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Study-Day Report: Stanway Manor, Gloucestershire1

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Stanway Manor is in many ways a highly unconventional house, breaking many of the numerous ‘rules’ supposed to hold good for Elizabethan gentry houses and hence prompting questions about how it has come to have both the plan and the variety of elevational treatment that are visible today, but serving as a reminder that the adaptation into country houses of sequestered monastic remains must often have resulted, through the need to economize, in unorthodox compromise layouts. Though agreed to date largely from the later sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, Stanway is known to have been altered on a number of subsequent occasions, several of which can be precisely dated though without necessary certainty as to what was done. The most striking of its unusual features — no doubt in large measure due to the adaptation of existing buildings of quite different character — are the elongated and irregular L-shaped plan of the main house (Fig. 1), the position of the hall at one end of the entrance front and the steady rise of floor levels in the ground-floor rooms of the south range.

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This is a report — the first, it is hoped, of an occasional series — based on the SAHGB study day held at Stanway by kind permission of Lord Neidpath on 21 May 1994, together with a subsequent visit by Architecture and Design in the West of England on 5 December 1995. It has been prepared by Andor Gomme and Alison Maguire and is intended not as a final statement about the house but as a notice of present thoughts, on which comments and criticism are warmly invited. John Heward, who was not able to be present at the study day, has kindly allowed us to print his commentary and disagreement as an appendix. — Editor

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Notes

2 Hard evidence includes the succession of owners following the purchase of the estate in c. 1537-38; those who held the house during the periods of its controversial architectural history were: Sir Richard Tracy (Sherif 1560-61, d. 1569), Sir Paul (1st baronet 1611, d. 1620), Sir Richard (d. 1637), Sir Humphrey (d. 1651), Sir Richard (d. 1666), Sir John (d. 1677), Ferdinando (son of 3rd Viscount Tracy of Toddington, d. 1682), John (d. 1735). Rainwater heads on the west front bear the date 1670 and on the west and south fronts the initials ‘I.T.’ Kip’s engraving of the house* was printed in Atkyns’ History of Gloucestershire in 1713, and William Taylor’s painting* was made in 1749. Anne Tracy’s diary* records alterations in 1724. William Burn’s presence is recorded in 1859-60 (see Colvin, Dictionary, 1995 edition, p. 191; plans dated September 1859, Stratton Street, London*) and Detmar Blow’s in 1913 (plans and elevations*). Previous accounts of the house include those of the VCH Gloucestershire, vol. VI, p. 225; of Christopher Hussey (Country Life, 3-17 December 1964); of Lord Neidpath (Stanway House: a Guidebook (1982)) and of Kingsley, Nicholas (The Country Houses of Gloucestershire, vol. 1 (1989), pp. 173-76). Asterisked items are kept at Stanway.

3 The history of the family is ably summarized in Lord Neidpath’s Guidebook.

4 See Neidpath, Guidebook, p. 15. A comparable almost complete survival of an ‘abbot’s fair house’ is the fifteenth-century Ashbury Manor, Berkshire, on a former grange of Glastonbury Abbey — like Tewkesbury a Benedictine house.

5 The diary of Emma Dent of Sudeley Castle records a visit to Stanway on 28 February 1859, in which she reports that ‘the oldest part of the house, which contained “the abbot’s room” and was standing at the time of the Conquest [!], is to be pulled down and restored.’ [Sudeley Castle Muniments, F.34: information from Nicholas Kingsley]. That this ‘oldest part’ was the north range seems to be confirmed by Burn’s plans for his new offices with the outline of the old building superimposed. It had apparendy already been much altered by the time of Taylor’s painting.

6 There are signs in the small attic room north of the east staircase that there was once a vice stair at this point.

7 David Verey, The Buildings of England: Gloucestershire, the Cotswolds (1970), p. 416.

8 See Kingsley, op. cit., pp. 102ff.

9 Plans of houses with end-halls in Thorpe’s book ( Summerson, John (ed.), The Book of Architecture of John Thorpe, Walpole Society (1966)) include T.118 (Summerson, pl. 55), T.207 (pl. 94) and T.217-8 (pl. 101).

10 Suggestions have also been made (see Appendix, below) that the house might originally have been entered from the east. Apart from the fact that newly built U-plan houses of the Elizabethan period commonly had their entrance fronts within the open court, we have not been able to see evidence for this, and if it ever were the case, it had clearly been abandoned by the time the gatehouse and forecourt were built to the west.

11 Others of this kind may survive above the drawing-room ceiling, but are not readily visible.

12 See below, p. 255.

13 Guidebook, p. 5.

14 The two existing dormers on the east face of the roof may be eighteenth-century additions: they are shown on Taylor’s painting (see n. 2).

15 It ought to be observed, nevertheless, that end-halls shown in Thorpe’s book (see n. 9) regularly have windows at the dais end.

16 Chamfered lintels like those in the hall at Stanway appear also on the upper windows of the otherwise totally dissimilar two-storeyed saloon at Newbold Revel (Warwicks) : this house is a complete recasting (dated 1716) of an earlier, probably sixteenth-century one, and the saloon was evidently created within the walls of the great hall. Additional height was needed in order to keep the window heads of the first floor on the east side level, suggesting that the ceiling of the eighteenth-century saloon had to be hung underneath the existing roof (now entirely removed, but cf. Hall, Upton, Northants: John Heward & Robert Taylor, The Country Houses of Northamptonshire (1995), pp. 317ff.). The eighteenth-century redesigning of Newbold is not documented but is generally agreed to be the work of Francis Smith: cf. Gomme, Andor, Newbold Revel: an Architectural History (Newbold Revel, 1998).

17 It is unlikely that the kitchen was further north than this, since the next section of the building (where Burn did place his kitchen) seems always to have had a transverse roof and apparently contained a broad gateway.

18 See above n. 2.

19 Cf. Thorpe T.202 (Summerson, pl. 96: plan of Somerhill, Kent), where the winter parlour is shown between the hall and kitchen.

20 See below.

21 Personal communication.

22 Cf. Neidpath, op. cit., p. 5.

1 This is a report — the first, it is hoped, of an occasional series — based on the SAHGB study day held at Stanway by kind permission of Lord Neidpath on 21 May 1994, together with a subsequent visit by Architecture and Design in the West of England on 5 December 1995. It has been prepared by Andor Gomme and Alison Maguire and is intended not as a final statement about the house but as a notice of present thoughts, on which comments and criticism are warmly invited. John Heward, who was not able to be present at the study day, has kindly allowed us to print his commentary and disagreement as an appendix. — Editor

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