this new renaissance.

The roofscapes of Tudor manor houses were important areas where flourishes and decoration could be added to maximum effect, silhouetting rich architectural details which pointed to the sky in much the same way church buildings had been doing for hundreds of years. The roofscapes to the Tudor royal palaces of Nonsuch, Otford, Oatlands, Whitehall, Eltham, Placentia, Richmond and Hampton Court were all as spectacular as they were influential. Testament to the rarity of surviving Tudor roofscapes is that only the last one of these buildings still stands.  Like grand Tudor manors, each of these palaces had highly decorated silhouettes of chimneys, gables, battlements and finials. Halswell in that regard was no different, it survived but its roofscape suffered; its finials had been worn out by weather and had all completely fallen away, only the bases and stumps still remained.

These images were taken while the re-roofing was underway last year in preparation for the intellectual processes of deciding the most appropriate new finials and coming to agreement with Historic England.

Continue reading

Episode 1: Halswell Park

Episode 1: Halswell Park

The first instalment in the Halswell Park documentary series.

Through interviews with art and architecture historian Roy Bolton, conservation director Mark Lidster and project architect Claire Fear, we delve into the history and legacy of historic Halswell House, how it came into the hands of current owner Edward Strachan and his vision of restoring the manor to its former glory as a true British landmark.


Restoring the Chimneys

The chimney stacks at Halswell consist of two distinct groups; those hidden within the formal architecture of the Baroque north wing, and those that survived from the Tudor manor with its later additions in the 1590’s and beyond. During the nineteenth century and the 1920s all of the chimneys were rebuilt above the roofline, either using big new redbrick stacks typical of a robust Victorian roofline, or hidden completely within the parapet of the seventeenth-century Baroque wing. As enticing as it seemed for us to remove the Victorian redbrick and attempt to re-create the older mix of chimneys, there were no remaining features to work with, and although the Victorian brick has a different feel, they are honest indicators of the house living through that period, and as such are important historically in their own right. Therefore, in consultation with conservation authorities, the decision was made that the redbrick would be maintained, and the mixture of twentieth century pots that cap them should be removed and replaced with more sympathetic features.

chimneys East Range Continue reading

Halswell’s Baroque Wing

Development seen through historic images from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Halswell Baroque north wing, c. 1710

Halswell Baroque North Wing, dated 1689. Painting c.1710

Halswell Formal Gardens c. 1710.jpg

Formal Gardens, c.1710, by the same hand. The high redbrick walls, gate pillars with armorial beasts, fountain and formal layout were all demolished during the 1740’s as was the rectangular Banqueting House of c. 1690 in the centre ground which was gone by the mid-eighteenth century to make way for the circular Rotunda of 1755.

Continue reading