Norris Castle Farm, the bailiff’s house, cottage and walled kitchen garden


Heritage Category:
Listed Building
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:
Statutory Address:
Norris Castle Farm, New Barn Road, East Cowes, PO32 6AZ


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Statutory Address:
Norris Castle Farm, New Barn Road, East Cowes, PO32 6AZ

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Isle of Wight (Unitary Authority)
East Cowes
National Grid Reference:


Model farm with attached bailiff’s house, workers' cottage and walled garden. Built c1799 by James Wyatt for Lord Henry Seymour. Alterations to some of the farm buildings in the mid and late C19.

Reasons for Designation

Norris Castle Farm, designed by James Wyatt and built c1799 for Lord Henry Seymour, is listed at Grade I for the following principal reasons: * Rarity: as a rare example of a late-C18 model farm in a Gothic Revival style; * Historic interest: along with Norris Castle itself, the farm represents an important design within the context of the English Picturesque movement and an example of the re-emergence of the Castle aesthetic during the Napoleonic Wars (1796-1815); * Architectural interest: as probably the grandest example of the open court layout generally adopted for model farms by the 1790s; * Architect: as a design by James Wyatt, one of England’s most important late C18 and early C19 architects, who served as Controller of the Office of Works and architect to George III; * Design: for its striking castellated form and symmetrically arranged courtyards. The incorporation of a walled garden within the design of the model farm is highly unusual; * Construction: as a finely constructed group of buildings in Bembridge limestone and sandstone with flint galleting; * Degree of survival: the farm demonstrates a high degree of survival with relatively few later alterations; * Group value: with the Grade I-registered landscaped park that provides the villa’s setting, the Grade I listed Norris Castle, and the Grade II listed lodges, Pump House, Bathing House, sea wall (a 50m length), cattle shelters and watering ponds, as well as the adjacent Grade II* registered park and Grade I listed house at Osborne.


During the reign of King Edward I, land in Whippingham Parish was held by Richard le Noreys, the spelling changing over subsequent centuries through Norreys and Norres to Norris; the place name of a house that appears on C18 maps. In 1795 Lord Henry Seymour (1746-1830), a retired politician, purchased what was then a small farm. The architect James Wyatt (1746-1813) was appointed to design a castellated model farm built in c1799, and the main house, Norris Castle, constructed from 1799 at a cost of £190,000. The house was built just to the N of the earlier farm which was subsequently demolished. At the same time a landscaped park, covering 125 acres was created from former fields with the likely involvement of Humphry Repton (1752-1818) in the design.

Lord Henry Seymour and his younger brother, Robert Seymour (1748-1831), shared an interest in farming and gardening, and, after 1790, a substantial income provided by sinecures in Ireland. This subsequently funded building work and agricultural improvements upon their estates (Robert’s estate was at Taliaris, near Llandeilo, Wales). In 1802 a Board of Agriculture report on the Isle of Wight praised Lord Henry for his improvements, including using seaweed as a fertilizer: ‘The coast abounds with Kelp but this valuable manure is not used except by Lord Henry Seymour at Norris, his Lordship is making experiments upon a small Estate, and using a variety of manures’. The model farm at Norris housed livestock with the resultant manure being used to fertilise the attached kitchen garden and heat the hot beds. Manure was also possibly transported to the Seymour family’s nearby estates, with straw being brought in the opposite direction to provide bedding for livestock at the farm.

Lord Henry Seymour had a reputation for eccentricity and benevolence when he died, unmarried, in 1830. Norris Castle passed to Lord George Seymour before being bought by a newspaper tycoon, Robert Bell, in 1839. The sale particulars describes the garden as: ‘an excellent kitchen garden, well stocked and cropped, with lofty stone walls, clothed fruit trees, in high perfection; pinery and melon pits’. The estate was purchased in 1880 by the ninth Duke of Bedford. In 1896 the kitchen garden is recorded as containing greenhouses, a vinery house, cucumber house, two furnace houses, two manure pumps and extensive tanks, as well as a pump and hoses for watering.

