- Heritage Category:
- Listed Building
- List Entry Number:
- Date first listed:
- Statutory Address:
- SOMERHILL, TUDELEY LANE
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- Statutory Address:
- SOMERHILL, TUDELEY LANE
The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
- Tunbridge Wells (District Authority)
- National Grid Reference:
- TQ 60867 45121
TQ 64 NW CAPEL TUDELEY LANE (off), SOMERHILL
Mansion with associated service buildings and stables. The main house is dated 1611-13 by several lead rainwater heads and a datestone and was built for Richard, the Fourth Earl of Clanricade , apparently to plans provided by John Thorpe. Internally the house has been modernised several times since the early C17 and now shows most later features; notably those of circa 1780, probably for William Woodgate, circa 1830 for James Alexander, circa 1879 for Julian Goldsmidt and circa 1930 for Osmund d'Avigdor-Goldsmid by Messrs E. B. Hoare and M. Wheeler (according to Country Life) or Sir Herbert Baker (according to Department of Environment Register of Parks and Gardens). Parts of the service courtyard buildings are early C17 but it underwent a major refurbishment circa 1879. The stables courtyard was completely rebuilt in 1879 according to the dated rainwater heads. The whole complex is now (1988) undergoing a major refurbishment and conversion to a school by the architectural practice, Feilden and Mawson.
All the building ranges are built of coursed blocks of Calverly stone ashlar. The stacks are of similar masonry topped with brick and with clusters of octagonal chimneyshafts. Roof of red clay peg-tiles.
Plan and Development; Important H-plan house, an advanced example transitional between the medieval and modern plan-types. According to Sir JohnSummerson it is one of several Thorpe designs based on the Palladio plan of the Villa Valmarana at Lisiera. The house is built on top of a high hill and faces west. The main block has a central entrance directly into the hall which is set across the building from front to back. Either side the house is 2-rooms deep. To right (south) at the front is the main stair with a parlour behind and the right crosswing contains a long library heated by 3 fireplaces. To left (north) a corridor leads along the front to the crosswing. Behind the corridor is a large dining room. There is a service stair in the centre of the northern crosswing, service rooms to the front and a 2-room parlour suite to rear. Small one-room plan turrets project from the north side each end. This layout is essentially the result of C19 alterations although the basic structure appears to be largely original. Thorpe's original plan (illustrated in Country Life) shows the intended layout. The main stair was to right of the hall but to rear and the right hand (southern) crosswing contained 3 main rooms. To left of the hall are 2 rooms one each side of a central axial passage from the hall to the service crosswing. (This arrangement is preserved on the first floor.) It may be that the kitchen was actually put in the service courtyard rather than in the northern crosswing as shown on Thorpe's plan. The first floor contains suites of bedchambers either side of the saloon, the great chamber over the hall. The turrets projecting from the north side are not shown on Thorpe's plan but do seem to show on Turner's painting of the place of 1811 (reproduced in Country Life). It is not clear whether or not they are original.
The house is 2 storeys with a half basement and attics in the roofspace.
Exterior: All 4 elevations present symmetrical gabled facades which are surprisingly unornamented for a house of this status from the early C17. The western (entrance) elevation has a 1:1:3:1:3:1-window front. The odd left hand one-window section belong to the southern turret. The majority of the ground and first floor windows are simple stone mullion-and-transom windows except on the ends of the crosswings and the centre of the main range where there are larger canted bay windows with crenellated parapets. On the wings these bays are confined to the ground floor but disturbed masonry above suggests that they were originally 2-storeys high like they are on the rear of the house. Most, if not all of the windows have replacement mullions and transoms and contain rectangular panes of leaded glass. The bay window in the main block serves the saloon over a shallow entrance porch with crenellated parapet, round-headed arch with a keystone carved with balls and nailheads, spandrels containing panelled circles, flanking fluted pilasters, triglyphs and moulded entablature. The whole front has a chamfered plinth, a flat band at first floor level, a moulded eaves cornice and parapet. The gables and corners have ball finials. The gables and clusters of tall chimneyshafts contribute strongly to the appearance of the house. The other sides continue in the same style. The right (southern) end has a symmetrical 3:1:3 window front with a central canted bay and includes 2 C19 or C20 doorways with bolection-moulded frames. The rear (eastern) side has a 1:2:3:2:1-window front with a C20 doorway punched through the central bay window. The left (northern) end has a 2:1:2-window front to the service courtyard and has a central doorway into the basement; a Tudor arch doorway under a stone pedimented hood resting on corbels.
