A gatehouse, dating from circa 1580-1600, to Upton Cressett Hall.
Reasons for Designation
The late C16 gatehouse at Upton Cressett Hall is designated at Grade I, for the following principal reasons:
* Date and rarity: the building dates from circa 1580-1600, and is an example of a now-rare building type: it is estimated that perhaps not more than 50 remain from the Elizabethan era;
* Architectural interest: the gatehouse is a fine example of the type, which by this date is no longer intended as a defensive structure, but instead as a symbol of influence and wealth;
* Historic interest: for its association with the Cressett family, who were prominent members of the Royal court in the Stuart era, and had held high office in the Tudor period;
* Intactness: the building has suffered almost no losses since its completion, retaining the vast majority of its Tudor fabric both internally and externally;
* Decoration: the first-floor rooms have significant contemporary plasterwork decoration, including an extensive overmantel, and varied ceiling decoration which includes obvious Recusant imagery, proclaiming the family's allegiance to the Catholic church at a time of persecution;
* Lack of later alteration: the building has undergone almost no later alteration save for the insertion and later removal of some partitions to the attic floor;
* Group value: for its intimate relationship with the adjacent Upton Cresset Hall and in its proximity to the Hall and the former Church of St Michael, adjacent, both listed at Grade I.
The settlement at Upton Cressett was known as Ultone in the Domesday Book; a name which comes from the Anglo-Saxon word 'Upton' meaning 'higher settlement'. In 1165, Upton formed part of the Barony of Fitz Alan, being held for some generations by the descendants of Alan de Upton. In the C13, the de Uptons were Verderers of the Royal Forest of Morfe. The Cressetts first appear as Lords of Upton towards the close of the C14, when the family succeeded to Upton through marriage and gave their name to the place. Upton Cressett Hall is primarily a mid-C15 building which appears to occupy the site of an earlier house that stood within a moated site, and attested by the close proximity of the C12 Church of St Michael immediately to the north-east and the medieval settlement to the south-east. The present house has a complex history; its earliest part has been dated by dendrochronology to 1431 and was built for Hugh Cressett, a Royal Commissioner along the Welsh March and Constable of Mortimer Castle. He and his son, Robert, were successively Members of Parliament and Sheriffs of Shropshire. When built, it was a timber-framed house of some status with an open aisled hall, a solar wing at its north-east end, and at least one other cross wing. It is claimed that the future Edward V stayed at Upton Cressett in April 1483 on his fateful journey from Ludlow to the Tower of London. In circa 1498 a further timber-framed cross wing was constructed on the same alignment (north-west to south-east) as the solar wing. Although parts of the building were later demolished, what remains of this building reflects the wealth and status of the Cressett family during the later medieval period.
In 1580 the house was substantially remodelled by Richard Cressett, who served as Sheriff of Shropshire in 1584 and went on to contribute a substantial amount of money to the Armada Fund some four years later. The building was encased in brick, large brick chimneystacks were added to the east side of the house and, probably also at this time, the hall was ceiled over to create first-floor rooms. The three-storey gatehouse, also of brick, was erected to the south-east of the house in circa 1580-1600. Richard's successor in 1601 was Edward Cressett, a prominent royalist who was killed at the Battle of Bridgnorth in 1646; his son Sir Francis Cressett became Steward and Treasurer to Charles I and thus a significant member of the Royal court. Prince Rupert reputedly stayed in the gatehouse whilst escaping from Parliamentary forces during the Civil War.
A second property, Cound Hall near Shrewsbury, was built for the Cressett family in 1703-04 and became their principal seat from 1792 when Elizabeth Cressett died leaving her estates to her maternal uncle, Henry Pelham, of Sussex. At about the same time Upton Cressett Hall underwent alterations, including the demolition of some parts of the building, and became a farmhouse. It was bought by Sir Herbert Smith, a carpet manufacturer and owner of Witley Court in Worcestershire, in circa 1937 to use as a shooting lodge. After his death in 1943, the house was unoccupied and both house and gatehouse gradually fell into partial dereliction; survey photographs for the Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England dating from 1957 and 1967 show that by the mid-1950s the gatehouse had several holes in the floors, fireplaces had been partially or completely blocked, and the windows were in a poor state of repair. The site was purchased by the parents of the current owner in 1969 and the house, gatehouse and farm buildings have since been restored.
MATERIALS: the building is constructed from brick, diapered in parts, with a mixture of moulded brick and rendered dressings. The roofs are covered in plain clay tile.
PLAN: the building is set to the south-east of Upton Cressett Hall, aligned on its entrance. The building has octagonal towers at the corners on the north side, facing the Hall, and a central passageway running through the ground floor.
EXTERIOR: the building is of two storeys and attic, set on a high plinth with moulded brick capping, with small areas of stone in the plinth. The walls are of brickwork, diapered in parts. The windows are mainly mullioned or mullioned and transomed, with ovolo mouldings, of one, two or three lights, each with diamond-pattern glazing.
