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Nutfield Priory, Nutfield

Description: Nutfield Priory

Grade: II
Date Listed: 12 August 2011
English Heritage Building ID: 1400998

OS Grid Reference: TQ2980850153
OS Grid Coordinates: 529814, 150148
Latitude/Longitude: 51.2358, -0.1419

Locality: Nutfield
Local Authority: Tandridge District Council
County: Surrey
Country: England
Postcode: RH1 4EL

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Explore more of the area around Nutfield, Surrey at Explore Britain.

Listing Text


Nutfield-Priory is a mansion built between 1872-4, designed by John Gibson for Joshua Fielden in a mixture of Gothic and Neo-Tudor styles, but incorporating cloisters and conservatory of 1858-9 by John Norton for an earlier house owned by H E Gurney. There were minor C20 alterations and the 1960s north extension is not of special interest.

Reason for Listing

* Architectural quality: a major country house of 1872-4 in a mixture of Gothic and Neo-Tudor styles by the distinguished architect John Gibson who had few country house commissions. It also incorporates 1858-9 cloisters and conservatory by John Norton.
* Interiors: fine and complete interiors of the 1870s including elaborate carved joinery and marble and stone fireplaces.
* Technological innovation: preserves a system for blowing hot air disguised as a ceiling pendant.
* Intactness: survives with few alterations.
* Historic interest: the Gurney family between 1854 and 1866 were a byword for wealth until the family firm crashed with liabilities of £19 million. Joshua Fieldern was an MP for Todmorden from one of Lancashire's largest cotton manufacturing firms whose father had guided the Ten Hours Bill through the House of commons in 1847.


The land on which the present Nutfield Priory is built belonged in the Middle Ages to Reigate Priory, a house of Augustinian canons, founded before 1240 by William de Warenne, the Fifth Earl of Surrey. Following the Dissolution of the Monasteries the land was first seized by the Crown, but five years later Reigate Priory’s assets were granted by Henry VIII to Lord William Howard, uncle of his fifth wife Catherine Howard. The estate descended by inheritance to Viscount Charles Mordaunt who sold it in 1681 to John Parsons, a wealthy London brewer. In 1766 the estate was sold in several lots and the existing house Lot 7, known as Hungerford Farm with 93 acres, was bought by John Fowler of Bletchingly, who bequeathed it to John Fowler Wood. In 1854 Wood sold the property to H E Gurney and the Deed of Conveyance mentions ‘a recently erected mansion house and farm and land called Hungerford, otherwise Priors Farm, 94 acres, 1 rood and 3 perches.’

Gurney was a Quaker and associated with the bill broking business of Overend Gurney and Co. Additions were made to the house in 1858-9 by John Norton, including a conservatory, and the estate was extended to 1750 acres. Gurney’s name became a by-word for wealth (cf. ‘…at length I became as rich as the Gurneys…’ from The Judge’s song in Trial by Jury by W S Gilbert (1875).) However in 1866 the firm Overend Gurney collapsed with liabilities of 19 million pounds and the estate at Nutfield was sold by the liquidators of the firm. James Watney of the brewing family bought the mansion with its park and three farms for £60,491 but never lived there and conveyed the property in 1869 to Joshua Fielden of Stansfield Hall Todmorden.

Joshua Fielden (1827-1887) was a Quaker, a partner in one of Lancashire’s largest cotton manufacturing firms and an MP for the east division of the West Riding, whose father had guided the Ten Hours Bill through the House of Commons in 1847. He retired from the firm in 1869, bought the estate at Nutfield and commissioned the architect John Gibson to create a mansion to replace the earlier house on the site. The new house was built between 1872-4, incorporating John Norton’s 1858-9 conservatory from the earlier house. The Great Hall had stained glass windows by F R Pickersgill commemorating the Fielden family, the cotton industry and the Ten Hours Movement. A report on the new house appeared in The Builder on 17 January 1874. After 1880 Fielden retired from Parliament and spent much time abroad or on his yacht ‘Zingara’. Later C19 external and internal photographs of the property survive and external photographs of 1907 and later by Francis Frith.

