Tuesday, March 6, 2012
History and harmony
If you said the words “romantic moated manor house” a building like Birtsmorton Court might well come to mind. A structure that has evolved over seven or eight centuries, this beautiful house is made up of a mixture of timber-framed, stone, and brick wings, all different but wonderfully harmonious, set in quiet countryside, and partly shaded by trees. Birtsmorton may have been begun in 13th century, but in the 15th it was bought by one John Nanfan, who rebuilt most of it. In subsequent centuries, the house was home to various landed families (including relatives of Richard Hakluyt, the writer on exploration, and the family of William Huskisson, the statesman who was the first person to be killed by a railway train) and several of these later occupants made substantial alterations to the building, producing the delightful hotchpotch that remains today.
My photograph shows the view from the south, where there are buildings of various periods in different materials. On the right, the house is stone below, timber-framed with brick infill between the timbers above; this timber-work is a replacement of 1929–30 of earlier work that had been destroyed by fire. On the left is a contrasting brick wing built in the 18th century, with sash windows. Between these two parts is a mixture of various dates, with a pair of timber-framed bays, some stone walls, and tall brick chimneys.
It would take a long time to unpick the complex architectural history that produced this rich and diverse collection of walls, gables, roofs, and chimneys. Even for someone with expertise in the archaeology of buildings it would be a challenge, and one would need to have the run of the place for some considerable time. As Birtsmorton is still a private house, archaeologists are not likely to be unpicking it any time soon. Even if its detailed history is hard to decipher, though, its visual harmony is intact, and a thing to marvel at.
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The house is available for events such as weddings, and there’s more information about it here.