Norris Castle hosted numerous royal visits during the C19. The Prince Regent visited in 1819 and Princess, later Queen, Victoria stayed at the Castle with her mother, the Duchess of Kent, in 1831 and again in 1833. The Queen was even considering its purchase in 1839 and 1843 but instead bought the neighbouring property of Osborne House. The Castle continued to serve as a place for royal relations to stay, often accommodating Kaiser Wilhelm (Queen Victoria’s grandson). After the Bedfords, the estate passed to Lord Ampthill; it was offered for sale in 1898, was sold to a syndicate in the early C20, and was later owned by Major Arthur Birkbeck to whom, in 1924, the Office of Woods sold the piece of Osborne estate land lying between the east boundary wall and Pier Road. Norris changed hands again in the 1950s when it was bought by Mrs C A Briscoe George. In 2015 it was sold and possible plans were drawn up for redevelopment; it remains (2016) in private ownership.


Model farm with attached bailiff’s house, workers' cottage and walled garden. Built c1799 by James Wyatt for Lord Henry Seymour. Alterations to some of the farm buildings in the mid and late C19.

MATERIALS: coursed stone rubble walling and stone dressings. Slate roofs. Most of the windows on the principal elevations appear to be original.

PLAN: regular ‘double-E’ courtyard plan of interlinked walls and buildings enclosed by castellated walls in imitation of a medieval castle. The walls extend southwards to enclose a substantial kitchen garden with square towers at the angles. The farmstead is arranged around two cattle yards with a horse yard to the N and a stack yard to the S. The bailiff’s house occupies the centre of the NW elevation. To the SE of the walled garden is a terrace overlooking the valley of a small brook.

EXTERIOR: the symmetrical principal (NW) elevation is centred on the bailiff’s house. This is square in plan, of three bays and two storeys with cellar. A central castellated clock tower projects above the castellated parapet. The central bay projects and has a round-arched entrance. The door has applied fillets and a semi-circular fanlight containing two pointed lights. The two ground floor sash windows are set in round-arched openings with paired pointed lights. The three first-floor windows are square-headed twin sashes. The clock tower has a domed metal cupola.

Either side of the bailiff’s house, separated by a stretch of curtain wall with three dummy lancets, are a pair of square gatehouses with round-arched entrances with timber double doors. These give access to the two cattle yards. Outside the gatehouses, again separated by a length of curtain wall with lancet windows are two castellated, square plan, two-storey, single-bay buildings, that to the N a cottage and that to the S a granary. Fenestration matches the bailiff’s house. Beyond these buildings is a blind stretch of curtain wall with gates flanked by tall square piers with pointed heads capped with stone slabs. These give access to the northern horse yard and stack yard respectively. The elevation is completed by square, two-storey, corner towers with round headed lancets on the ground floor and square lancets on the upper floor.

The NE elevation consists of blind curtain walling with the main arched gateway to the walled garden flanked by two-storey square towers. Another square tower, with a battered plinth, occupies the NE corner. The SW elevation has a gateway with square piers identical to those on the NW elevation, giving access to the stack yard, and a square tower, again with a battered plinth, at the SE corner. The SE elevation consists of plain curtain walling to the garden with only a small arched gateway with double iron gates giving access to the raised terrace which runs outside the wall, bounded by plain wrought-iron railings.

Inside the curtain walls numerous buildings line the outer walls and divide the interior of the farm into the various yards and the walled garden. In the NW corner is the horse yard. This is paved with flagstones and has a main stable/harness room range with a hay loft to the SW and a carriage house and flanking loose boxes (later converted into saddle rooms/stores) to the NE. The stables have a later C19 tile block floor and roof trusses with raking struts. The NE part of the stable retains a boarded manger with feed racks accessed from the loft above. Adjoining the horse yard to the SE is a small walled extension of the northern cattle yard with a three-bay shelter shed range with arched opening. This strongly resembles the open-fronted stone-arched shelter sheds (called hemmels) used on model farms by great estates in Northumberland and Durham, and further N in the Lothians. A plan of 1880 shows these used for storing tools and timber. A small yard connects with the main cattle yards to the SW and has a four-bay shelter shed for cattle against the garden wall.

