18th November, 2017. Humberside large period houses (cont.)

Grimston Garth (no picture available), now close to the boulder clay cliff-top in south/central Holderness is described by David Neave (s.p.b.) as ‘the most charming of Georgian Gothic houses’ (p.445). Built in the 1780s as a ‘summer residence’ for a large landowning family of the Yorkshire Wolds it is, like the properties in Winestead (s.p.b.) not open to the public, especially so her as Grimston Garth is owned by a firm that breeds animals for medical and commercial product testing and, as such, has been targeted by animal welfare groups.

It is interesting to wonder how the government’s proposed National Coastal Path will deal with this sort of situation – indeed how it will deal with the whole of the Holderness coast – as the cliff-tops can only be walked where local farmers do not bother to plant up to the cliff-top knowing that coastal erosion is certain. To propose that walkers walk the beach (rather than the cliff-top) would be an unsatisfactory compromise as to do so is fine only so long as one is fully aware of the tide times as to be trapped at the base of the cliffs at high tide is to be in a very dangerous situation.

Grimston Garth has a most individual ground-plan having a hexagonal dining room within a triangle which has an embattled tower at each of the three angles, adjoining are two rows of service rooms either side of an outer courtyard. Again, as with so many others, this property retains a large stable-block, here a range of single-storey spaces around a central courtyard. The grounds were landscaped in the 1760s, much of the tree planting surviving, this including a shelter belt around the house. The house is not visible from the road.

The plans for the section of the National Coast Path immediately around the Humber Estuary are being progressed by the four relevant unitary authorities although here the public rights of way mostly already exist. The Path will only go inland as far as the Humber Bridge.

17th November, 2017. Humberside large period houses (cont.) + personal reflection.

Until its demolition in 1936 Winestead Hall (also known as Red Hall, see picture) was a fine example of early Georgian architecture, a classical centre-entrance three-storey block. It was commissioned by the Hildyard family in the 1720s. The stable bock survives (the central clock tower just visible to the right of the house), this dated to the 1760s and designed by John Carr of York. This large stable block, like at Burton Constable, is built of brick. The 1980s ‘listing’ by Historic England defines the stable block as being part of a hospital but David Neave (The Buildings of England – York and the East Riding, 1994, 758) states that it is now (1994 not 2017) part of a special school.

Winestead, a small straggling village sited between Ottringham and Patrington in south Holderness, has another fine period house, White Hall, which survives as a family home and which retains many original features from the 1814 build. Partly visible from the road across pastureland some elements of the once landscaped grounds remain, this including two lodge cottages and a considerable stable block.

Just north-west of the site of Winstead Hall, in the parish of Halsham, stands the late 18th/early 19th round, stone-built mausoleum for the Constable family of Burton Constable. Once built the remains of earlier members of the family were removed from All Saints church, Halsham. Leading from the road to the mausoleum is a yew-lined path wide enough for a hearse. In the centre of the marble-lined interior is a well(?), around which, and under the floor, are the catacombs housing the human remains. I don’t think it is still in use.

Up to the age of  12/13 I was required to attend the village Methodist chapel in south-west Norfolk (see Richard S. Clarke in Publications). I never liked it and one had to be on best behaviour. As I sat rigidly through the sermons I could see through the top part of a lancet window edged by strips of stained glass. In spring and summer I could watch the cloudscape and the changing patterns. I don’t remember the content of a single sermon, but I remember the clouds. Dreamy-head or focussed – seemingly the former.

The chapel has for many years now been a private residence.

11th November, 2017. Humberside large period houses cont. + personal reflection.

Being three-storey and largely brick-built (freestone wall quoins) Burton Agnes Hall (see above, south facing front elevation) shares many features with Burton Constable. Even the ground-plan is similar although on a more domestic, less expansive scale. Largely built in the early 1600s Burton Agnes Hall is a classic example of grand Jacobean architecture (James I, the first Stuart monarch, 1603-1625). From 1654 to the present it has been the home of generations of the Boynton family, it remains a family home but part of the interior is open to the public (see website).

Although probably never on the scale at Burton Constable the land around Burton Agnes was landscaped at some point although only a small portion remains to the east of the house, this visible from the Bridlington road.

(Breaking off for 11am Remembrance).

This morning when taking the dog first thing and on crossing East Drain, the ebb tide having resulted in the sluice gates being open, noticed quite vigorous eddies in the flowing water resulting from a small in the bank at water level. This conjured in my mind’s eye recollections of a small tributary stream which drained/drains Oxborough Fen (south-west Norfolk). The bank I often walked as a young person, always intrigued by the eddies and swirling waters caused by local bank collapses or beds of aquatic plants. At points where the stream had eroded down to the chalk bedrock trout might be seen, generally facing up-stream and generating the minimal motion to remain still, with dace more common where the stream-bed was muddy. I occasionally followed the locally popular ‘sport’ of fishing and once caught a trout (the only one) from the bridge of the Fen road. Sadly I could not extract the hook from its throat and it bled to death. Have never forgiven myself and had a life-long hatred of blood-‘sports’ and the deployment of other animals in any human ‘sports’ or recreations.

The stream was a tributary of the River String which in-turn is a tributary of the River Wissey which in-turn is a tributary of the River Great Ouse.

10th November, 2017.

