Walls enclosing the south court at Acton Court, constructed in the mid-C16 and restored in the late C20.
Reason for Listing
The walls of the south court at Acton Court are listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Historic interest: as a built element of the post-medieval landscape at Acton Court;
* Intactness: the forming of gateways and replacement of the east end of the south wall with a barn in the mid-C19 are relatively minor alterations within the overall context and the walls survive as a nearly-complete circuit.
* Group value: the walls form part of the context of Acton Court (Grade I) and have a close association with other listed structures and the scheduled archaeological remains at Acton Court, which together provide physical evidence as to the story of a historically-significant site with a great time depth.
A moated house, the capital messuage of the Acton family, was constructed on the north-western outskirts of Iron Acton in the mid-C13, possibly on the site of an earlier manor house. It became the principal seat of the Gloucestershire branch of the Poyntz family from 1364, when it was inherited by Sir John Poyntz from his aunt, the widow of the last of the Actons, to 1683. Following the Battle of Bosworth, Sir Robert Poyntz was knighted, raising the status of the family significantly. Henry VII came to Acton Court on 23 May 1486 en route to Bristol, during a royal progress. Sir Robert remained in favour when Henry VIII succeeded to the throne and achieved the position of chancellor to Queen Catherine of Aragon. Sir Robert's grandson, Sir Nicholas Poyntz, a courtier and naval commander, inherited Acton Court in 1532 and continued to enjoy the royal favour bestowed on his grandfather. He was given a command during the Irish rebellion of 1534-5, and was subsequently knighted. The ceremony may have taken place at Acton Court when Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, and their retinue, stayed there from 21 to 23 August 1535, during the course of their royal progress through the west of England during that summer.
The house was extensively rebuilt in the early C16 when the medieval kitchen was replaced by an east range, built and decorated specifically for the 1535 visit of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. New service buildings were constructed to the east beyond the moat ditch (now the east court). These additions were marked the start of a major programme of rebuilding by Sir Nicholas which continued until his death in 1556.
A large base court or enclosure was created to the south of the house in the mid-C16 and formed the principal approach to the building until the early to mid-C17. Known as the south court, it was largely laid out over an area of dumped building material that was probably deposited when parts of the medieval house were demolished. The court was wider than the house as it was aligned axially with the off-centre entrance porch. In the early C19 the southern approach to the house was reinstated, though on a different alignment to its original route. The court was subdivided with low boundary walls (now removed) to either side of the track and a garden was laid out in the north-east quadrant and an apple orchard in the western half. A range of farm buildings were also erected against the external face of the south wall, an outbuilding against the outer face of the east wall, and a further outbuilding against the north end of the inner face of the east wall. In 1849 the east end of the south wall was demolished and replaced with a barn. The first edition Ordnance Survey map of 1881 depicts these C19 buildings and also shows the track cutting across the court and aligning with an inserted gateway in the south wall.
In the early to mid-C17 a walled east court was laid out to the east of Acton Court, on the former site of the mid-C16 service buildings, and the approach to the house which was previously from the south was re-orientated through the east court. In 1680 following the death of Sir John Poyntz (who had no male heirs) the house was sold, altered and reduced in size, becoming, and remaining until 1984, a farmhouse. During this time substantial parts of the house were demolished.
MATERIALS: constructed of pennant rubble stone set in red loam and tightly bonded. There is a crenellated parapet to all except the south wall.
PLAN: it is a large rectangular enclosure measuring c75m north-south by 70m west-east. The mid-C19 barn at the south-east corner and the C19 outbuildings at the north end of the east wall are not of special interest.
DESCRIPTION: the walls to the SOUTH COURT are 0.8m wide at their base, tapering to 0.6m, and have a maximum height of 3.8m to the top of the crenellated parapet. Parts of both the west and east walls survive to their original full height, elsewhere the walls have been rebuilt in the late C20. The walls have a number of embrasures, those to the south wall have been infilled and there are single rows of putlogs in the west and east walls. The west wall of the court butted against the corner buttress of the west range of the house, while the east boundary wall originally terminated short of the south-east corner of the building; a short section of wall was constructed to fill this gap in the early C19. The west wall has a projecting rectangular bastion towards its north end and each of its faces has a slit window with deep internal splays. At the south-west corner is a circular tower that projects out beyond the court. It has an internal diameter of 2.1m with a doorway set across the corner; part of its south-east jamb survives and there is a reconstructed flight of steps to a viewing platform. It is likely that there was a second tower at the south-east corner of the court, but this may have been demolished when the mid-C19 barn was constructed at the east end of the south wall. The position of the original mid-C16 gateway in the south wall cannot be determined since the wall was largely rebuilt in the C19 and a new entrance inserted. The east wall is continuous and a straight joint towards its northern end is considered to mark the position of a further bastion which was removed to make way for an outbuilding erected against the external face of the wall.
Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.