Description: Thornton Manor
Date Listed: 2 December 1986
English Heritage Building ID: 215482
OS Grid Reference: SJ3004381704
OS Grid Coordinates: 330043, 381704
Latitude/Longitude: 53.3276, -3.0518
1755/6/155 MANOR ROAD
02-DEC-1986 THORNTON HOUGH
Country house. Former principal residence of William Lever (Viscount Leverhulme). Originally c.1840/50s. First altered for Lever by Jonathan Simpson c.1891. Substantial alterations of c.1896 by Douglas and Fordham, kitchen and service wing by Grayson and Ould, stables c.1899 by J.J. Talbot, music room of 1902 by J.J. Talbot, 1912-14 SW garden front by J Lomax-Simpson. Red sandstone with light sandstone dressings, stone slate roofs, decorative lead rainwater goods. Mainly 3 storeys plus basement. Jacobean style with references to Vernacular Revival.
PLAN: Complex irregular plan with attached reverse U-shaped stable and garage court to NW side. Long SE entrance front, E-plan SW garden front, double-height music room to NE rear set at angle to main part of house with fernery attached to NE side. Glasshouses, indoor swimming pool and supper room set to far NE corner at right angle to music room and fernery.
EXTERIOR: To all elevations: Decorative stonework. Lead downpipes with decorative wall fixings and ornate moulded hoppers incorporating latticework. Stone mullion, and mullion and transom windows, leaded glazing (some patterned), hoodmoulds to windows and doors. Projecting stringcourses. Substantial ridge and end stacks. Decorative pierced balustrades of varying styles above bay windows.
SE ENTRANCE FRONT: 2-bay single storey entrance hall to right of centre with projecting porch to left bay containing main entrance. Light coloured sandstone door surround with carved frieze, decorative iron lantern above, heavy panelled door. Shaped parapet to porch with light coloured stone relief with carved date '1906'. 10-light mullion and transom canted bay window to right bay with light coloured stone surround, round-headed upper lights, 2-light side lights, decorative pierced balustrade above. Shaped gable behind and above with fake small square glazed window. Slender 2-light transom windows flank window to each side. 2-storey gabled bay set back to right with first floor canted oriel window with mullioned lights. Taller 2-storey SE gable wall of music room set back to right at angle with shaped gable containing 8-light mullion window, two further plain gables to right return elevation with mullion windows. Windows provide light for double-height top-lit barrel vaulted ceiling of music room hidden underneath pitched roof. Glass fernery to right side of music room. Two 3-storey bays with shaped gables to left of entrance hall; that to right is larger. 2-storey polygonal bay windows to both bays with mullion and transom lights (patterned leaded glazing to ground floor), round-headed upper lights, light coloured stone dressings, decorative carved frieze above first floor, surmounted by decorative pierced balustrades with small urn-style finials. Mullion windows set within gables above and behind. 4-bay 3-storey wing attached to left projects forward slightly from entrance front. 2-storey canted bay windows to far left bay with mullion and transom lights containing decorative leaded glazing with round-headed upper lights, plain parapets above. Cross window to second floor with carved decorative relief above hoodmould, plain gable above with kneelers surmounted by pointed finials. Doorway to ground floor of bay 2 with shallow Tudor-arched head, chamfered reveals, carved hoodmould, recessed door with moulded fillets and decorative strap hinges. 2-light window to far right of ground floor. First floor with 2-light windows to centre bays, 3-light window to far right bay. Mullion windows to ground and second floor of right gable wall return.
