Lodges to lost houses: Thorington Hall Gate Lodge, Suffolk

Thorington Hall Lodge, Suffolk (Image: buildings_fan on Flickr)

Often the only visible sign of  a grand estate is the lodge house seen as we drive past; their varied size and designs indicating the wealth and aspirations of the owners.  Although still a integral part of the functioning of some estates, providing security and accommodation, sometimes these beautiful buildings lie abandoned, intriguing those who go past them everyday.  ‘The Restoration Man’ series on Channel 4 has been showing people who have been willing to take on abandoned listed buildings and bringing them back to life. The episode to be shown on Sunday 25 April features Thorington Hall Gate Lodge, a forlorn reminder of Thorington Hall, one of the many elegant demolished Suffolk country houses.

Although their main function was to provide shelter for the estate worker who opened the gates, lodges were often designed by the same pre-eminent architects who were working on the main house.  Far from being an afterthought, these houses were often strongly imbued with the overall architectural style of the estate and were seen as an important way of announcing the status of the estate and owner.  Alternatively they gave scope for the owner to indulge in some architectural experimentation.  The styles of the lodges are as varied as the many houses they protected, from Victorian Gothic follies to small thatched cottage orne to minature Greek temples, such as at Thorington Hall.  The publication of ‘pattern books’ such as Joseph Gandy’s ‘Designs for Cottages, Cottage Farms and other Rural Buildings, Including Entrance Gates and Lodges‘ (1805) also enabled the discerning owner to select particular buildings from an established design without the need for an architect.

Many of these lodge cottages are now no longer part of the estate and have been turned into interesting family homes.  Their smaller, more domestic, scale also ensured that they often survived the demolition of the main house.  One example is Clumber Park in Nottinghamshire where all nine lodges at each of the estate entrances survive despite the palatial mansion being demolished in 1938.  Increasingly, the modern estate owner is buying back these buildings to reintegrate them with the overall estate.  However, some still survive as neglected shells and these can prove to be an exciting opportunity to create a home.  One important factor bear in mind is that these houses are often very small (sometimes only two rooms) and their listed status means it’s not always possible to add significant new extensions.  One of the joys of these houses is their diminutive size and that should be respected when considering restoration, but completed sensitively, these houses can be an interesting feature of your local heritage.

To find lodge houses which may be available for sale, join SAVE Britain’s Heritage and access their ‘Buildings at Risk Register’ where you can search for these properties plus many others.  Their latest ‘Buildings at Risk’ report – ‘Live or Let Die’ – will be published on 1 June 2010 and can be pre-ordered now.

To find out more about the many country houses which have been demolished in Suffolk there is a superb book which has been recently published called ‘The Lost Country Houses of Suffolk’ by W.M. Roberts [amazon.co.uk].

Programme details: ‘The Restoration Man‘ [Channel 4]

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About Matthew Beckett - The Country Seat

An amateur architectural historian with a particular love of UK country houses in all their many varied and beautiful forms.
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5 Responses to Lodges to lost houses: Thorington Hall Gate Lodge, Suffolk

  1. Hilary Huckstep says:

    Drive past this lodge on a regular basis up and down the A12. Passed it last Wednesday on the way to Saxmundham to do some shopping and wondered how the work was going on will try to catch it via iPlayer as we do not have TV.

  2. Dale says:

    There are two lodge house case studies which spring to mind. One is Northaw Place, Hatfield and the other Oak Lodge at Dropmore Park Bucks where sizeable extensions with or without glazed links were refused on the grounds that they were inappropriately scaled in respect of the diminuative doll’s-house proportions of the lodges themselves. The second case went to appeal in 2008, which was dismissed.
    Consequently it is something of a surprise to see that the Thorington extension was consented. Actually I think George Clark was a bit surprised himself! Unless there are exceptional circumstances to make Thorington a special case, there is perhaps a danger that this case sets an unfortunate precedent for other disembodied lodges.
    That said, it is good to see another B@R find a new use and an owner prepared to take the time and trouble to repair it like for like and use sympathetic materials.

  3. robert says:

    my family owned Thorington Hall in the 50s for a short period, although then there was just the gate house and the servants living quarters as the house had been demolished.

  4. rob willett says:

    kedington suffolk,gate lodge,sold at auction £110k no access only by public footpath,needs a lot of repair or be lost,unless farmer moves old plough and allows access??

  5. As beautiful as these little lodges are, they just seem far to much effort for people to take on for minimal benefit. Like it has been stated they are often difficult, if not near impossible, to get any decent sized extension permission from planning, and to top it off are more often than not only two rooms. This either singles them out for elderly couples or bachelor pads! A crying shame that more of these buildings could be put to good use if planning were not so tight about development. I personally think that as long as style is tasteful and ad-heard too in regards to the original architectural design, that there is no need to impose such strict development regulations.

    Architects in Suffolk

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