Manor house originating in the C17 with C19 and early C20 alterations.
Reason for Listing
The Priory, a manor house originating in the C17 with C19 and early C20 alterations, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Architectural interest: for its origins in the second half of the C17 as a double-pile manor house constructed of local limestone and ironstone, and its evolution illustrating the changing taste of succeeding occupants;
* Interior: for its suite of finely crafted panelled reception rooms in the Arts and Crafts manner, notably the reception hall dominated by a stone fireplace with smooth corbelled jambs that rise gracefully upwards to the overmantel and from thence around the room forming a frieze. The decoupage in the former schoolroom is a significant survival from this period;
* Fixtures and fittings: for the early C16 screen which has large panels of distinctive carving and which is a spectacular and important survival, despite being divorced from its provenance. Whilst the date of the other fragments of carved woodwork is not certain, they are nevertheless significant elements in the remodelled interior and contribute to the interest of its design.
The Priory stands on the site of what may have been the moated medieval house of Cosgrove Manor, the earliest mention of which is in Domesday Book. The current building dates to the C17 and is believed to have been built by Christopher Rigby, a merchant tailor who fled London during the Plague. Apparently an outbuilding bears the date of 1676. The house passed to George Biggen and then onto his second son, also George, neither of whom lived there. It was inherited by George’s nephew George Mansel whose family let it for much of the C19, attracting such distinguished tenants as General Thomas Graham, a national hero during the time of the Duke of Wellington. In 1882 The Priory was sold to John Jepson Atkinson and it stayed in his family until 1979 when it was bought by David Moore. He renovated the house and converted the stables into a residential dwelling. The Priory was subsequently used as corporate headquarters but in 2010 it reverted to a residential dwelling and the former dairy was converted into ancillary residential accommodation.
The house had become known as The Priory by 1774. It has evolved under successive owners, and appears to have been considerably altered during the Victorian and Edwardian periods. The first edition Ordnance Survey (OS) map of 1884 shows the house set in grounds of a roughly rectangular shape with a small section along the north-western edge labelled ‘moat’. The house has an approximately rectangular plan with a long range projecting from the north-west corner which is likely to have contained the kitchen, scullery etc. To the west there is a long linear outbuilding, presumably also a service range, as the former dairy occupies the west end. To the north of the house is the L-shaped stable block. By the time the second edition OS map appeared in 1900, the house had been extended on the north-west side (providing the inner hall and rear hall) thereby becoming attached to the long outbuilding to the west. The third edition OS map of 1925 shows that a further extension had been added on the south-west corner of the house (providing a billiards room) and that the long service range extending from the north-west corner had been truncated. At some point between 1925 and the current OS map, the outbuilding has also been partially demolished as now only the former dairy remains.
Manor house originating in the C17 with C19 and early C20 alterations.
MATERIALS: roughly dressed limestone with ironstone dressings, and a roof covering of plain clay tiles. The service wing is constructed of red brick, probably handmade, with stone dressings, and a roof covering of plain clay tiles.
PLAN: the house has a double-pile plan with a short narrow service range extending from the north-west corner. The entrance lobby is on the north-east elevation. The south-east pile contains the dining room and drawing room, and the parallel north-west pile contains a long reception hall with a staircase in the south-west corner, followed by a small study. To the north-west is the inner hall and rear hall, both added in the late C19; and to the south-west is the billiard room, added in the early C20. There are seven first-floor rooms, and five attic rooms, one of which is the former schoolroom.
EXTERIOR: the double-pile part of the house has two storeys and an attic. The steeply pitched roofs have raised coping at the gable ends and a wide chimney stack rises from the south pitch of the north-west pile. The ground and first floors are lit by cross windows with timber mullions and transoms, probably C20 in date. The symmetrical south-west elevation has four bays and two wide triangular gables at attic level, lit by six-light ironstone mullion windows with a single transom. There is a string course at first-floor level.
The south-west elevation has, on the right side, the M-shaped gable ends of the double-pile. The right bay has a two-storey canted bay window, and to the left at ground and first-floor level are two narrow single-light windows in ironstone surrounds. The bay to the left has a timber door with glazed panels. It is lit on the first floor by a three-light limestone mullion window. The two gable heads are pierced by six-light ironstone mullion windows with a single transom. To the left is a tall single-storey extension, added in the early C20 to provide a billiard room, which replicates the architectural style and materials of the older part of the house. It has four bays lit by timber cross windows, and a central triangular gable rising from the eaves with identical fenestration.
It has not been possible to see the north-east and north-west elevations, or the two-storey service range, although this appears to have raised stone coping at the gable end and multi-light windows with timber glazing bars and a timber lintel.
INTERIOR: the decorative scheme of the three reception rooms appears to belong predominantly to an extensive remodelling carried out in the late Victorian or Edwardian period. The high quality fittings and joinery have an Arts and Crafts character, and evoke the C17 vernacular origins of the house. All three rooms have parquet floor coverings. The reception hall has a dominant chimney piece of ashlared stone consisting of a wide surround with a broad lintel and smooth corbelled jambs. The overmantel consists of a plain stone panel, except for two ogee-arch niches, and it extends as a frieze around the room which has square panelling of varying heights. The ceiling has moulded timber beams laid vertically and horizontally, forming squares. The dining room has full-height square panelling and a stone fireplace with a chamfered four-centred arch. The projection between the two windows on the south-east wall is fitted with a large mirror which has an elaborately carved timber surround. This is either pseudo-Jacobean or comprised of fragmentary early C17 woodwork, possibly from a carved frieze or pilasters.
The party wall between the reception hall and dining room contains a spectacular carved timber screen which is said to have come from Devon. It dates to c.1500 and is likely to have been made for the screens passage in a hall house. It has two four-centred archways and in the spandrels are leaves and a reclining man. The panels are enriched parchemin, a C16 development of linenfold incorporating vines and foliage.
The drawing room is panelled to dado height and the ceiling has closely spaced joists. Set at an angle in the west corner is a stone fireplace with a chamfered four-centred arch and a carved timber overmantel. This has three panels, the outer two are fitted with mirrors and the central one contains a woman’s profile in relief. The frame appears to be a mix of early elements, probably dating to c.1600-50, whereas the undulating vine leaf frieze panels are probably C16. It is possible however that the overmantel could be competent C19 work using a diverse mixture of replica styles.
The early C20 double-height billiard room is panelled to dado height and has arch-braced trusses. The open-well, quarter turn staircase is situated in the north-west corner of the reception hall. It has a panelled dado, square newel posts, and a closed string from which rise shaped balusters. The stair is lit by a large nine-light mullion window with stained glass depicting the Atkinson family and, presumably, their coat of arms. It has not been possible to see any of the first-floor or attic rooms except for the former schoolroom. This has a timber-clad ceiling with joists, and vertical timber panelling to dado height. The north-west wall has a wide round-arched opening with a stone ring and soffit. The remaining face of the wall has been covered in Victorian or Edwardian scenic pictures, predominantly featuring ladies of a romantic or Pre-Raphaelite character. The pasting of such pictures onto walls, panels and screens was a common past-time of the period.
Other rooms are likely to have a similar standard of design and finish.
Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.