SW GARDEN FRONT: 7-bay 3-storey E-plan with projecting gabled end bays, fully symmetrical design. Central full-height gabled bay surmounted by ball finials breaks forward with 12-light mullion and transom window to ground floor containing decorative cusped upper lights. Window flanked by paired fluted Doric-style columns set upon carved bases with moulded entablature and dentil cornice above, columns surmounted by large decorative urns at first floor level. Cornice continues across bay. Two upper floors with canted corners. 8-light mullion and transom window to first floor with traceried upper lights, 4-light mullion window to second floor with round-headed lights and patterned leaded glazing, carved frieze between first and second floor (continues across flanking bays and inner return elevations of end bays). Slender paired half-columns flank upper floor windows; upper parts of those to the second floor with diagonal fluting. Carved square relief with shield decoration to gable, blind arrow-loop style window to apex above. Paired windows to side returns of bay in same style as those to front. Two flanking bays mirror each other with paired cross windows to ground floor containing round-headed upper lights. 6-light windows to first floor above in same style. Gabled outer bays with porches to ground floor containing side return entrances with carved door surrounds. Cross windows to front of porches in same style as adjacent bays, paired pilaster decoration, plain parapet above with decorative carved frieze beneath. 3-light mullion windows to first floor above, paired 2-light mullion windows to second floor. 2-storey canted bay windows to wide projecting end bays with plain parapets, each with 6-lights to front, 4-lights to sides, round-headed upper lights. 4-light mullion windows to second floors. Each inside return elevation with substantial end stacks, gabled bay to each inner corner with 3-light mullion window to first floor above and behind porch, paired 2-light mullion windows to second floor.
NW SIDE ELEVATION: Facing garden terrace. 2-storey octagonal tower to left with outdoor dining room attached in front to part of ground floor, mullion and transom windows to ground and first floor, plain parapet to roof. 3-storey gabled bay to right set back slightly with 2-storey half-canted bay windows (left side of bay runs straight to join adjacent tower and is blind), 12-light mullion and transom window to ground floor with double-doors to centre leading on to terrace, round-headed upper lights, decorative pierced balustrade above with 3-light window to second floor behind, 6-light mullion and transom window to first floor of right return. 3-bay section set back to far right of elevation forms left return of SW garden front wing, bays to right step forward. Gabled bay to far right with 2-storey mullion and transom canted bay windows with patterned leaded glazing surmounted by balustrade, 3-light mullion window to second floor behind balustrade with carved relief decoration above. Ground floor bays to left incorporated into projection contain tall slender 6-light window with patterned leaded glazing, 3-light mullion window to right. Mullion windows to upper floors behind; those to first floor of centre bay with cusped heads.
OUTDOOR DINING ROOM: Single storey (originally stables, converted 1900), in style of loggia, attached at right angle to NW side elevation. Blind NE wall with short buttresses facing rear stable yard. Long 3-bay SW front elevation facing garden terrace, each bay with raised gable. Large paired carved arched openings to each bay containing central circular stone pier with square piers to outside; all with carved capitals. Arches decorated with small pyramidal shaped reliefs. Square sundial with relief lettering above arches to centre bay, inscription to lower part reads 'TEMPUS EDAX RERUM' ('Time, the devourer of things'). Gables surmounted by ball finials contain narrow arrow loop openings. SW garage range attached to NW gable wall.
REAR ELEVATION: Complex asymmetrical composition with various projecting wings. NW gable wall of music room to left with large polygonal bay to ground floor with blind 9-light windows (apse of music room), decorative pierced balustrade above surmounted by shaped finials. False 8-light mullion window set within shaped gable behind and above (upper lights with arched heads) with hoodmould. 2-storey bay aligned with music room set back to right with full-height polygonal bay windows containing 2-light mullion windows to ground floor, 3-light mullion windows to first floor, flat roof with small central pedimented gable. Gabled bay to right facing NW with first floor canted oriel window. Single-storey flat-roofed section behind containing rear entrance connects to 4-bay wing set at right angle and forming part of servants' quarters. Gable over bays 1 & 2, 3-light and single light mullion windows to ground floor with hoodmoulds, double doors to ground floor of bay 2, paired mullion windows to first floor. Small single-storey gabled workshop attached to W gable wall of servants' wing with trefoil decoration to gable apex, angled buttress to front right corner. Servants' wing continues to left into internal yard area. Yard area with enclosed walkway at first floor level (with later render). 4-bay single storey rendered building aligned NE-SW attached to left of music room, connects to large double-height rendered supper/refreshment room with tall brick ridge stack; both with copper roofs. Catslide roof to supper room incorporates outshut to NW side. Multipaned casement windows to NW sides of both buildings. 9-light roundel window to SW gable wall of supper room, large arched multipaned window to NE gable wall. Mid-late C20 single-storey indoor swimming pool behind (not of special interest) in same alignment along with original glasshouses. Single-storey glass fernery aligned NW-SE set between swimming pool, greenhouses and music room.
