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.

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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.

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The re-roofing of the Tudor Manor

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.

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.

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Revealing the historic Manor House at Halswell (part 1)

Restoration of the south façade.

The south range photographed in c. 1898.

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.

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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.

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Bath University Visit

Study by Masters Students in the Conservation of Historic Buildings and the Conservation of Historic Gardens and Cultural Landscapes

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Students arrive at the West Entrance

On the 18th March 2015, masters students, studying the Conservation of Historic Buildings and the Conservation of Historic Gardens and Cultural Landscapes, from Bath University, visited Halswell Park.

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Dr. Marion Harney

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