Site of Rotherwas House, earthwork remains of formal gardens, and Rotherwas Chapel


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1014880

Date first listed: 26-Nov-1969

Date of most recent amendment: 01-Aug-1996


Ordnance survey map of Site of Rotherwas House, earthwork remains of formal gardens, and Rotherwas Chapel
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: County of Herefordshire (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Dinedor

National Grid Reference: SO 53560 38416


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

Reasons for Designation

Country houses of the late Tudor and early Jacobean period comprise a distinctive group of buildings which differ in form, function, design and architectural style from country houses of both earlier and later date. Built after the dissolution of the monasteries they are the product of a particular historical period in which a newly-emerged Protestant elite of lawyers, courtiers, diplomats and other officials, mostly with close contacts at court, competed with each other to demonstrate wealth, taste and loyalty to the sovereign, often overstretching themselves financially. Their houses are a development of the medieval hall with flanking wings and a gatehouse, often looking inwards onto a courtyard; later examples tend to be built outwards, typically on a U- or H-plan. The hall was transformed from a reception area to an entrance vestibule and the long gallery and loggia were introduced. Many houses were provided with state apartments and extensive lodgings for the accommodation of royal visitors and their retinues. Country houses of this period were normally constructed under the supervision of one master-mason or a succession of masons, often combining a number of designs drawn up by the master-mason, surveyor or by the employer himself. Many designs and stylistic details were copied from Continental pattern-books, particularly those published in the 1560s on French, Italian and Flemish models; further architectural ideas were later spread by the use of foreign craftsmen. Symmetry in both plan and elevation was an overriding principle, often carried to extremes in the Elizabethan architectural `devices' in which geometric forms were employed to express religious and philosophical ideas. Elements of Classical architecture were drawn on individually rather than applied strictly in unified orders. This complex network of influences resulted in liberal and idiosyncratic combinations of architectural styles which contrasted with the adoption of the architecture of the Italian Renaissance, and with it the role of the architect, later in the 17th century. About 5000 country houses are known to have been standing in 1675; of these about 1000 are thought to survive, although most have been extensively altered or rebuilt in subsequent centuries to meet new demands and tastes. Houses which are uninhabited, and have thus been altered to a lesser degree, are much rarer. Surviving country houses of the late Tudor and early Jacobean period stand as an irreplaceable record of an architectural development which was unique both to England and to a particular period in English history characterised by a flourishing of artistic invention; they provide an insight into politics, patronage and economics in the early post-medieval period. All examples with significant surviving archaeological remains are considered to be of national importance.

When viewed in association with the chapel, the earthwork and buried remains of Rotherwas House and gardens illustrate at least five centuries of occupation and development of a high status residence, which was once in such a beautiful setting that James I lamented that `not everyone can live at Rotherwas'. The buried foundations of the original late medieval house, the 16th century stone wing, and evidence of the 18th century rebuilding, will survive to show the exact extent and layout of these different phases, and elucidate the relationship of the houses with each other and with their formal gardens. The earthwork and buried remains of these gardens further demonstrate the high status of the site, and illustrate the use of symmetry as an architectural device in landscape planning of this period. Formal gardens, combining massive earthworks with exotic and intricate planting, were in vogue between the mid- 16th and early 18th centuries, and their extent and design reflect not only artistic aims and changing fashions but also the social aspirations and status of their owners. At Rotherwas, evidence for the arrangement of features such as flower beds, paths, and ponds will survive as buried features, showing the original formal arrangement. Subsequent changes in design will also be represented, and may be seen to mirror alterations in the layout of the house itself. The deposits which have accumulated in the ornamental canal will retain organic remains, which will include evidence for the species employed in the garden design. Parochial chapels were designed to provide additional space for worship in large parishes, and were commonly divided into two main parts: the nave, which provided accommodation for the laity; and the chancel, which was the domain of the priest and contained the principal altar. Around 4000 parochial chapels were built between the 12th and 17th centuries, as subsidiary places of worship for the convenience of parishioners who lived at a distance from the main parish church. Some chapels were built as private places of worship by the upper echelons of society, both for the use of their family and household, and as a demonstration of the family's wealth and status. Rotherwas Chapel is a fine example of a private chapel which retains many original and unusual features, including examples of Edward Welby Pugin's distinctive work. Its development as a centre of Catholic worship following the Reformation is unusual and of great interest, and several centuries of construction techniques and ornamentation fashions are illustrated in the standing remains. Evidence for alterations to the design and layout of the chapel itself through its period of use will survive as buried features. The chapel is open to the public.


