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Ayscoughfee Hall, Spalding

Description: Ayscoughfee Hall

Grade: I
Date Listed: 29 December 1950
English Heritage Building ID: 197253

OS Grid Reference: TF2491322362
OS Grid Coordinates: 524910, 322365
Latitude/Longitude: 52.7844, -0.1493

Location: B1172, Spalding, Lincolnshire PE11 2RA

Locality: Spalding
Local Authority: South Holland District Council
County: Lincolnshire
Country: England
Postcode: PE11 2RA

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Listing Text


Museum, formerly a mansion developed from a substantial high status medieval open hall. Mid-C15 with C17 and C18 alterations, extensively remodelled between 1781 and 1808, and again c1834, together with further extensions. It was further altered to create the present museum which opened in 1987.

Reason for Listing

Ayscoughfee Hall, on Church Gate, Spalding is designated at Grade I for the following principal reasons:

* Historic Fabric: Ayscoughfee Hall is a rich repository of historic fabric in terms of the survival of medieval structural brickwork and roof carpentry. Its significance in this respect is enhanced by the architectural quality of subsequent remodellings, which themselves are notable representations of influential architectural styles of the C18 and C19.

* Continuity: Ayscoughfee Hall represents the continuous evolution of a high status mansion from the mid-C14 to the end of the C19, involving significant phases of remodelling and extension which have nevertheless not obscured the imprint of the original medieval open hall plan.

* Roof Carpentry: Ayscoughfee Hall retains a remarkable and substantially complete range of medieval roof structures of varied form, with the arch-braced roof trusses of the open hall, scissor braced rafters with collars to the north cross-wing, and queen post trusses to the south cross-wing. The exceptional interest of the roof carpentry is further enhanced by dendrochronological evidence which indicates a single mid-C15 phase of roof construction.

* Complexity: The complex sequence of remodelling, alteration and enlargement evident at Ayscoughfee Hall is clearly and visibly expressed throughout the building with successive phases of change adding layers of interest to the medieval footprint.

* The hall has group value with its designed landscape which is on the Register of Historic Parks and Gardens at Grade ll.


The origins of Ayscoughfee Hall are not clearly documented, but recent dendrochronological dating of the building's roof timbers suggest a mid-C15 date for the felling of the timber used in its roof structures. Recent research indicates that the building was known as 'Aiscoughall' by the late C15 and that it was owned by successive members of the Gayton family. By 1557 the house was owned by Reginald Hall, whose son Robert sold Ayscoughfee to Thomas Wimberley in 1602. It was then exchanged or sold several more times in 1621, 1639 and 1658, when it became the property of the Johnson family. It remained in the family's ownership throughout the C18 and much of the C19, during which time, in 1712, Maurice Johnson established a Gentlemen's Society in Spalding. His son, also Maurice, was a founder member of the Society of Antiquaries, and lived at Ayscoughfee until his death in 1755. His son, Colonel Maurice Johnson, died in 1793, and was succeeded by the Reverend Maurice Johnson, the incumbent of Spalding Parish Church, who was to make significant alterations to the house. By 1808, he had completely remodelled its west front in the Gothick style and created a galleried entrance hall within the former open hall in the central range. By 1821 a single-storey extension had been added to the rear elevation. His grandson, the sixth Maurice, inherited the house in 1834, and began a second phase of significant alteration, remodelling the front elevation into its present form. These alterations are possibly the work of William Todd, who in 1843-4 designed the similarly-detailed Gamlyn Almshouses on Church Street. Additional rooms were added to the north of the north cross-wing, together with many alterations to the building's interior, including the creation of a panelled library in the south wing. The Johnson family left the house in 1851, and Ayscoughfee was leased to a succession of tenants until 1898, when the house was sold to a committee of Spalding citizens and conveyed as a public museum and recreation ground, the whole to serve as a permanent reminder of Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee. In 1902 it was transferred to Spalding Urban District Council and thence to South Holland District Council in 1974. It was later renovated and altered to form a museum which opened in 1987.


MATERIALS: Red brick, much of which is medieval, with ashlar stone dressings, quoins, coped gables, crenellated parapets, tall brick ridge chimneys and slate roof coverings.

PLAN: The building has a modified H-shaped plan formed around the original open hall and its cross-wings with major extensions to the north cross-wing and a small addition to the south cross-wing.

