A small country house of 1897, built in the Jacobean style to the designs of Silcock & Reay for W. E. Mallett Esq.
Reason for Listing
Rainbow Wood House, Widcombe Hill, Bath is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Architectural Interest: a good and individual example of a late Victorian small country house with elegant Jacobean-style detailing, by notable architects Silcock and Reay;
* Historic Interest: the residence of one of the foremost dealers in English and French furniture, W. E. Mallett, whose showrooms and brochures were highly influential on tastes in the late C19 and C20;
* Intactness: the building remains largely intact and its plan form readable;
* Interior: the building retains many high quality fixtures and fittings including panelling, chimney pieces, flooring, light fittings, and staircase; some of which may be salvaged from historic buildings elsewhere;
* Setting: Rainbow Wood House is set within a generous landscaped plot with woodland and ancillary structures, including a late-C19 ha-ha and a Grade II* listed C18 temple. This is a well-realised example of a late-C19 country estate commanding extensive views over the City of Bath.
Rainbow Wood is a narrow woodland area on a ridge overlooking Prior Park and the City of Bath. A small country house of the same name was established close to the Widcombe Hill end of the wood in 1897, as part of a newly-created small estate owned by Walter E. Mallett.
Mallett, of Mallett and Son, had extensive showrooms in Milsom Street, Bath from 1865, and sold expensive silver and gold wear, and later antique furniture. The jewellery business had been established earlier in the C19 by Walter's father, John, a silversmith. Mallett and Son displayed and traded antiques in the Octagon, a former C18 chapel, until 1937 when the business was wholly relocated to No. 40 New Bond Street, London. The shop in New Bond Street had been opened in 1908 by Walter, following the Franco-British Exhibition held at Earl's Court in that year. Adjacent to the Octagon Showrooms in Bath, the Octagon Chambers at No. 46 Milsom Street was the office of architects T. B. Silcock and S. S. Reay, who were commissioned to design Rainbow Wood, its stables and lodge, for Walter Mallett in the mid-1890s. Thomas Ball Silcock (1854-1924, Mayor of Bath in 1900 and 1910, and Member of Parliament for Wells 1906-10) had designed his own residence, Walden, close by on the north side of Widcombe Hill, a few years earlier.
A set of plans for the building from March 1897 survive but appear to be incomplete, and were superseded by a slightly later scheme to include a central stair, and a coach house attached to the north end of the service wing. A lodge, garden wall and gated entrance were also built at the same time, at the entrance to Widcombe Hill. Walter Mallett, his wife Florence, and their family were in residence at Rainbow Wood House by 1899.
Probably in the early C20, the stabling was adapted to provide motorcar garaging. In 1937, under direction of Major Lock, a small addition was put on the garden front of the main house and some internal alterations were made. Minor alterations to the main house, notably to the garage roof, and the insertion of window awnings on the west front, have been made in the later C20. Other late-C20 alterations include the reordering of the kitchen, the insertion of en-suite bathrooms in two of the bedrooms, and the conversion of a bedroom in the former service wing into a kitchen.
MATERIALS: constructed of Bath stone, with Combe Downe stone dressings to the exterior and Corsham stone for internal stone work. The building has clay tile roofs with ashlar stone stacks. The interior has a variety of timber fittings, including oak panelling.
PLAN: the building is constructed on an L-plan. The principal range faces north and is three-bays wide on an east/ west orientation, with a central reception hall and stair. The service wing is on a north/ south orientation, attached to a stable/ garage at the north end. Further garaging is attached to the east of the former stable, with store buildings attached to its north, creating a courtyard. The south-east corner of the main house has a two-bay kitchen and study.