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


The monument includes the earthwork and buried remains of the 16th century Rotherwas House and of the 18th century house which replaced it, the earthwork and buried remains of its formal gardens, and the standing remains of the Roman Catholic Chapel of Our Lady of the Assumption. The monument is situated on the south west bank of the River Wye, approximately 2km south east of Hereford. The chapel is in the care of the Secretary of State. The earliest references to a chapel at Rotherwas date from 1304, although at that date the parish church was at Dinedor, roughly 1.2km to the south. The Rotherwas estate transferred by marriage from the De La Barre family to the Bodenham family in 1483, and became their main residence. Formal gardens were subsequently laid out to the north of the existing half-timbered house, whose foundations survive to the north west of the chapel, enhancing the vista towards the river. Sir Roger Bodenham added a stone wing to the house in the 1580s, and rebuilt the chapel, originally for his family's private use. However, it became a Roman Catholic place of worship after Sir Roger's conversion in 1606. The family were Royalists, and the Civil War caused a downturn in the family fortunes. The estate was confiscated from Thomas Bodenham in 1646. After the Restoration the estate remained mortgaged and for the rest of the century it was in a ruinous condition. However by 1732 Sir Charles Bodenham had the means to demolish the old timber-framed parts of the house, and transfer its Jacobean panelling into a new eleven-bay brick mansion, the foundations of which can still be traced to the north west of the chapel. The remains of the stone wing of the former house were retained as estate offices. The design of the new house is generally attributed to James Gibbs, and the west tower of the chapel is probably contemporary with its construction. Further improvements at both house and chapel were carried out by the last of the family, Charles de la Barre Bodenham, in the 1860s. His extensive additions to the chapel were probably carried out by Edward Welby Pugin, eldest son of Augustus Pugin. After Charles' death in 1883, his widow commissioned Edward Welby Pugin's younger brother, Peter Paul, to rebuild the east end of the chapel in memory of her husband. After her death in 1892 the estate again fell into financial difficulties, and was finally sold at auction in 1912. Its fittings were stripped, the panelling going to America, and under threat of demolition the burials were removed from the chapel and reinterred nearby. The house was finally demolished in 1926, and the chapel taken over by the Ministry of Works in 1928. The house taken over by the Bodenhams in the 15th century stood to the north of the chapel, probably along the same general alignment as that of the later mansion whose foundations can still be traced. The outhouses still standing immediately north of the chapel were attached to the east end of this later house, which was itself adjacent to Sir Roger Bodenham's 16th century stone wing. Thomas Blount, writing c.1678 when the estate was at a low ebb, describes the `fair gatehouse of brick' as being near the `now disused' chapel, and Charles Robinson reported in 1872 that the foundations of the original house could still be seen on dewy mornings. The foundations of the timber-framed structure, the stone wing, and the brick gatehouse will survive as buried features. The plan of Charles Bodenham's brick mansion of 1732 is well mapped, and the line of its main walls can be traced in the grass roughly 85m to the north west of the chapel. The eleven-bay house was aligned WNW-ESE and was over 80m long and up to 20m wide. The outhouses which still stand around 50m to the north of the chapel were once attached to the east end of the new main house. Also standing, and currently occupied, are the former barn and stable block to the south west of the chapel, which probably served the 18th century house and are Listed Grade II, but not included in the scheduling. Extending north east from the buried remains of the 18th century mansion, and starting some 15m from the foundations of its north east face, are the earthwork remains of the formal gardens which were probably created to complement Sir Roger's improvements to the old house in the 16th century. The symmetrical layout of the surviving earthworks is typical of the gardens of this period, which would have comprised geometric designs of paths and flower beds. The earthwork remains include a terrace which extends across the north east face of the brick mansion, and probably bore the same relationship to the north east face of the early post-medieval house. The north east edge of the terrace is defined by a steep scarp slope up to 1.3m high and 60m long, which forms the south west edge of a sunken garden. At its north west and south east ends the scarp turns right angles towards the river, to create the south west and south east corners of the sunken garden respectively. After roughly 20m, these scarp edges turn right angles `outwards', to the north west and south east, and gradually fade out. Low earthworks and changes in vegetation within the area of the sunken garden reveal the line of a broad transverse walkway, centred on which, and aligned south west-north east, is a sunken rectilinear feature which was probably an ornamental pond. The northern corners of the formal gardens are marked by the remains of two earthen prospect mounds, both 5m in diameter and up to 0.5m high, which may have been surmounted by gazebos providing views back across the garden to the house. The north west side of the formal garden is flanked by the remains of an ornamental canal, represented by a seasonally wet channel up to 7m wide. The channel is most distinct to the north, where its south east side survives as a scarp up to 1m high, and its north west side up to 0.25m high. The remains of a clay lining also survive here, and a modern drain has been inserted; north of the modern drain the channel is mostly infilled. Further south the channel gradually becomes infilled, its north west edge levels out, and the former waterway itself is occupied by trees. At its south west end this wooded stretch turns north west in line with the south west edge of the sunken garden, and probably marks the former line of the canal at this point. At the opposite end of the sunken garden, again on the same alignment as the south west edge of the sunken garden, is a low scarp