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.
A big thank you to everyone at Corbel Conservation Ltd. for their hard work and dedication in fixing up the roof, as well as everyone involved in the arduous process.
This is the first step of many in ensuring the restoration of Halswell House to its deserved status.
Today also marks this blog’s 2 year anniversary, for which we would like to thank our readers and all parties interested in this project.
On Thursday 18th August , Halswell House hosted a visit by members of the Weston Super Mare U3 (University of the Third Age) Architecture Appreciation Society
Russell Lillford, Chairman of the Somerset Building Preservation Trust had given a talk to their members last winter and suggested that this was followed up with a visit to Halswell. The visit, led by Martha Perriam, proved very popular with a full contingent of 30 turning out.
The group were welcomed by Mark Lidster and Sam Foster of Corbel Conservation and Ann Manders of the SBPT.
Following a short site Health and Safety induction from Sam, the group took the opportunity to view the display of maps, photographs and other historical documents set up in the meeting room. Ann then gave a brief talk covering the history of the site which was followed by a guided tour of the house, taking in the main staircase, the Chinese wallpaper room, the ballroom, the master bedroom, the back stairs and finally up out onto the roof.
During the tour Mark spoke about the various aspects and challenges of restoring and conserving the fabric of the house and the important historical features. Once on the roof the group were able to view the surrounding countryside and historic parkland, they were also treated to a wonderful birds eye view of the recent roof restoration works to the Tudor range.
Following their rooftop descent the group took the opportunity to wander around the garden and woodland surrounding the house and especially enjoyed visiting the newly restored Rotunda.
The group expressed their thanks to Mark, Ann and especially the owner, Edward Strachan, for a very interesting afternoon and hoped that they would be able to visit again as the restoration work progresses.
And the removal of twenty-first-century dormer windows
The roof structures of the old manor complex at Halswell date from the many different phases of building. Roofing evidence from before the Tudor period has not yet been identified; we know there has been a manor here since at least Domesday times but the roof structures have not necessarily survived as well as the stone. From the early and late Tudor periods respectively we have the Great Hall building to the east, the south range and the two sides of the inner courtyard. It is this area of the roofing structures and their associated wood and stone repairs where this current phase of restorations focusses.
The roof plans of Halswell, courtesy of Claire Fear of Architectural Thread Ltd. The areas highlighted in red correspond to the Tudor Great Hall, which takes up the northern half of the east range, the 1590’s south range and the three gabled additions to the Great Hall in the east of the courtyard.
Restoration of the south façade.
The south façade photographed in c.1898.
The areas highlighted in red date from the 1590’s improvements to the old manor. The blue outlined addition to the right was probably added by the architect Francis Cartwright of Blandford in 1754, and includes a classical mid-eighteenth-century room with a high ceiling and florally decorated plaster cornice. Originally built with Georgian sash windows, this corner addition was transformed shortly before 1908, when Tudor-style gables were added to the south and east corners (see third image) and the Georgian windows on the east side were removed and replaced with sixteenth-century style stone mullions. A gabled loft space with window was also added to the east; externally this has the appearance of an extra full floor but was never in fact converted for habitable use. The green highlighted buildings to the left date from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
”…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.