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Belmont House

A Grade II* Listed Building in Belmont Rural, County of Herefordshire

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Coordinates

Latitude: 52.0446 / 52°2'40"N

Longitude: -2.7643 / 2°45'51"W

OS Eastings: 347680

OS Northings: 238740

OS Grid: SO476387

Mapcode National: GBR FJ.F6YD

Mapcode Global: VH85N.1WH0

Entry Name: Belmont House

Listing Date: 8 September 1981

Last Amended: 17 December 2012

Grade: II*

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1167079

English Heritage Legacy ID: 155345

Location: Belmont Rural, County of Herefordshire, HR2

County: County of Herefordshire

Civil Parish: Belmont Rural

Traditional County: Herefordshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Herefordshire

Church of England Parish: Clehonger

Church of England Diocese: Hereford

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Summary

A country house of 1788-90 by James Wyatt in a classical style, which was extended and partially re-clothed in a Gothic style between 1867 and 1873.

Description

MATERIALS: Bath stone and sandstone with limestone dressings with a plain tile roof.

PLAN: the C18 plan has six principal rooms to the ground floor. The block added to the west in the 1860s has two large, interconnecting reception rooms which form an L-shape and a service entrance and stair. Further to the west, a lower block contains the chapel at mezzanine level and a sacristy and service rooms.

EXTERIOR: the southern entrance front has five bays to the right which are near-symmetrically arranged. The lateral, wider bays project slightly and the three central bays are closely spaced and have a deep porte cochère extending in front of them. This has granite columns and stilted arches. The column capitals here, as elsewhere on the front, remain un-carved. The porte cochère had a parapet with openwork panels, which has been removed and stored. At ground-floor right is a three-light mullioned and transomed window with a broad relieving arch. The staircase hall window at left combines within one surround the four small lights to service rooms at ground floor level with the tall, two-light window that extends upwards through two stories. This has cusped heads to the lights and a carved hexafoil to the top of the pointed relieving arch. Other windows on the front are single or paired lancets. To the top of the wall is a corbel table supporting a running pattern of miniature cusped arches, which form a cornice. To the attic there are four gabled dormers with steeply pitched roofs, bargeboards and iron finials. There are two, large chimney stacks at either side of the hipped roof with moulded caps, one of which has been truncated. Recessed and at left is a semi-glazed doorway which appears to be a luggage entrance, with paired lancets to the two floors above this. At left again and projecting is a gabled wing which has two, two-light windows at ground floor level. Between these is a column which rises to support ribs beneath a canted oriel window at first floor level. This has two light windows with hexafoils to the heads of their relieving arches and panels of quatrefoils below the sills and a parapet with trefoil openings. Above is a two-light casement which rises into the gable. The low, recessed service wing to the left of this has a doorway at right and a large gable at left with two, two-light windows with cusped heads and quatrefoils to the tops. On the ridge above these is a gabled timber bellcote.

The east front has a central glazed porch to the ground floor, with doors to the north and south sides and a mullioned and transomed window, with foiled heads to the four lights, facing east. To right of this is a window with mullion and transom and arched head and the first and second floors have paired lancets with shared hoodmoulds. The corbel table and cornice continue around this front and there are three gabled dormers, as before.

The north front, facing towards the river, has the classical front designed by James Wyatt at left. The added thickness of the external walls after the remodelling is revealed at the extreme left, where the walling from the east front wraps around to join this front and has a small portion of the corbelled cornice at the top. The Wyatt front is of five bays, with three bays clustered in a segmental bay which projects at the centre. At either side are tripartite windows with French windows to their centre, allowing access to the terrace. These have segmental relieving arches with recessed segmental tympana. There is a band between the ground and first floors and another at the level of the first floor window sills, providing a strong horizontal element. Windows at first floor level are sashes of three by four panes and those to the second floor are of three by two panes, save for the right hand window, which has been replaced by two casement lights. There is a deep cornice to the top of the wall. The attic has five gabled dormers, as before and dating from the 1860s, and the apex of the conical roof above the bay has an iron finial. To the right of this, the Gothic addition of the 1860s has three bays. The basement storey is exposed and has a doorway at left and paired sashes to right. At ground-floor level there are mullioned and transomed lights with cusped heads to the lights and relieving arches with carved quatrefoil panels to the tympana. At first-floor level there are paired lancets at either side and a single lancet to the centre. The attic floor has a small central window with catslide roof, and at either side of it, are projecting gabled dormers, each supported by a row of heavy corbels. To the right again, and lower, is the canted apse of the chapel. The chapel windows are each of two lights with cusped heads and a quatrefoil to the apex. To the top of the wall is the corbel table and row of miniature arches seen elsewhere, and to the apex of the hipped roof is an iron finial in the form of a cross. At right again is the service wing, of two, low storeys with random fenestration.

INTERIOR: the Entrance Hall has Gothic windows and a panelled door to the southern side which, unlike the other three sides, is bare stone and not plastered. Here, as elsewhere, the added thickness of the external walls due to the clothing of the house with a Gothic skin, has allowed for deep, moulded window surrounds on the inner face which have colonettes to either side and roll mouldings to the cusped heads. The panelled oak door has cusped panels to the top and cusped tracery to the fanlight. The fireplace is classical with deep mouldings of fasces to the uprights and a sword and fascis crossed in the frieze panel, flanked by oval wreaths of oak leaves. It appears to date from the early-C19. The cornice which runs around all sides of the room is also classical, but appears to date from Wyatt’s late-C18 scheme of decoration.

