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Description: Great Barr Hall and Chapel
Date Listed: 15 June 1971
English Heritage Building ID: 219080
OS Grid Reference: SP0546595385
OS Grid Coordinates: 405465, 295385
Latitude/Longitude: 52.5563, -1.9208
WALSALL MB GREAT BARR
SP 09 NE
8/40 Great Barr Hall and chapel
(formerly listed as St
Margaret's Hospital including
chapel, under Great Barr CP,
15.06.71 Aldridge and Brownhills UD)
A country house which was converted to use as a hospital in the early-C20.
DATE: Part of the fabric is C17 with additions and alterations of c.1767, c.1800 and a chapel building of c.1863.
ARCHITECT: The early-C19 work has been attributed to John Nash or Francis Goodwin. The chapel building of c.1863 has been attributed to George Gilbert Scott.
MATERIALS: The early-C19 part of the building is of rendered brick with a slate roof and the chapel of c.1863 has red brick walling with blue brick diapering, stone dressings and a slate roof.
PLAN: The house is of two storeys with a cellar. A central, top-lit staircase hall connects with the ground-floor reception rooms along the west front.
EXTERIOR: The garden front has, at its centre, a portion of three-bays which projects forward from and above the level of the lateral bays. To the centre is a double doorway. At either side are windows and there are three windows to the first floor. All of the openings have ogee heads and square hood moulds with blind tracery to the spandrels and this feature is common to all openings on the front. Set between the bays are polygonal buttresses which have offsets to their lower bodies. The central two buttresses flanking the door are missing their caps. The lateral buttresses, which clasp the corners of the projecting three bays, have miniature, battlemented parapets as their capping, set half up the first floor walling. To either side of the central three bays, and flush with them, are ground floor bays which have projecting canted bay windows to their centres and further polygonal buttresses to their corners. Above this at first floor level and set back (apparently at the level of the earlier-C18 building line of this front) are three bays, again with ogee heads, square hood moulds and blind tracery. At attic level at the far right and left corners were formerly small square turrets which were removed in the C20. To the tops of the walls are battlemented parapets. The north side of the house has to its centre a projecting porch with ogee arched doorway, to the flanks of which are three-light casements. Immediately behind this is a slightly projecting portion of wall with two bays which has ogee-headed windows to the first floor, above which are panels of blank tracery. To either side of this central arrangement are two bays at ground floor level with ogee heads and panels of blind tracery and between these are set the polygonal brackets which formerly supported the first floor oriels. These have now been removed and replaced by C20 metal-framed windows. To the top of the walling is a battlemented parapet and to the far right and left corners are polygonal buttresses which support small, battlemented parapets, as seen on the west front. Extending to the left of this front and set lower, is part of the walling of a service wing which has now been largely demolished. Following the demolition of large parts of the service wing and the additions and alterations made by the National Health Service during the use of the building as a hospital in the C20, the east side of the house now largely consists of exposed internal walling.
INTERIOR: to the centre of the plan is a rectangular, top-lit staircase hall. This connects at its northern end to the entrance hall and doors from it lead off to the three principal rooms along the west front; a central drawing room, with doors out to the terrace, a library at the north end and a dining room at the south end. A short passageway from the dining room leads to the chapel. The staircase hall had a central imperial staircase which started as two flights, rose to a central T-shaped gallery and then split again into two flights which climbed around the walls of the hall to a top landing on the west side. (In 2008 the staircase had been taken down and stored, pending restoration). To the upper walls are a series of pilasters which are inset with strapwork decoration. To the heads of these are projecting capitals which support depressed arches. These divide the hall into a series of bays; three to the shorter ends and nine to each of the longer flanks. Vaulting ribs spring from the corners and sides to create an interlacing pattern. Set at the centre of the hall are three octagonal lanterns, with more strapwork decoration to their drums. The interior has suffered from vandalism, including stripping of roof material, which has allowed water damage. Many of the walls have lost their plaster. Fire surrounds and joinery, including doors and windows have been lost. Some of the material including joinery from the staircase is stored pending the restoration.
CHAPEL BUILDING: Attached at right of the west front and projecting slightly is the chapel building. This is of red brick with blue brick diapering in a lattice pattern. A lower, linking, corridor joins the house and chapel. This has a doorway with moulded ashlar surround. The western flank of the chapel has three bays and a projecting plinth with blue brick moulding and a flush ashlar sill band. Each window is set beneath a window and has two lights with Carnarvon arches to the lower windows and a very generous transom, set with two quatrefoil panels of foliage carving, immediately below the springing of the upper arches. The heads to the windows have cusped lights and trefoils to the heads and dogtooth ornament to the outer arches. At the time of survey (June 2008) the central archway and window had been removed. At either end of the walling are elaborately-carved kneelers and the gables across the building have ashlar copings. The ritual east end (south) has a window of five lights with cusped heads and quatrefoils and trefoils to the apex. The ritual west end has a rose window with deeply-carved ashlar surround and a series of six quatrefoils surrounding a central polygon.