EXTERIOR: The entrance front (west elevation) has a five-bay, two-storey central range with advanced gables to the north and south cross-wings. Linking the cross-wings at the front of the central range is a five-bay loggia with pointed arch-headed openings and arcade piers with shallow stepped buttresses. These extend upwards through a shallow ashlar parapet pierced by quatrefoils to form low domed pinnacles. Behind the loggia are tall pointed arched windows which flank a centrally-placed doorway with slender attached columns to its surround and two-panelled double doors beneath an arched head. Above are five, two-light Y-traceried windows with cusped heads to the lights, set below a corbelled string course. Above this is a low crenellated parapet with a wide shallow broken pediment to its centre which supports a coat of arms surmounted by a stone eagle. The crenellated parapet is returned along the inner side walls of the advanced cross-wings which have elaborate Dutch gables. These have full-height canted bays incorporating mullioned windows with ogee-headed lights and shallow crenellated parapets. To the north of the north cross-wing is a substantial C15 tower which is square in plan and of three storeys, with a much taller stair turret at its south-west corner. The turret, extended in the C19, has a crenellated parapet set above machicolations. The tower's west elevation has a tall transomed C19 two-light window to each of the upper floors below a deep parapet. Its north wall has a wide projecting chimney breast supported by stone corbels. The rear (south) elevation is more representative of the building's many phases of development. The steeply-pitched gables of the cross-wings are plainly detailed, that to the north end now partially hidden behind mid-C19 extensions to the east of the cross-wing and to the tower further to the north. The gable has a first-floor three-light mullioned window set beneath a hood mould. To the left is a section of the rear wall of the former open hall and a much-restored medieval canted oriel window which originally lit the upper 'high' end of the open hall. The surrounding medieval brickwork here rises from a shallow and now much-decayed stone plinth and C19 crenellations have been added to the wall head and to the oriel. Further to the left is an advanced C19 extension to the hall with an ashlar turret to the right-hand corner, a ground floor doorway and an upper floor two-light mullioned window. To the left of this is a wide Tudor-arch-headed doorway with a three-pane rectangular over-light. The east gable of the south cross-wing has a ground floor Venetian window with narrow side lights and intersecting glazing bars to the central section and an enlarged and altered window opening at first-floor level which retains elements of the surrounds to two earlier openings, including a hood mould. The south elevation to the seven-bay two-storied section of the south cross-wing rises from a much earlier low stone plinth. It has late-C19 two-pane sash windows to the five western ground-floor bays and C19 two-light mullion and transom windows with hood moulds to the upper floor, all beneath a crenellated parapet. The remaining two-bay section has no visible openings, a single-storey garden room having been built against the east end of the cross-wing in the late C19.

INTERIOR: The interior of the building underwent significant early-C21 alteration as a result of its change of use to a museum. The principal ground- and first-floor rooms are now used as display galleries, and the spacious arcaded entrance hall is now a reception and sales area. The gallery above, supported by six slender columns with acanthus leaf decoration to the capitals, is accessed by means of the stair hall in the central part of the north cross-wing. A curved half-turn stair with landings, plain iron balusters and a ramped iron handrail leads to the gallery, which provides a link between the upper floor display areas in the two wings. The gallery ceiling, inserted beneath the medieval roof trusses of the open hall, has Adam's style plasterwork decoration, and other areas, such as the frieze below the iron balustrading and the door and window reveals, are similarly detailed. In the south cross-wing, most of the C19 interiors have been retained in the Library and Spalding Gentlemen's Society Room display areas. The Library is finished throughout with African mahogany and incorporates wall panelling, glass-fronted bookcases, panelled doors and moulded architraves. The other principal rooms within the cross-wings retain C18 and C19 hearths, but in the main have plain wall finishes and modern gallery lighting as befits their present gallery function. The tower and its undercroft are used as display and storage areas, but retain much early fabric throughout, including the remains of medieval door and window openings, the spiral stair in the stair turret, and at second-floor level, arch-braced roof trusses carried on the stubs of corner posts. The C19 extensions to the north cross-wing house the museum offices.

The adaptation of the building to museum use revealed much early fabric concealed by subsequent remodellings. The most significant survivals are the original roof structures to the open hall and the north and south cross-wings, all three of which display different high quality carpentry characteristics. The former open hall has arched-braced roof trusses with cambered tie beams and collars, ashlar posts, brattished wall plates, decorative pierced spandrels to the arch braces and two tiers of moulded purlins. The north wing roof structure is made up of 47 closely-spaced pairs of scissor-braced and collared rafters carried on ashlar posts and wall plates. The south wing roof is comprised of queen post trusses which support a single tier of purlins. The trusses have arch-braced collars and curved wind braces supporting the purlins. This variety of roof carpentry is all the more remarkable for having apparently been erected in a single constructional phase. Dendrochronological sampling of the roof structures of the hall, tower and cross-wings produced a single site chronology, and a tree ring sequence spanning the years 1343-1451. This sequence strongly suggests that the timber used in all parts of the original building was felled in, or close to, 1451. Other early features visible within the interior include moulded ogee-headed stone door surrounds, a vaulted brickwork undercroft and a cross-vaulted ribbed brickwork ceiling to a former staircase in the south cross-wing, partially removed when the library bookcases were installed in the late C19.

Ayscoughfee Hall forms a group with the Garden Wall to Ayscoughfee Hall (q.v.), the War Memorial in the gardens to Ayscoughfee Hall (q.v) and the Parish Church of St Mary and St Nicholas (q.v.).

Source: English Heritage

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