STABLE & GARAGE COURT: 2-storeys, large reverse U-shaped court attached to NW gable end of outdoor dining room, in similar style to house. Multi-gabled with ball finials, leaded-light mullion windows, substantial chimney stacks. Stables and garages to NE range, garages to SW range and NW range. Original cast-iron canopy over yard now removed. Plain and herringbone block paving to yard. 5-bay SW range: Central projecting bay with large arched opening to ground floor (now blocked up) with hoodmould, flanked by diagonal buttresses. Square panel containing blind roundel to centre of first floor set within shaped gable, panel flanked by paired lancet windows, all beneath hoodmould, arrow loop opening above. Single wide arched opening to centre of two left bays into garage, 3-light and 2-light mullion windows to first floor. Square opening to ground floor of right bays with timber double doors, 2-light and 3-light mullion windows to first floor. 3-bay NW range: Canted full-height gabled bay to centre containing large square opening with timber double doors to ground floor with slender side lights, wide 4-light window to first floor. Outer bays with square openings to ground floor in same style, raised cupola to ridge line behind gable. 7-bay NE range: 4-light mullion window with decorative leaded glazing to ground floor of bay 1. Canted full-height gabled bay to bay 2 with central arched doorway to ground floor (stables entrance) with paired side lights containing decorative glazing, loading door to centre of first floor with flanking lights. Large projecting gabled bay to bay 3 containing 2 large arched openings to ground floor forming open porch, door to rear of porch flanked by mullion windows leads to harness room, door to left leads to stables, stair to right leads to first floor. Angled buttresses flanking arched openings, moulded rectangular panel above arches with relief lettering reads '1899', 5-light mullion window to first floor with hoodmould, arrow loop opening above, raised cupola to ridge line behind gable. Mullion windows to bay 4. Bay 5 with large arched opening to ground floor (garage), dormer window above with 3-light window partly below eaves line, arrow loop opening to gable apex. Identically styled ground floor opening to bay 6. 3-light mullion window to ground floor of bay 7, dormer window in same style as that to bay 5 above. Similarly styled rear elevations with plain and shaped gables, mullion windows, and buttresses. Exceptions to this are small shallow arched windows set high to ground floor of rear of NW range with ventilation grills, also some to rear of NE range. Projecting 2-storey bay to rear of SW range with paired arched openings to ground floor in same style as open air dining room to far right. Two single-storey gabled workshops projecting to rear of NE range with large 8-light mullion and transom windows, door to left return with moulded arched surround and oak door.
INTERIOR: Eclectic interior in which each room represents different style/period in history. Geometric patterned pink and grey marble floors to corridors and inner hall, parquet floors to all other areas (some hidden under carpets to upper floors). Original panelled doors. Granite and marble fireplaces throughout. Painted panelled corridors to ground floor with plasterwork ceilings and friezes, fluted Ionic columns on pedestals, classical-style doorcases with swan-neck pediments (some with wide fanlights and partly glazed double doors).
ENTRANCE HALL: Surviving part of Douglas & Fordham house of 1896-7 with vaulted Adams-style ceiling. Variously used as dining room and billiard room before house extended in 1912-14. Classical-style plaster doorcases with moulded entablatures, painted wall panelling. Ornate marble and alabaster fireplace with Ionic half-columns, egg and dart mouldings, and elaborately carved overmantle set within wide arched panelled recess to NE wall. Billiard cue racks next to fireplace. Doors with plaster decoration flanking arch conceal cupboards. Late Louis XV Aubusson pastoral tapestry c.1770 set to panel within SW wall depicts two shepherdesses and shepherd boy. Door to entrance vestibule to SE corner.