Other ground floor rooms continue this theme of a mixture of Gothic and classical motifs. Original doors and shutters have mostly been replaced with a large-scale linen-fold pattern. C18 cornices have been retained in most of the rooms. There is a marble fire surround of white and variegated marble with carved drapes to the drawing room, and another with carved vine scrolls and thyrsae (Bacchus’ stave) to the uprights in the central room on the north side, which also retains its dado rail. The south-eastern room is connected to the drawing room by a pair of Victorian sliding doors and this room has a white marble fireplace of French style, which may indicate that the room was intended as a boudoir.

The pair of reception rooms added in the 1860s is fitted out with doors and shutters of similar patterns and cornices which are of the same dimensions as those in the C18 part of the house. Fireplaces are of variegated marble with segmental arches and the flooring through these rooms and the staircase hall is parquetry.

The two-storey staircase hall has an open-well stair running around the room, with a half-landing to the south side and landing to the north. The balusters are of turned, bobbin style with dado panelling to the wall. The fire surround on the east wall has a plain surround of variegated marble and the ceiling is panelled.

The chapel is approached from a passageway which is entered from an external doorway or from a door in the L-shaped drawing room. A flight of steps leads up to a plank door with decorative iron hinges. The chapel walls are of bare cream limestone with bands of dark grey stone and there are encaustic tiles and oak blocks to the floor and a panelled wooden ceiling. At the south end (ritual west) is a gallery and at the north is the altar raised by a step. This has a mensa of variegated marble supported by three columns of similar material with carved limestone capitals. There is a credence of the same marble behind the altar.

First and second floor rooms echo the dimensions of those at ground floor level but have plainer decoration. Two exceptions are the room in the bow on the north side, which has a white marble fireplace with carved anthemia and a duck’s nest grate. The room behind the oriel on the south side has carved joinery to the interior of the window and a variegated marble fire surround.

The former service rooms at basement level have now been converted to reception rooms, changing room and meeting rooms in connection with the golf club. A series of heavy stone arches crossing the central corridor of the Victorian block can still be seen, but other parts of the plan have been changed.

History

The original house of Old Hill, which stood on the site above the Wye was demolished and replaced by a house designed and built between 1788-90 by James Wyatt for John Matthews which he called Belmont. Wyatt was working at Hereford Cathedral at that time to repair the damage done when the west tower fell. The foundation stone was laid on 5 November 1788. This tall, symmetrical house of three floors with an attic and basement was designed to take advantage of the views along the Wye and into Hereford, with a large segmental bay on the garden front, which survives. Contemporary watercolours show a block of three by five bays with a high parapet, behind which there appeared to be a Mansard roof. The entrance front was of five bays, the central three projecting slightly, and grouped beneath a pediment with pilasters running up the front to give the effect of a portico.

Following Matthews’ death in 1826, the estate was bought by Dr Richard Prosser and he appears to have inserted features such as the fireplaces in the entrance hall and bow bedroom and possibly the French windows leading to the terrace. He then left it, together with a fortune of circa £250,000 to his great nephew, Francis Richard Haggitt, on condition that he change his surname to Wegg-Prosser.

Between 1867 and 1873 the house was given a new, Gothic skin to three sides of the Wyatt house and a new wing was built with service rooms and a chapel with polygonal apse for Wegg-Prosser. This work has traditionally been ascribed to Edward Welby Pugin, although no record of an architect can be found. Wegg Prosser had converted to Roman Catholicism in 1852, although his wife, Lady Harriet (nee Somers Cox), never did. He subsequently employed EW Pugin and his brother Peter Paul Pugin for designs in connection with Belmont Abbey and its church. An account of building work for the house survives in Herefordshire Record Office (see SOURCES) and this shows a number of payments for individual tradesmen and materials for the house which is signed J Burlison. The variety of styles seen in the different interiors and the retention of Wyatt’s design on the river front means that it is perhaps likely that a design by an anonymous architect was built by a group of craftsmen under a clerk of works. Interestingly the account is identified on the outer cover in Wegg-Prosser’s handwriting as ‘Statement of money spent and extravagantly wasted on building the house, October 1867-February 1873’. A comparison of the Victorian Gothic house and the entrance front designed by Wyatt shows that the rhythm of the front and distribution of the windows was unchanged, even if the shape of the openings was quite different. Internally, two large interconnecting reception rooms were added to the west side, together with a chapel at mezzanine level, and the C18 plan was altered to allow for separate entrance and staircase halls and a boudoir which connected with a drawing room.

The land surrounding the house was made into a golf course in the later-C20 and the basement floor of Belmont House was converted to become a club house.

Reasons for Listing

Belmont House, Ruckhall Lane, Clehonger, Herefordshire is listed at Grade II* for the following principal reasons:

* Architectural interest: the house retains work of good quality of the late C18, early C19 and the mid C19, including a façade and interior by James Wyatt, an architect of national renown;

* Intactness: although the house has undergone a degree of alteration, the principal periods of construction are all clearly represented and subsequent alteration is of a high quality, enhancing the interest of the building;

* Historic Associations: the house forms part of a group of a group of buildings which were commissioned or altered by Francis Wegg-Prosser, an important and generous benefactor of the Roman Catholic cause in the mid-C19;

* Group Value: the group of Roman Catholic buildings at Belmont, which includes the abbey church of St Michael and All Angels, the Monastery, the Almshouses, the School and teacher’s house and Belmont House with its chapel is one of the most complete surviving groups which resulted from the benefaction of a wealthy landowner in the mid-C19.

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