In 1920 the Fielden family sold the property to the Hutton family and the sales particulars mentioned on the ground floor ‘Entrance hall…a capital dining room…a noble conservatory with arched glass roof and paved with Minton’s tiles…a well proportioned library…an elegant and spacious drawing room…a morning room…and well-arranged domestic offices’. The house was soon sold on to a Mr Picton–Davies and converted into a hotel in about 1929. It was probably in the 1920s that the Great Hall windows by F R Pickersgill commemorating the Fielden family were replaced by heraldic glass of notable Mediaeval barons, English and European. During the Second World War Nutfield Priory was commandeered for military use and is thought to have been used as an officers mess. Between 1948 and 1953 it was used by the NAAFI. Between 1954 and 1989 the house became a Secondary Modern Boarding School for Severely Deaf Children which pioneered the sound induction system and CCTV. An extension was added in matching style at the north-west corner in the 1970s. The school closed following advances in medical science which led to a decreasing incidence of severe deafness. In 1989 Nutfield Priory became a hotel.

The 187O 1:1250 scale Ordnance Survey map shows the previous house to the current Nutfield Priory with John Norton’s conservatory and cloisters of 1858-9 shown hatched. There is no change to the house’s outline on the 1896 edition. By the 1912 edition the house is shown almost to its current extent, except for the 1970s extension, with a boundary wall with steps enclosing the north side of the courtyard.


Nutfield Priory is a mansion built between 1872-4, designed by John Gibson for Joshua Fielden in a mixture of Gothic and Neo-Tudor styles, but incorporating cloisters and conservatory of 1858-9 by John Norton for an earlier house owned by H E Gurney. There were minor-C20 alterations and the 1960s north extension is not of special interest.

MATERIALS: It is constructed of Kentish ragstone rubble with Reigate stone dressings, tiled roof and clustered brick chimneystacks and is an asymmetrical building mainly of two storeys and attics with irregular fenestration.

EXTERIOR: The entrance front faces north with principal rooms mainly on the west side and service rooms to the east. The principal features are a projecting six-storey tower over the main entrance and adjoining great hall window. The tower has a crenellated parapet and pseudo-machicolations with gargoyle waterspouts at the corners. The upper floors have elaborate paired traceried windows and paired bands between floors. The entrance has a pointed arch with moulded half-columns and text ‘there’s a divinity that shapes our ends rough hew them how we may’ and quatrefoils beneath the dripmoulding with emblems including elephant, lion, owl, book and scales. Underneath is a vaulted vestibule with roof bosses leading to the double doors which are half-glazed with carved cinquefoil heads and similar sidelights. To the right terminating this elevation are two gable ends, and a flying buttress from the tower connects with one of them. To the left are three paired elliptical-headed windows on the second floor and below are the tall windows of the Great Hall. The central part of the window consists of a projecting square bay with carved parapet, carved corner waterspouts and the inscription ‘When Adam Delved and Eve span who was then the gentleman’. The windows are of three tiers with traceried heads and leaded lights. The side windows are similarly paired windows of three tiers with traceried heads but have quatrefoils at the top. To the left are four gables with moulded finials and two or three-light mullioned casement windows. A projection of two bays at the eastern end has a similar gable and a gabled dormer, two-light mullioned casements and a projecting corridor at ground level with arched windows divided by buttresses. Attached to the north is the 1970 extension.

The west elevation has a projecting section of three storeys and attics with gable, three-light window to second floor and two-storey canted bay below with moulded panels, gargoyle waterspouts and traceried window. The adjoining bay has a flat roof, two flat-arched windows with tracery and elliptical-headed entrance with side-light. To the right is the return of the south side with gable end with clustered chimneystack and a projecting bay on the ground floor.

The south or garden front divides into two sections. The western part projects and is of five bays. The western bay has a gable with moulded finial and a three storey four-light canted bay below with decorated panels between the floors and cinquefoil heads to the ground-floor window. The next two bays have a two-storey square bay on the left with traceried heads to the ground-floor window and entrance to the right with quatrefoil above the doorcase and traceried side-lights. The penultimate gable has elliptical-headed widows to the upper floors and elaborate four-light canted bay to the ground floor with traceried heads. The end bay has a first-floor oriel with crenellated parapet and traceried window. Below are three traceried windows divided by buttresses. The eastern part of the south front has a projecting ground-floor conservatory with entrance in a projecting central section with the initials JF carved above the arched doorcase and two paired windows with cinquefoil-headed lights divided by buttresses and end finials. Set back on either side are four similar windows. Late-C19 photographs show the conservatory originally had a domed roof, later replaced with a flat roof. Behind is a slender bell turret with ogee-shaped roof, three gables and a square tower with crenellated parapet. The south side terminated in a gabled former billiard room.