which runs south east before petering out at the hedge line. This feature would echo the change in alignment of the canal, thus completing the symmetry of the formal garden arrangement. The north eastern extent of the formal gardens is now marked by the wall of a kitchen garden which was ploughed and reseeded in the 1960s. The wall once incorporated an Elizabethan gate belonging to the earlier garden layout, however this feature has been removed. The current wall is shown on the 1840 tithe map, and probably represents a later development which truncated the extreme north eastern end of the earlier formal garden layout. On the south side of the sequence of houses a roughly rectangular area, matching the terrace in width and aligned with the south west side of the house, is referred to as The Lawn on the 1846 tithe inventory, and shown on the 1840 map. Some 120m south west of the terrace is a shallow ditch roughly 4m wide, which bows in the centre towards the south west. This feature probably represents the haha defining the south western extent of the 18th century gardens. The chapel is of sandstone rubble construction with ashlar dressings, and is Listed Grade II*. It's single cell plan has five bays, the western three forming Sir Roger Bodenham's nave, which is the earliest part of the present structure. The birth of Sir Roger's son Thomas, in 1589, is recorded on one of the roof beams, suggesting the chapel was completed around this time. The unusual nave roof is carried on four moulded tie-beam trusses resting on a moulded wall plate. The trusses are ornamented as hammer-beams, with pendants and arched braces, and the two purlins are also heavily moulded. The nave's original south entrance, a low four-centred doorway, now leads into the Victorian south west chapel, which has a simple south window with two trefoil lights. The nave is lit by two windows on each side. The easterly ones, near the chancel arch, are probably 14th century, with four trefoil-headed lights under segmental arches. The westerly windows have two ogee-headed lights, and that in the north wall is shorter, to accommodate the gallery which once extended around the north west corner of the nave. High in this wall are the moulded jambs of the now infilled fireplace which would have heated the lord's pew. The west end of the nave retains the stone tracery of the original west window, with slots for glazing bars. The cusped lights, arranged two over four, now open into the first floor of the tower which was built against it. Memorial slabs on the floor of the nave record generations of Bodenhams, and demonstrate the close links maintained between Catholic families after the Reformation. The 18th century tower probably occupies the site of an earlier structure. It has three stages, and is surmounted by a Victorian spire consisting of a tiled pyramidal roof with an obelisk at each corner, and topped with an octagonal oak lantern. The top floor has a pair of deeply splayed, narrow round-headed lights at each side, while the middle stage has a pair of narrow trefoiled lights on the west face. There is a clock face on both north and south elevations. The west doorway has an 18th century door, now entered through the Victorian porch, which is timber-framed on a stone cill, with open panels and an ornamented gable. Internally the tower has a restored wooden stairway leading first to the Victorian west end gallery, and subsequently to the mechanism of the 19th century clock, which operates only on the northern face and is now electrically wound. The original clock, known as `Old Father Hildeyard', disappeared when the estate was sold. It was made by the local priest Thomas Hildeyard (d.1746), whose memorial slab is the best preserved of those in the chapel. Other Victorian additions to the chapel include Pugin's chancel, which has a polygonal apsidal sanctuary. The chancel roof, of radiating wooden ribs resting on stone corbels, has higher dormer windows. The sanctuary has a tiled floor, a piscina with trefoiled head and projecting round drain, and contains Pugin's highly ornate reredos which he combined with a panelled and decorated wooden altar. The Gothic windows at the north east and south east angles of the apse have stained glass commemorating Charles and Irene Bodenham. A third window between them is now blocked, and there is a similar but plain window in the south wall. Both north and south walls have a pair of Gothic two-centred arches with deeply chamfered jambs. On the north side the western arch is blocked, while the eastern one leads from the sanctuary to the vestry. The southern arches open into the south east chapel. The vestry has modern parquet flooring, a 19th century fireplace with an ornate hexagonal chimney, and an external door. Its pine confessional is entered through a 19th century doorway from the nave. The south east chapel was built to house Charles Bodenham's tomb, though his body and that of his wife were removed in 1912. It has an elaborate statue bracket in the east wall, and a fireplace with four-centred head and central pedestal in the west. The south window has a richly carved shaft to each side, with an altar beneath and piscina attached to the right jamb. The chapel's wooden floor is a modern replacement. The polychrome decoration which extends round the lower half of the chapel and sanctuary walls has been restored. All fences around and across the monument, modern track surfaces, telegraph poles, drain covers, English Heritage fixtures and fittings and the 18th century outhouses to the north of the chapel are excluded from the scheduling, however the ground beneath all these features is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features, considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number: 27543

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Morriss, R, The Catholic Chapel of Our Lady of the Assumption, Rotherwas3
Morriss, R, The Catholic Chapel of Our Lady of the Assumption, Rotherwas1
Morriss, R, The Catholic Chapel of Our Lady of the Assumption, Rotherwas2
Morriss, R, The Catholic Chapel of Our Lady of the Assumption, Rotherwas2
Morriss, R, The Catholic Chapel of Our Lady of the Assumption, Rotherwas3
Pevsner, N, The Buildings of England: Herefordshire, (1963), 113
Robinson, Reverend C J, The History of the Mansions and Manors of Herefordshire, (1872), 96-7
Royal Commission on Historical Monuments, , Herefordshire, south west, (1931), 54
Rotherwas Chapel, Dinedor, Herefordshire, on file, draft of guide?

End of official listing