FRENCH DRAWING ROOM: To SW of entrance hall. Decorative boiseries to walls inlaid with carvings of musical instruments and trophies, carved marble fireplace, decorative moulded plaster ceiling and cornice. Central opening dividing room into two supported by fluted Doric-style columns on carved pedestals and beam with scrolled carvings. Extremely large gentlemen's lavatory/cloakroom to NE of entrance hall with pink and grey geometric patterned marble floor, marble walls, built-in cupboards, coat rail attached to centre of plain coffered ceiling, egg and dart moulded cornice. Corridor to rear of entrance hall leads to large inner hall to SW garden front.
INNER HALL: Used as a living hall. Large square seating recess to NE side of room containing carved marble fireplace with classical male and female figurines and cherubic imagery, possibly by Canova. Decorative Ionic arcade either side of fireplace recess part of Douglas & Fordham house. Wide main open-well stair set within first arch of arcade to right with turned mahogany balusters and wreathed handrail (arcade column to right and pilaster to left form newel posts) rises to second floor. Painted panelled walls, decorative plaster ceiling and frieze. Library and 'Adams Room' set within two projecting wings to SW garden front; library to right wing, Adams Room to left wing.
LIBRARY: Jacobean style with oak panelling, rows of parallel bookcases to either side of entrance door hidden from main view of room by panelled wall. Door to left of SE facing bay window leads to formal entrance courtyard to front of house, dummy door to right of window. Marble fireplace with Tudor arched opening and decorative carved panelled overmantle. Ornate strapwork plaster ceiling modelled on State Room of Old Palace, Bromley-by-Bow.
ADAMS ROOM: C18 brown and white marble fireplace incorporating fluted Ionic half-columns and carved relief depicting agricultural scene. Highly decorative plaster ceiling and wall decoration, alternating large blind panels and slender vertical panels containing plaster decoration to walls, moulded frieze.
DINING ROOM: Early Georgian style with walnut panelling incorporating fluted pilasters, carved walnut fireplace with elaborate carved overmantle, highly decorative plaster ceiling, pedimented doorcases with panelled double doors. Door to NW end wall leads to outdoor dining room, door to NE wall leads to kitchens, French doors to centre of NW facing bay window lead to garden terrace.
LADY LEVER'S ROOM: Corridor to N of entrance hall leads to music room and small stair to Lady Lever's first floor sitting room, lit to SW side (overlooking internal yard) by 6-light mullion windows with decorative patterned leaded glazing. Classical doorcases with moulded entablatures. Short stair flight lit by internal leaded light mullion window in same style as those overlooking yard. First floor sitting room with heated window seats, painted panelled dado, built-in cupboards, stone fireplace with timber surround.
MUSIC ROOM: Renaissance style. Top lit, highly elaborate plaster barrel-vaulted ceiling containing painted panels by Giovanni Cipriani (originally installed in the Hanover Square Rooms, London (later the Hanover Club)) and large stained glass side panels. Parquet floor. Large alabaster and marble fireplace with carved overmantle set within deep panelled recess to centre of W wall of room, highly ornate arcaded brown and white marble gallery above entrance to recess containing stone winder stair leading to Henry Willis & Sons organ, supported on dark green and white marble (Verde Antico) Ionic columns and pilasters. Heavy doorcases with scrolled swan-neck pediments. Oak panelling to walls by H.H. Martyn of Cheltenham incorporates fluted Ionic pilasters with relief panels above pilasters depicting carved heads, deep carved console frieze. Top-lit semi-circular alcove/apse to NW end with domed ceiling containing decorative patterned leaded glazing, mirrored back (original shelves removed) interspersed with fluted Ionic pilasters, large decorative oak relief carvings above mirrors depict musical instruments and foliage, console frieze. Decorative gilded double radiators.
FERNERY: 4-panel door to NE wall of music room leads into 90ft long glass fernery with glazed iron roof lying parallel to music room, rockeries, stream and fish pond. Pierced decorative stone floor panel to inside of door within fernery reads 'MUSIC ROOM'.
GLASSHOUSES: Original heated glasshouses behind fernery lying NE-SW (in poor condition), same roof structures to fernery.
SUPPER ROOM: Door to NE corner of music room leads to large supper room with arched recesses to SE wall incorporating keystones. Adjacent mid-late C20 indoor swimming pool (not of special interest) replaced original temporary ballroom.