The roof of the chapel has suffered from fire damage, although charred the roof trusses remain and consist of a tie, supported by arched braces, which carry a moulded king post. There are ashlar posts connected to the common rafters. To the floor are plain tiles and the internal walls carry the same trellis pattern of diapering seen on the exterior.
The building was initially known as Netherhouse and a hearth tax return of 1666 records Richard Scott as living there with five hearths in the house. It may have been a large farm house according to the evidence of inventories prepared in 1709 and 1715 with a barn and cockloft, buttery and dairy. By 1760 it was described as a 'handsome and commodious dwelling house' with stables, a coach house and a walled garden. According to Stebbing Shaw in his `History and Antiquities of Staffordshire' of 1798, 'The present possessor [Joseph Scott], about the year 1767, began to exercise his well known taste and ingenuity upon the old fabric, giving it the pleasing monastic appearance it now exhibits - and has since much improved it by the addition of a spacious dining room at the east end, and other rooms and conveniences'. Shaw's book shows a watercolour depiction of the house with a symmetrical entrance front of 11 bays, having a central doorway, turrets to the corners and battlemented parapet. This is assumed to be the recessed part of the present west front and the flank, or south front, appears to have had three bays. These alterations appear to have left the Scotts in financial straights and they went abroad from 1785 and let the house to Samuel Galton junior, the Birmingham Quaker, banker and gun manufacturer. In his time the house was used as one of the venues for meetings of the Lunar Society, a group of entrepreneurs and intellectuals from the area around Birmingham, many of whom were Fellows of the Royal Society and who included, Matthew Bolton, James Watt, Erasmus Darwin and Josiah Wedgwood. The Scotts returned to Great Barr in 1797 and more alterations to the house followed. Between 1830 and 1848 major works included the addition of a clock tower, together with the extension of the south face of the hall and the removal of the entrance to the north elevation from its previous place on the west side. A chapel was added to the south west corner of the building c. 1863 and is thought to have been to the designs of Sir George Gilbert Scott who is also believed to have added other estate buildings including lodges and a boat house. The chapel was never consecrated and was turned into a billiard room. Following the death of Lady Bateman-Scott in 1909 the hall was bought by the West Bromwich Poor Law Guardians and from 1918 it served as a hospital for the mentally ill. In 1925 a two-storey extension was added to the north elevation. In 1955 the clock tower, stables and part of the east wing were demolished. Alterations in the 1960s included the insertion of load-bearing steel beams and the removal of the oriel windows on the north front and their replacement with the current metal casements. The house ceased to be a hospital in 1978.
N.Pevsner, The Buildings of England - Staffordshire, 1974, p.137; The Revd. Stebbing Shaw, The History and Antiquities of Staffordshire, 2 Vols.,1798 & 1801, pp105-6; The Builder, 6 April 1873, p.360; J.Summerson, The Life and Work of John Nash Architect, 1980, p.192; M.Mansbridge, John Nash - a Complete Catalogue, 1991, p.98; H.Colvin, A Biographical Dictionary of British Architects 1600-1840,1995, p.692; Margaret Hanson & Peter Drake, Great Barr, Oscott and Kingstanding, 2001, pp.9-22.
Great Barr Hall is designated at Grade II* for the following principal reasons:
* Despite alterations made during its use as a hospital and subsequent damage caused by vandalism, the building has considerable architectural interest.
* Although attributions to John Nash and George Gilbert Scott cannot be proved, the likelihood of their involvement is strong.
* The use of the house as a venue for meetings of the Lunar Society in the late-C18 is of definite interest.
* The partnership between John Nash and Humphry Repton was short-lived but highly influential for the Picturesque movement throughout Britain and Europe. The setting of Great Barr Hall in a landscape designed by both, and possibly also by William Shenstone (which is included on the English Heritage Register of Parks and Gardens at Grade II), gives added interest to the building.
Listing NGR: SP0546195385
This text is a legacy record and has not been updated since the building was originally listed. Details of the building may have changed in the intervening time. You should not rely on this listing as an accurate description of the building.
Source: English Heritage
Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.