SW of the horse yard are the two main cattle yards paved with flagstones. These are subdivided by the bailiff’s house, with its main entrance passing through a reception room for visitors into an elevated yard with views into the farmstead. This yard provides access via a building internally remodelled in the late C19 century as pigsties. This building is shown as a ‘Farm Outhouse’ on the 1880 plan, but in view of its location was probably built as a dairy.

Flanking the gateway to the NE is a single-storey range which was built as stores serving the house. The room to the NE was a wash house and retains its copper. The small room to the S is shown on the 1880 plan as a dairy probably replacing the range converted to pigsties. Along the NE side of the yard, probably added to the main stable range of the horse yard in the mid-C19, is a cow house for milking cattle (shown as a calf house on the 1880 plan). To the SE, along the wall to the garden, is a six-bay shelter shed for cattle with fodder rooms flanking a store shown on the 1880 map as a potting shed. These shelter sheds were rebuilt in the late C19 with machine-sawn trusses and cast-iron columns stamped at the St Pancras Foundry in London. The SW side of the cattle yards is taken up by a five-bay barn separating it from the stack yard and connecting to the granary at the NW end. The barn has a gabled central section with large opposing round-arched entrances with double doors. At either end of the barn are two vaulted passageways which give access to the stack yard. Off the southern passage are a root store and two smaller flanking stores while the northern passage gives access to the two-storey granary.

The cattle yards and horse yard have central pits for collecting liquid manure, installed by the 1880s but probably not part of the original design.

The stack yard to the SW of the barn almost certainly served to stack timber for use in the kitchen gardens. Corn and hay, which was also stored in the barn, would have been stored in ricks in the yard. The stack yard has undergone a number of alterations. On the 1880 plan it is shown as a timber yard. The lean-to cart shed (to the SE) and wood sheds are mid-C19 in date, probably replacing earlier cart sheds and possibly wood stores.

A wide-span cow house extending from the barn was added in the mid-C20, the footings and feed troughs of which survive. The C20 concrete footings* and feed troughs* are not of special architectural or historic interest.

The walled garden is currently (2016) not in use and is considerably overgrown. A large glasshouse, probably of early-mid C19 date and used as a vinery, abuts the SE wall of the farm. It has ornamental cast-iron columns decorated with leaf-foliage supporting the timber-framed lean-to roof and cast-iron floor grills covering subterranean hot-water heating pipes. In front of the vinery are the remains of two, originally glazed, heated pit houses which served as pineapple and melon pits. These each have a tall rear (NW) wall (the bottom half of which is of red brick and the top of yellow stock brick), steps beside a brick boiler house lead down to a pair of pits. The southern boiler house retains its boiler. On the N side of the garden are back sheds, including a tool room, potting shed and furnace/boiler room.

INTERIORS: Bailiff’s House – square in plan with four principal rooms on either floor flanking a central hallway/landing. The quarter-turn, open string stair has stick balusters and mahogany handrails. Surviving original joinery includes plain six-panel doors with fluted door surrounds, window frames and sash glazing bars and panelled window seats.

Workers’ Cottage – rectangular in plan extending SE into the tack room/hayloft range. On the ground floor is a single room at the front and kitchen off a central hall. On the upper floor are two bedrooms at the front and an additional later bedroom adjoining the hayloft at the rear. Closed string, dogleg stair with matchboard panelling, stick balusters and square newel. Doors are plain four-panel. Matchboard panelling in the kitchen.

*Pursuant to s.1 (5A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 (‘the Act’) it is declared that the C20 concrete footings and feed troughs in the cow house are not of special architectural or historic interest.


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

Legacy System number:
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Books and journals
Pevsner, N, Lloyd, D, The Buildings of England: Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, (1985), 743-4
Wade Martins, S, The English Model Farm, Building the Agricultural Ideal, 1700-1914, (2002), 214
'Norris Castle' in Country Life, , Vol. 4, (9 July 1898), 28-29
Ettwein Bridges Architects, Norris Castle Heritage Assessment (April 2016)
Phibbs, J, Lord Henry Seymour’s marine villa (2016)


This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

End of official listing

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