The east side has a simple arched entrance and two lower single-storey wings, the northern one with end brick chimneystack.

SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: On the north side of the entrance courtyard is a stone screen wall of ragstone rubble with ashlar dressings. The wall has triangular stone coping and ten buttresses. In the centre is an arched entrance to a flight of stone steps. At the ends are chamfered ashlar piers with decorated pyramidal caps. To the south of the house is a terrace wall of Reigate stone with two sets of steps with moulded coping terminating in integral octagonal piers. At the east and west ends of the lower terrace are three-sided rectangular stone alcoves with moulded coping, also terminating in integral octagonal piers containing stone benches. To the west of the house are two similar sets of stone steps to those on the south side of the house.

INTERIOR: Entrance through the main entrance under the tower on the north side leads into a vestibule with a stone fireplace with carved spandrels, engaged composite columns and Minton tiles, a boarded ceiling and similar double doors to the outer door, except with quatrefoil designs to the fanlight. This leads directly to the main staircase which is of dogleg type with elaborate traceried balustrading, square newel posts with ball finials and dado panelling. The ceiling is boarded and at the base of the staircase is a pair of pointed arches supported on a circular pink marble column. To the east is the two-storey high Great Hall, originally approached through an open arch which had doors inserted in the C20. Within the Great Hall this arch has engaged colonnettes with quatrefoils and mouchettes in the spandrels and a text above ‘God’s Providence is mine inheritance’ and at the upper level are three open arches with colonnettes. The boarded ceiling has an elaborate octagonal carved wooden and gilded pendant centrepiece which blew hot air into the room and staircase. There is a carved wooden balcony to the south, the walls have tall elaborate panelling and on the south wall is a carved four-centred arched stone fireplace. The east wall has an arched recess housing a contemporary organ. The organ case has elaborate carved gables and gilded and ornamented pipes. The Great Hall windows on the north side, originally with motifs designed by F R Pickersgill commemorating the Fielden family was superceded, probably in the 1920s, by armorial shields of prominent medieval English and continental families. In the south east corner are two arched doorcases. One leads into a south vestibule with pointed-arched stone roof with trefoil and quatrefoil motifs leading to two principal rooms. To the east is the former dining room, now bar lounge, which has an elaborate gilded cornice and a stone fireplace with four-centred arch, panel of quatrefoils and colonnettes with floral capitals and shafts of pink marble. A shelf above is also in pink marble. A door in the south-east corner with quatrefoil and mouchette carved decoration above the arch and traceried heads to the door leads to the cloisters which have ribbed vaults with carved stone bosses and Minton-tiled floors. At the eastern end is the three-bay rectangular former conservatory which has engaged-stone colonnettes and boarded ceiling. An entrance at the eastern end leads to the former billiard room, now Bletchingly Room, which does not retain any original fittings. To the west of the former dining room is the former Library. This has a boarded ceiling with rib and bosses, built-in bookcases with ornamented cornices, a stone four-centre arched fireplace with mirrored overmantel with arches and colonnettes, panelled shutters and nine-panelled doors. At the western end of the south side is the Gibson Room, formerly a drawing room. This has a strapwork ceiling and Louis Quinze style panelling of polished bird’s-eye maple and rosewood relief incorporating large pier mirrors flanking the carved window embrasures. There is a richly decorated cornice and reeded pilasters flank the fireplace. The fireplace is not the original shown in a late-C19 photograph but is an Italian white-and-buff-carved and inlaid marble fireplace. The Worth Room at the north-west corner has an elaborate floral cornice, a white marble fireplace with paterae and console brackets and a tall Chubb’s safe, possibly for safeguarding guns. The other doorway leading off the Great Hall leads to a corridor. The room to the east of the Great Hall, possibly a study or morning room originally, has a four-centred arched stone fireplace with stylised-floral frieze, carved spandrels and pink-marble shelf, brackets and pilasters with Minton tiles to the cheeks and hearth. Further adjoining rooms to the east with cornices are reported. On the first floor the north-western bedroom has a decorative cornice and nine-panelled door. The south-western bedroom has Louis Seize style panelling.

Source: English Heritage

Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.