This following the blog of 30th October.

The first surviving written record of Burton Constable Hall dates from 1560 when it was already described as an ‘ancient building’. There is evidence in the immediate grounds of ‘ridge and furrow’ which may be related to the fact that nearby is a deserted village site, this and the building of the house and grounds may have been related. There were various enlargements to the exterior in the early 17th century and a painting of the east front dated c.1690, currently on display in the great hall, shows the house’s exterior much as today except that an outer courtyard and entrance gate have subsequently been demolished. Being built entirely of hand-made bricks Burton Constable Hall is a relatively early example of a large period house so built. The plain of Holderness provided no local building material except clay for the bricks and ‘cobbles’, set in a thick mortar when used as a walling material. ‘Cobbles’ are relatively large stones, rounded by marine abrasion and deposited in clay by retreating glaciers.

Further 18th century additions include an elegant detached orangery and a very extensive stable-block (s.p.b.), with brickwork so well created that it stands sound today.

The interior was re-ordered and embellished at various times, particularly in the mid 18th century and early 19th century. Part of the Hall remains the home of the Chichester-Constable family while the long-term, on-going scheme of restoration is overseen by the Burton Constable Foundation.

The grounds planting scheme is largely a product of an 18th century landscaping plan overseen by ‘Capability’ Brown and others and includes a man-made lake crossed by a footbridge, gatehouse lodge and ornate gardeners cottages.

5th November, 2017.

Apologies again for the ‘break in service’, have had a mid/late-life crisis – details to anyone interested but for the moment sufficient to state ‘no fool like an old fool’.

Last Monday saw the first of my five-week (short course) W.E.A. course on the English Civil Wars, 1642-1651, sometimes known as the Wars of three Kingdoms as military struggles took place in Scotland and Ireland as well as England. A couple of class members challenged me to make this ‘dry’ topic interesting, while I made it clear that no way could such a huge topic be covered comprehensively in just a five-session course. A vital factor in the plan for session one was class discussion. fortunately they rose to the occasion and the consensus at the end seemed to be that the session had gone well/ok.

The vital issue of making some superficial comparisons between historic civil wars (e.g. French, Russian) and the current one in Syria with the English Civil Wars we didn’t get to, so that will be starting point tomorrow evening.

Picture above shows Anthony Van Dyke’s painting of the execution of Charles I, 30th January, 1649. Van Dyke was a ‘royalist’, consideration of the reliability of picture evidence generally stimulates good discussion.

On a separate note when I take my dog out last-thing we go to a small local car park so she can wander a bit off the lead. About two months ago (if that) discovered a recently dead rabbit and stoat some distance apart in the grass. Don’t know what had happened, a stoat can kill a rabbit but hardly a rabbit a stoat (maybe the rabbit had a Cromwellian fighting spirit). Neither mortal remains were subsequently moved and now the two sites show little or no trace of the original creatures, their ‘component bits’ having returned to earth to be utilised by successive life-forms. If the mortal remains of Charles Stuart had been laid-out on Hampstead Heath the same would eventually have happened, it is Nature’s way – or indeed the remains of any one of us.

The promised further consideration of Burton Constable Hall will, I hope, follow soon.

30th October, 2017.

Yesterday visited a craft fair at Burton Constable Hall, central Holderness, East Yorkshire. So long since I had been to Burton Constable Hall that it was in effect a first visit. The event was held in part of the stable block of buildings, as the room was so large and showed no signs of past stable partitions I imagine it was once used to train horses, or indoor high jumping, dressage, or the like. The two courtyard stable block incorporates all the support trades needed for hunt horses and those used to transport the family and guests, many like the blacksmith’s ‘shop’ restored.

Also toured the house interior, self-guided route with guides in each principal room to discuss the fixtures and fittings should you wish. All very interesting and informative, although many items lack an explanatory caption. A couple of particularly interesting things for me were; the top floor of the three-storey building  were mostly servants quarters and it is only on specific days once a month that they are open, however a number of the principal rooms had the door by which the servants would have gained entry open so the steep, narrow access stairs and corridors were visible. Particularly interesting was the servants access behind a door into the master bedroom, on one side all opulence on the other a very steep wooden-stepped spiral staircase leading to a narrow dark corridor almost ‘in the wall’, this was the access whereby warm water was brought to the ‘master’s’ washing table (a modern-day health and safety nightmare).

Also the Roman Catholic chapel incorporated into the 18th century restorations. The Constable family were generally noted Roman Catholics, some members suffering for their faith. Maybe dictated by necessity, the high alter was not at the east end of the room. Similarly the beds in the various bedrooms faced various directions, north-south as well as east-west (a traditional notion being that one’s bed should have the same orientation as one’s grave will have, east-west).

The landscaped grounds are very fine with the plantations and individual trees still set in permanent grassland (unlike, for example Brocklesby Hall, north Lincolnshire, where the parkland has mostly been ploughed-up. Also at Burton Constable the grass of the parkland is cut and the clippings removed, giving a pristine image to the parkland. The ‘ridge-and-furrow’ evidenced in much of the parkland may be a remnant of a pre-enclosure open field or, maybe, evidence of being once ploughed-up (perhaps in the Second World War) by single, fixed-furrow ploughs.

More on Burton Constable to follow.


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