EXTERIOR: of Neo-Jacobean design, featuring stone-mullioned casements and stone gables with decorative kneelers and stone ball finials. The two-storey façade faces a forecourt with the attached service wing extending in a northerly direction from the left. The central bay of the three-bay front has the principal entrance. The bay to the right is set back with two-light casements to each floor. The bay to the left is set further back and has a two-light casement to the ground floor and a four-light stair casement to the first floor. At the junction between the façade and the service wing is a single-storey round bay window with a conical roof and three casements. The upper-left opening has a drip mould with diamond stops and a central carved head, possibly a green man. Above the ground-floor windows is a projecting stone band that forms the cornice of the central door. The stone door case is classical in design with Doric pilasters to either side standing on rectangular plinths with a diamond in relief. Above the cornice stand stone obelisk finials to either side with stone strapwork between them. Below the second-floor cornice is a stone scallop shell detail. At upper level is a gabled parapet with date stone "W F M 1897". The parapet becomes an arcaded balustrade to the right bay. To the rear of the frontage, in line with the left bay, are two wide, stone gables with oculus ventilator openings.
The west front has four-light casements to the left and three-light casements to the right, under gables with ventilator openings. The south (garden) front has three bays under gables. The central bay has four-light casements to each floor. The left and right bays have three-light casements to the first floor and canted bays to the ground floor. Between the gables at upper level are short sections of oversailing eaves connecting with rainwater downpipes and hopperheads. To the right is a single-storey extension of 1937, built of Bath stone with a door to the left and a three-light casement to the right. The east elevation (service wing) is of plainer design with undecorated gables and stone casements, and has an attic floor. Attached to the north is a single-storey scullery range with double-pitched gabled roofs. Across the courtyard are single-storey outbuildings and an early-C20 garage constructed of stone with a glass lantern roof. The north end of the former stable block has a four-light casement to the first floor and some disturbed stonework to the ground floor. To the left is the entrance to the early-C20 garage, with wide sliding doors, a casement to either side, and a balustrade above with ball finials and an eagle statue. The west front of the former stables has an irregular arrangement of mullioned casements, under drip moulds to the ground floor, and under a central gable to the first floor. The west front of the service wing has two-bays of regularly spaced three-light casements to two floors and attic. To the left is a service entrance with an internal porch supported on Doric columns.
INTERIOR: the main entrance leads into an internal porch and vestibule with a cloakroom and bathroom to the right. The ground floor has original doors and door furniture throughout. To the left is the reception hall with a marble fireplace and oak panelling. The open-well staircase is constructed of a variety of types of timber. It has a wreathed handrail with inlay and decorative balusters, arranged as two twisted to one column-on-vase. To the left of the fireplace is the dining room with marble chimneypiece and a decorative plaster ceiling. To the right of the stair is the Oak Room, formerly the Morning Room and Inner Hall. The walls are lined with decorative oak panelling and the stone chimneypiece has a carved oak mantelpiece and overmantel. This room and the neighbouring drawing room have decorative plasterwork to the ceilings and ornate hanging light fittings. The Drawing Room has an elaborate plaster door surround and hand-worked mahogany doors. The chimneypiece is Adam-style. The kitchen areas have been reordered and refurbished in the C20 and the former main kitchen is a breakfast room. Two doorways lead though to the service wing. The back stair has column-on-vase balusters and a square newel post. A servant bell panel is fixed to the wall. A corridor leads to former pantry and store areas in their original proportions and with some fitted cupboards. Beyond is the work shop and garaging which have no historic fittings of note.
The main stair has a coved, ornamental plaster ceiling and a gallery to bedrooms, with a carved balustrade. The bedrooms have a mixture of Adam-style and marble fireplaces and some plain cornices. Two rooms have been partitioned to create en-suite bathrooms. The doors have original door furniture. On the half-landing of the stair is a doorway to the service wing and back stair. The two rooms accessed along a corridor have been converted to a kitchen and sitting room. A doorway at the end of the corridor leads to the Billiard Room, with oak panelling, ornate plaster ceiling and a stone fireplace with a carved oak mantel and overmantel. The service wing has an attic floor with no historic fittings of note.
SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: a stone garden balustrade encircles the north front forecourt and the west front. It has squat vase balusters and carved rectangular piers, with some decorative stone planters. It extends south via a ramped section to enclose part of the rear garden and adjoins a low wall and stone steps down to the lawn from the house.
Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.