UPPER FLOORS: Original room layout with bedroom suites to first floor. Built-in cupboards and wardrobes (some doors replaced), decorative carved marble fireplaces, plain moulded cornicing, painted panelled walls, some original bathroom fittings. First floor gallery above inner hall with decorative Ionic arcade and painted panelled walls in same style as that to ground floor below, decorative plaster ceiling, carved marble fireplace to NE wall, classical doorcases with swan-neck pediments. Similarly styled large landing area to second floor. Sanctum suite (Viscount Leverhulme's original suite and office) to first floor above NE half of French Drawing Room and part of servants' wing. Open-air bedroom to rear of suite set upon strengthened platform between two converging roof slopes, partial canopy (glazing removed), gutters sunk into floor, large white marble bath with hinged wooden lid, original sink.
SERVANTS' QUARTERS/WING: Parquet floors to kitchen, butler's flat and staff room (possibly originally the housekeeper's room), tiled floors to rest of ground floor areas, timber floorboard floors to second floor servants' rooms. Multi-coloured tessara floor to main corridor within servants' wing (central section within inner yard area with glazed conservatory-style roof and leaded light windows to NE side). Plain timber stair to NW end of wing. Original built-in cupboards, shelves and dressers. Cream glazed tiled walls with brown glazed tile dados. Electrical servants' call system and boxes to ground and upper floors. 6-panel doors. Large cold stores to scullery and butler's pantry with original reinforced doors. Dumb waiter. Cast-iron fireplaces with brick surrounds. Kitchen with glazed sloping roof to SE end of room, door to NW wall leads into open-air dining room. Staff/housekeeper's room adjacent to music room with oak panelled walls, large fireplace with decorative carved timber fire surround and green tiles. Butler's flat above to first floor with fireplace with decorative carved timber surround. Original fireplaces with timber surrounds (some also with tiling) to second floor rooms, built-in cupboards.
OUTDOOR DINING ROOM: Herringbone block paved floor, plaster walls with timber panelled dado, geometric timber panelled ceiling, tall loggia-style paired arched openings to SW wall, doors to SE end lead to kitchens and Georgian dining room, door to NW end leads to rear stable yard.
STABLE & GARAGE COURT: Herringbone block paved floors and geometric timber panelled ceilings throughout. Stables with original stalls, decorative iron vents set into ceiling, bright yellow tiled walls with timber panelled dados. Large decorative panels composed of green hexagonal tiles with decorative tiled frieze border to each stall, painted corner feeders, original sliding metal stall doors surmounted by ball finials. Tack room with geometric coloured tiled floor, mahogany and pine built-in cupboards and drawers, fireplace with timber surround, patterned tiled hearth. Garages with white tiled walls, panelled dados. Early mechanic's pit to garage to NE range. Cantilevered stone open well stairs with stick balusters and mahogany handrails to SW & NE ranges lead to first floor accommodation with original 4-panel doors, partly glazed hallways, timber floorboard floors (some hidden under later carpets), fireplaces with timber surrounds (some reclaimed). Workshops to rear of NE range with inner vestibule with panelled door set within partly glazed surround, blue-green and yellow tiled dados, white tiling to upper parts of walls, geometric patterned tiled floors, panelled ceilings with patterned vents.
HISTORY: William Hesketh Lever was born in 1851 in Bolton, Lancashire. After training in his father's grocery business from the age of 16 he was made a junior partner in 1872, and a year later he expanded the business to a second premises in Wigan. From these twin bases Lever further expanded the company's activities into manufacturing soap, first at Warrington and eventually at Port Sunlight. By this time the company had become 'Lever Brothers', established with his brother James (although William was always the lead partner). The company went on to possess factories and mills around the world including the Congo, as Lever expanded the business into the production and processing of raw materials, and eventually diversified into other areas. Lever Brothers became one of the largest multinational companies in the world during the late C19/early C20, and is still in operation today as Unilever.
