Shell house of circa 1810, the shell-work reputed to have been executed by three sisters of the Mitford family of Pitshill House. Restored 2012-2014.
Reason for Listing
The Shell House at Pitshill House, a circa 1810 circular domed garden pleasure building with internal shell decoration, is listed at Grade II* for the following principal reasons: * Architectural interest: an early-C19 garden building with an elaborate decorative scheme, using about 50 shell types, both native and exotic, 22 minerals, corals, broken mouldings, animal bones and glass arranged variously in flat patterns, geometrical shapes or clusters linked by ribbon patterns of mussel shells; * Rarity of building type: shell houses are nationally rare and there are only about 20 statutorily listed shell houses in England; * Degree of survival: a substantial amount of the original shell-work decoration survives intact and the remainder has been recently restored in matching materials and style to a very high standard; * Comparators: comparable in quality and proportion of survival to a Grade II*-listed shell house at Thames Eyot, Twickenham, London; * Group value: forms part of a group with the main house, Pitshill House (Grade II*) and former stables (Grade II) within a registered Park and Garden.
This shell house was built circa 1810 and the shell-work is reputed to have been executed by three sisters of the Mitford family of Pitshill House. The Pitshill estate was bought by William Mitford of New Grove, Petworth circa 1760 and his son William re-modelled Pitshill House, for which Sir John Soane supplied drawings. The shell house is shown on the 1839 Tithe Map and also the First Edition Ordnance Survey map of 1875. The Pitshill estate remained in the Mitford family until 1959.The shell house was restored between 2012 and 2014.
Shell house of circa 1810, the shell-work reputed to have been executed by three sisters of the Mitford family of Pitshill House. Restored 2012-2014.MATERIALS: brick walls, which are lime rendered, a leaded roof covering over timber roof structure, stone floor.PLAN: circular structure with a domed roof about 6m high and 4.1m in diameter.EXTERIOR: the exterior is lime rendered over red brick. The domed roof has a central finial and three circular roof-lights with coloured glass, one in the centre of the north side, the others spaced equidistantly in the dome. The north elevation has a circa 2014 Portland stone entrance with a moulded cornice and pilasters and elliptical arched oak double doors. On either side are semi-circular windows with coloured glass. The south side has a similar window in the centre. INTERIOR: elaborate shell-work decoration set on wooden laths and lime mortar, consisting of about 50 species of shell both native and exotic, 22 different minerals, corals, broken mouldings, animal bones and glass. These are in random flat patterns, geometrical shapes or are grouped in clusters, and are linked by fluid ribbon patterns of mussel shells. In the centre of the south side is a convex looking glass reflecting the main house, with a Nautilus shell above and a slate shelf over pieces of flowstone. Three small marble stands are set in the shell-work, one to the west and one to each side of the central looking glass, which originally probably held candles or sconces. A frieze of large exotic shells, including Queen conch, Helmet and Triton shells and small rectangular pieces of looking-glass divide the walls from the ceiling. The dome was never originally completed with shell decoration but has now (2014) been completed using similar shells and patterns as the walls with the addition of a shell-work chandelier. The floor has stone paviours radiating from a central roundel of grey-black fossilised stone.
Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.