It seems remarkable that between the popularity of country houses as tourist attractions or business or simply as homes that any would be at risk. Yet as the 2010 SAVE Britain’s Heritage Building’s at Risk Register shows there are still a broad selection of fine houses which, for various reasons, are in need of someone with a desire to restore part of our heritage, lots of dedication, and pretty deep pockets.
One of the saddest is the case of Nocton Hall in Lincolnshire – a county which has lost so many of it’s fine old country houses already. Fire is still one of the main reasons a house can quickly go from being a secure home to an ‘at risk’ shell. Grade-II listed Nocton Hall is a warm honey-coloured stone house built for the 1st Earl of Ripon in 1841 to replace the original Jacobean house which burnt down in 1834. After a stint as an RAF hospital in WWII it became a residential home before being bought by a property developer. Unfortunately no development took place and the house was allowed to slowly deteriorate before a serious fire severely damaged what had been a perfectly good house. Still sitting in its own gardens and parkland and near the village Nocton Hall cries out to be restored either as a h,otel or ideally as a grand family home.
To look at the photo, Barmoor Castle in Northumberland looks in pretty good shape – but a picture can hide as much as it shows. The first issue with Barmoor is that it actually is unused and sits in the middle of a caravan park which has been established in the grounds. Inside, there is some water damage as the roof has been leaking – although recent work, part funded by English Heritage, has alleviated this for the moment. Barmoor was built in 1801 around an older tower by the architect John Patterson of Edinburgh in a castellated Gothic Revival style for Francis Sitwell, in whose family it remained until 1979 when it was sold along with 200-acres. The current owners have operated the caravan park since then but didn’t live in the house or use it leading to it’s current neglected state. This is a classic example of where a house could be rescued from an inappropriate use, restored and enjoyed as a fine country house as was intended.
St Botolphs Mansion in Pembrokeshire was built in the early 1800’s for General Richard Le Hunt is a house in need of a use rather than repair. The Doric porch and neat window architraves create an interesting facade which would normally ensure that such a house would be jealously fought over if it came to market. However it is now owned by the nearby oil refinery (the proximity probably ruling out residential use) but they are exploring options as to how to make use of this elegant Georgian house – perhaps as a conference facility might be more appropriate. Either way, this is a house which shouldn’t be forgotten.
Other country houses of note in the report include the Grade-II* listed Plas Machen nr Newport, the surviving portion of the 15th-century house of the Morgans who moved up in the world to Tredegar House, which is for sale. Also for sale, since 2007, is Benwell Towers in Newcastle which was a country house when built but is now suburban, achieving fame in later life as the set for the kid’s TV series ‘Byker Grove’.
Even if your pockets can’t stretch to a country house there are many other buildings seeking a saviour so do order your copy of ‘Live or Let Die‘ and certainly consider joining SAVE Britain’s Heritage to help to preserve our architectural legacy for future generations.