William Lever was a Liberal MP, social reformer, and a pioneer of good worker-employee relations. He introduced the 8 hour working day, and provided a pay policy greater than any other company in the country. In 1905 he also provided pensions for his staff (3 years before they were introduced by the government in 1908). Lever Brothers was also one of the first companies to employ a full-time safety inspector and company doctor, and to provide respirators and a rota system for workers working in dusty conditions. Decades before it became a legal requirement Lever Brothers had introduced alarms and sprinklers in all their departments and had their own voluntary ambulance and fire brigade. The staff were also taken on day and weekend trips in Britain and in Europe.
William Lever built Port Sunlight model village for his workers, which included a planned landscape of houses with gardens, allotments, large open spaces and parks (ten years before Ebenezer Howard's plans for a Garden City), shops, a hospital, school, post office, sports facilities, church, dining halls, a public house, the Lady Lever art gallery, and a library. The children of Port Sunlight and Lever's junior staff were required to attend school and devote time to education (paid for by Lever Brothers) including languages, science, engineering, accountancy, maths and English literature, even though by law school was only compulsory up to the age of 10.
Lever was created a Baronet in 1911. In 1917 he was made a Lord and took the title of Lord Lever of Bolton-le-Moors. Finally in 1922 he was created Viscount Leverhulme (adding the surname of his wife Elizabeth Hulme who had died in 1913). He died at The Hill (his London home) on the 7th May 1925 shortly after returning from a world tour and inspection of his business interests.
Thornton Manor is believed to have been constructed in the c.1840s/50s, but was not lived in until 1863 when it was bought by the Forwood family. William Lever rented it in 1888 when it was still a relatively modest Victorian villa, as it was located close to his business at Port Sunlight. He bought the manor in 1891 and immediately started expanding and remodelling it as his largest and main residence (works that went on for the next 25 years). Thornton Manor formed an important part of the business of Lever Brothers as well as a family home, as Lever often worked at the house, held meetings there, and entertained staff at dinners, parties, and garden parties/fairs. Thornton Manor was officially given over to his son in 1919, although it remained as Lever's principal residence until his death.
Minor alterations to Thornton Manor were first made by Lever's best friend and architect, Jonathan Simpson, with substantial works carried out by Douglas & Fordham of Chester in c.1896. Little now remains of this house apart from two shaped gables and bay windows to the SE front elevation, as Lever immediately decided he wanted more additions. The kitchen and servants' quarters designed by Grayson & Ould were added, followed by the stables in 1899 by J J Talbot. Part of the stables was converted into an outdoor dining room in 1900, as it was considered to be too close to the kitchens. The music room (also by Talbot) was added in 1902. A temporary ballroom was constructed in 1904, which was replaced by an indoor swimming pool in the mid-late C20. The original main entrance to the Douglas & Fordham house was through the present SW garden elevation but the house and entrance were re-orientated c.1906 to face SE, and a gatehouse built in 1910. A new garden front was created in 1912-14 by Lever and J Lomax-Simpson. The death of his wife and the outbreak of WWI halted further expansion plans, which included a half-timbered range to the front attached to the gatehouse that would have formed a courtyard plan. During WWI the manor was used as a Red Cross hospital under the command of Lever's daughter in law, Marion Lever.
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REASONS FOR DESIGNATION
Thornton Manor is designated at grade II* for the following principal reasons:
* It has significant special historic interest as the principal residence of William Lever (Viscount Leverhulme) who was directly involved in all stages of the house's design and construction
* Its design and plan maximises its setting, forming a close inter-relationship with the grade II* listed gardens designed by Lever and Thomas Mawson
* Its highly eclectic design and styling reflects the eccentric character and tastes of its creator, and its layout was specifically designed to enable Lever's business practice of 'working whilst walking'
* The house played a pivotal role in the work and success of Lever Brothers, as it was here that William Lever worked, held meetings, and entertained friends and staff
* It survives with very little alteration since Lever's death in 1925
* It possesses an intact interior of exceptional quality, with an eclectic mixture of rooms carefully chosen by William Lever to represent different styles and periods in history
* Remarkable survivals include the lavish music room, fernery, outdoor dining room, and the Levers' outdoor bedroom complete with William Lever's original marble bath
* It has group value with Manor Lodge and other buildings in forming the Thornton Manor estate
Source: English Heritage
Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.