The south elevation, facing away from the house, is of three bays. There is a projecting chimney to either side of the central archway, each chimney rising up to two conjoined diagonal shafts, with a gable dormer between them. The central archway is of brick, of two chamfered orders with a four-centred head, and is flanked by two small single-light windows with drip courses over. To the first floor are two windows of two transomed lights with drip courses over. Ground and first-floor windows have brick jambs and mullions. The attic window is of two lights, and is set in the gable, which has stone coping.
The elevation facing the house is of three bays, with a central gable between two octagonal corner turrets. There is some black brick but not regular diapering. The ground floor has the other face of the central passageway with the same four-centred arch of moulded brick with two orders of chamfering, and small flanking windows to match the opposite elevation. The first floor has a central window of four mullioned and transomed lights with moulded brick jambs, mullions and transoms. The attic window, set in the gable, has a two-light window. The turrets have small single-light windows in rendered surrounds winding around the turrets. The conical turret roofs are finished with ball finials.
The right and left returns are similar, each having a central asymmetrical gable adjoining a turret, with a single window to each storey. Ground and first floors have two- and three-light windows with brick jambs, mullions and transoms and projecting drip courses; that to the ground floor of the east side has been blocked and replaced with a four-centred arched opening to its left. The attic windows are of two lights, matching those in the north and south elevations. The gables have stone coping. To the attic storey brickwork extends in line with the plane of the angled wall of the turret to reach across onto the elevation, creating a hanging feature.
INTERIOR: the interior is divided by original square-framed partitions; doors include panelled examples dating from the C16 and C17. The central open passage, which is built in brick, houses three doorways, one to the east and two to the west, under timber lintels. To the ground floor, the eastern room has a brick-lined fireplace with timber bressumer over. A door gives access into the north-eastern turret, which now houses services. The ground floor of the western side is divided into two, a room and a passage, by an original timber-framed partition in three bays, one of which houses a doorway with a chamfered frame, which gives access to the kitchen. This room has C20 fixtures and finishes. The passage gives access to the stair in the north-western turret. The stair has solid oak treads winding around a central, round, oak newel post. The undersides of the treads have deep chamfers and run outs.
The first floor is divided by original square-framed partitions to provide a passage running across the width of the building on the north side, and two equally-sized rooms in the remainder. The corridor has a plain plaster ceiling with moulded borders. The doorways to the southern rooms are set within the square-framed partition, and are chamfered. The rooms have large ceiling beams with chamfers and crisp ogee stops; the beams run north-south, and continue across the corridor. Both rooms have extensive plaster decoration to their ceilings. The eastern room has a fireplace with brick piers and a timber bressumer with a very shallow, chamfered, four-centred arch, supported by moulded stone corbels. Above the fireplace, a section of small-square panelling with moulded edges. The eastern wall has a small timber lintel indicating the site of a blocked opening, or possibly a wall cupboard, as there is no indication of a blocked opening in the exterior. The bays of the ceilings each have a narrow moulded border. The ceiling of the eastern bay has a design with a central Catholic sacred heart embossed 'IESV' [JESU] surrounded by strapwork, between four portcullis badges and four sets of Prince of Wales feathers, enclosed by raised mouldings and surrounded by flowers, cartouches and fleurs-de-lis. The smaller bay in this room has a star of four panels, in each of which is a section of strapwork forming the border to a cartouche. Between each panel is a fleur de lis, with a Tudor rose at one end and a strapwork cartouche at the other. The western room has a fireplace similar to that in the eastern room, though the bressumer has an additional moulded cornice. Above it, the plastered wall surface is divided into geometric panels by moulded plaster ribs. These panels enclose a variety of motifs, including a Catholic sacred heart with embossed 'IESV' [JESU], fleurs de lis, portcullises, Prince of Wales feathers, cartouches, Tudor roses and strapwork. Above this is a plaster frieze using a variety of moulds, including elements of strapwork.
The room in first floor of the north-eastern turret is fitted out as a modern bathroom, with late-C20 finishes. The stair in the north-western turret continues up to the attic storey, which is a single open space. There are no fireplaces, but set against the stacks at the rear of the room are two small brick structures resembling narrow fireplaces, with very narrow, round arched openings. Whilst it is possible that these might have been used to make very small fires, it is also possible that they simply allowed warm air from the fires and stacks below and behind to filter into and heat the room. The north-eastern turret, accessed through a panelled door set in a chamfered frame, is fitted out as a modern bathroom. The two roof trusses have interrupted tie beams, upright posts and high collars; there are twin purlins and a ridge piece. The roof structure is complicated by the gables to front and rear, which in effect form a cross-wing, and two small gables which tie the stacks to the main structure. The turret roofs each have common rafters rising to the top of a chamfered post, which stands on the centre of a chamfered tie beam.
This list entry was subject to a Minor Amendment on 24/11/2011
(Formerly listed as Gatehouse at Upton Hall)