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Leighton House, Westbury

Description: Leighton House

Grade: II
Date Listed: 31 March 1978
English Heritage Building ID: 313173

OS Grid Reference: ST8674550379
OS Grid Coordinates: 386745, 150379
Latitude/Longitude: 51.2524, -2.1913

Location: A350, Westbury, Wiltshire BA13 3PX

Locality: Westbury
County: Wiltshire
Country: England
Postcode: BA13 3PX

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Listing Text


Leighton House, a small country house, built c.1800, with extensive additions and internal alterations of c.1888-90 by Sir Frank Wills.

Reason for Listing

* Architectural: as a small country house of c.1800, built to a restrained design with well-handled Classical detailing, late-C19 alterations by the noted Bristol architect Sir Frank Wills respect the original entrance elevation, whilst extensions to the rear introduce neo-Baroque flair
* Historical: built for one family prominent in Westbury's cloth industry, and enlarged and adapted for another, the house has strong historical associations with the town, whilst the development of the building clearly demonstrates the taste of two distinct periods
* Materials and craftsmanship: good plasterwork, joinery and chimneypieces survive from both phases of work, whilst the use of late-C19 stained glass is particularly noteworthy
* Group Value: with the gate piers and side gates marking the entrance, and the stable block, both listed at Grade II


The present house was built c.1800 by Thomas Henry Hele Phipps (1777-1841). The building sits within Leighton Park, which had been laid out around the earlier Leigh House – situated to the south of the present house – possibly as early as the C16; in the C18 the park also contained a second house, standing to the west. Phipps had inherited in 1792; the property had been bought from the Earl of Abingdon the previous year, but had been leased by the Phipps family since the early C17. The family's fortune had been made in the clothing industry, and by the end of the C18 the Phippses were considerable landowners in the parish. The estate remained in the family for the greater part of the C19 before being sold in 1888 to William Henry Laverton (d. 1925), who had recently taken over the business of his uncle, Abraham Laverton (1819-86), owner of Westbury's Bitham and Angel Mills (both listed at Grade II). The mills continued in operation, under the ownership of Laverton & Co., until 1968. Both men were notable benefactors to Westbury – the Laverton Institute (1873) and philanthropic housing in Prospect Square (both listed) remains as a reminder of Abraham's association with the town, whilst the listed Westbury's Jubilee Baths (1887-8) were William's gift. William Laverton immediately made extensive additions and alterations to Leighton House, employing Frank (later Sir Frank) Wills, the versatile Bristol architect, whose work was varied in type and style, but who is best known for his numerous factory buildings. In 1921 Laverton sold the house, which became a boys' school, Victoria College; the school closed in 1936. In 1939, the site was requisitioned for use as a convalescent hospital, housing part of the Royal Victoria Hospital, Netley. After the war, the site became one of several War Office selections boards for National Service, before becoming home to the Regular Commissions Board, which selects officers for the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst, in 1949.

Leighton Park was enlarged and developed by the Phipps family during the C19. Between the surveys for the 1842 tithe map and the first edition Ordnance Survey map of 1886, the two older houses were demolished, a designed landscape was laid out around Leighton House, with a lake and boathouse to south, and a new approach from the east was created, with entrance gates and a lodge. The lake remains today, with the stone footings of the boathouse on its northern bank; the eastern entrance and lodge are still in situ. Further east, land was purchased to the far side of Warminster Road, where a new stable block was constructed, together with a large walled kitchen garden; both of these features survive. William Laverton's principal built contribution to the grounds, a theatre, which stood to north-east of the stables, has been demolished. During the war, a large number of wards, together with accommodation and service blocks, were erected in the grounds. The majority of the buildings associated with the site's use as a military hospital were removed after the war, though a number of the larger blocks, to the east of the house, do survive; a Nissen-type hut to the south of the house may have been re-located from elsewhere. One of the large blocks was replaced c. 2000, and a number of small houses have been built on the periphery of the park.


Country house, built c.1800 for Thomas Henry Hele Phipps (a rainwater head at the rear of the house bears this date, together with Phipps's initials). Extensions and alterations of the later C19, mainly undertaken for William Henry Laverton c.1888-90 by Frank (later Sir Frank) Wills of Bristol. Limestone ashlar with stone stacks, originally consisting of a south-facing house, rectangular on plan; with basement. Later additions include an extension to east and a conservatory to west, both on the same plane as the south elevation of the original buildings, and a number of extensions to north. The additions are of the same stone, with extensive use of stained glass.

EXTERIOR: On the south front, the original symmetrical five-bay, three-storey building in a restrained Classical style is elongated to the east by the two-bay late-C19 extension, which is of the same height, with fenestration and details precisely matching the earlier building. The rusticated ground floor is defined by a plat band, and there is a dentil cornice, with astragal and blocking course. The entrance is in the centre of the original building, announced by a projecting Roman Doric tetrastyle porch; late-C19 stained glass panels now separate the columns, holding figurative depictions of the arts, science, winter and spring, with roundels representing the chase above. The entrance opening contains panelled double doors, the upper panels now being glazed. Above the porch, a window flanked by two narrow lights. The ground-floor windows are nearly full-length, reducing to square windows on the second floor; the ground-floor windows have lintels with heavy keystones, whilst those on the upper floors are without enrichment. All the openings contain horned sash frames. The east wing, added in 1888, was originally of two storeys, being raised to the level of the main house soon afterwards. On the east elevation, this wing has a single-storey rectangular bay window. To the west of the main building, the conservatory - also dating from 1888 - is of four bays on each side. Above the southern arched doorway, to east, is a keyed oculus; the three window openings are defined by Tuscan pilasters, resting on a podium. The lantern rises above the parapet. To the north of the main building, another 1888 extension, containing the billiard room; this is of a single storey with a tripartite bow-window to the north elevation. The ground-floor rustication is carried through to this single-storey wing, which is markedly Baroque in its detailing; a continuous eared moulding to the heads of the openings is broken by keystones and pilasters. The western bay of the north elevation has a double-height rectangular bay window of the same date, with the same details, the rustication continuing to the pilasters separating the lights on the first floor. The ground floor of this extension and the bay window are obscured to west by a single-storey C20 ashlar extension, resting on the podium of an earlier glazed structure. The eastern bay of the main building on this elevation has a bay window balancing that to the west. To the rear of the east wing, a further, two-storey extension, completed in 1890; in the north elevation of this extension, a central projecting stack bears the Laverton coat of arms, whilst a doorway to east of the elevation has the family's arms to the tympanum. The doorway gives access to a glazed walkway, running along the east side of the extension, and the north side of the eastern wing; this is lit by an arcade of stained glass, the windows having glazed spandrels, with paired rectangular windows above, and larger rectangular windows forming a clerestory. The first floor has a similar passageway, with rectangular windows. On the eastern elevation of this range, the ground floor windows have stone mullions, and segmental-arched lintels with keystones; to north, a ground-floor rectangular bay window. Rainwater heads to the extensions are emblazoned with the Laverton arms.

INTERIOR: The original part of the house retains some features of that date, but the interior was extensively redecorated in the late C19, the majority of this work being contemporary with the major building projects of c.1888-1890. The decoration belonging to this phase is largely designed to complement the late-Georgian manner of the original building. The entrance opens on a wide central hall, divided by a two-column screen; an open-well staircase rises beyond, with an ornate cast iron balustrade. The entrance has a fluted frame internally, containing shutters. Around the hall, a ram's head frieze. Opening off the hall to south-west, the library, with dark wood fittings, of late-C19 or early C20 date; the bookcases and chimneypiece are loosely Jacobean in style. The room retains a palm-leaf frieze with rosette cornice thought to date from c.1800. The north-west room on the ground floor of the original building has a tall, reeded skirting board found elsewhere on the ground floor, dado panelling with moulded panels above, a classical frieze and rosette cornice, and a ceiling centred on a large roundel with foliate swags and scrolls. The white marble chimneypiece, thought to be part of the original scheme, has a foliate frieze. The wide rectangular bay window added to the north end of the room c.1888 is now blocked to north, with a single light remaining to west. The north-eastern part of the original building contains the dining room, extended to the north end by another rectangular bay window. In the centre of the south wall, an arch buffet recess framed by enriched Corinthian pilasters which once framed a buffet; this feature pre-dates the 1888 redecoration of the room. The later plasterwork ceiling is in the Jacobean style, with broad ribs in geometric patterns, the interstices filled with formalised foliage and flowers. The panelled mahogany doors have pedimented overdoors. The chimneypiece is of black marble in an elaborate design, with Ionic columns to the jambs, lions' heads above, and arches separated by brackets to the frieze. The south-east portion of the original building is subdivided, and contains the service stair. To the east of the main building, the extension contains a drawing room on the ground floor; this room has an elaborate cornice, and a chimneypiece of veined black marble. The north-west extension contains two rooms, the northernmost being subdivided. The walkway, glazed on one side, which runs along the western side of this extension, links the extension with the original building; the pediments over the doors in the passageway carry the date 1890. The arched windows contain stained glass, some decorated with urns and foliage, some with birds, and some in a Mannerist style, with masks and strapwork; the floor is mosaic. (Similar glass is to be seen in nearby Westbury House (qv), now the town's library, which was formerly home to the Lavertons.) On the first floor, arches with panelled soffits lead right and left to the bedrooms, with the large central bedroom being accessed immediately from the landing. The stained glass, with stylised swags and acanthus leaves, remains visible in the rear north-east passage. The bedrooms on the upper floors are largely without original features; a number of the rooms have been subdivided, and fireplaces have been removed. The basement, lying beneath the c.1800 building, and extended beneath the eastern wing, appears largely to conform to its original layout, and retains a number of features such as cast iron columns to the eastern entrance corridor, stone shelving, wine bins, a small stone chimneypiece, and some flagstones; the range has been removed. To the west of the original building is the conservatory, entered by a door at the south end of the south-western room, as well as by the external south door. The windows have arched glazing bars, with stained glass to the spandrels. The glazed roof rises to a lantern with stained glass detail; stained glass also fills the oculus above the south door. The eastern part of the conservatory takes the form of an arcade, the pilasters and plinths which define the other walls here being spanned by stone arches with keystones. The floor is of mosaic, in a simple geometrical design.

Source: English Heritage

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