One of the most remarkable survivals at Somerhill is the complete set of original ornamental lead rainwater heads and drain pipes. The rainwater heads are at their most elaborate on the main entrance front but all deserve close attention. Some are dated 1611 or 1613 and many include the initials of Robert and Frances Clarincade.
Interior: Shows mostly the result of the various C19 and C20 modernisations which, for the most part imitate Jacobean style. A great deal was done in the circa 1920 including the wainscotting and chimneypieces of the hall and saloon and their enriched rib plaster ceilings. Other important rooms were also repanelled. The panelling cleverly incorporates some earlier work. The main stair may have been rebuilt at the same time although it could be C19. The massive chimneypiece of polychrome marble in the dining room probably dates circa 1878. Whilst these modernisations aimed to keep the public rooms in Jacobean style the private bedchambers were modernised to more personal taste. Some rooms have Adams style chimneypieces with contemporary iron grates (one inscribed G III R). In the southern wing the modernisations date from circa 1930; the front first floor room was lined with C18 style panelling and the bathrooms furnished in Art Deco style.
Here and there, around the house, there are indications that much of the early structure survives intact behind later work. For instance the south wing includes several stone Tudor arch doorways and there are two more in the cellars. Also there is a large round-headed stone arch which originally connected the central passage from the hall to the southern crosswing. The alcoves alongside the ground and first floor fireplaces at the rear of the south wing were probably garderobe alcoves. A nearby stair from first floor to attics rises around a closed well which includes a curious cupboard. The stair has square newel posts with acorn-shaped finials, a moulded handrail and turned oak balusters. There is a grille of similar balusters over the foot of the staircase. Directly below at ground floor level a framed partition includes the remains of an oak doorframe; ovolo-moulded with scroll stops and above (in the attic) a chamfered and scroll-stopped doorframe. In the saloon fragments of high quality original ornamental plasterwork remain over the canted embrasures of both windows.
The Roof: Appears to be original throughout and is carried on A-frame tie- beam trusses with pegged mortise-and-tenoned collars. The 3-bay cross roof over the hall/saloon is taller and of larger scantling than the other roof structures.
The house at Somerhill is impressively situated in a mature, natural park on a hill with extensive views. More than that it is very important in terms of the evolution of English domestic architecture.
The Service Courtyard
Plan and Development: 3 ranges enclosing a courtyard adjoining the northern side of the main house. Circa 1879 they were refurbished to be used as servant accommodation and offices. This involved much internal reorganisation and most of the evidence for their former layout is hidden. The ranges are not contemporary. The north range appears to be the oldest and was probably built circa 1611-13 with the main house. It now comprises 2 2-room plan cottages, one either side of a central through passage. Since there are 2 original staircases here it seems likely that the arrangement was always similar. The stacks in this range are probably secondary. A one-room plan extension projects northwards towards the west end and this is heated by a stack backing onto the range. The outer (northern) side was formerly an open arcade of timber posts. The posts are boxed in and their date uncertain.
The east range has a wide passageway through. It has an axial stack towards the north end which might have served a kitchen-size fireplace. There was a gap between this stack and the south range which is now filled in. There is precious little dating evidence for any phase of this range. Circa 1879 the ground floor rooms were converted to offices and stores whilst the first floor became a gallery (with small rooms off it) connecting the main house to the new guest apartments. The west range was also altered in circa 1879 and now contains 2 2-room plan cottages, one either side of a through passage. All the ranges have one storey with attic rooms in the roofspace and the north range (which is terraced into the hillslope) has a half basement which opens onto the lower ground level behind.
Exterior: Although the ranges date from at least 2 building phases they now share a consistent style. The doorways have Tudor arch heads and the windows are stone and one or two lights (mostly C19 replacements). The attics have tall gable dormer windows. The outer (west) face of the west range has an irregular 4-window front with 2 doorways, the right one to the passage. Into the courtyard this range has a 3-window front. The north range courtyard side has a symmetrical 4-window front including windows to the half basement. There are 3 doorways; the centre one to the passage. The outer doorways formerly led to each of the stairs which were lit above by small slit windows. The east range has a 3-window front and 2 doorways, the right one to the passage. Throughout these buildings the gables have ball finials and the brick chimneyshafts are very important visually. The older masonry of the north range is distinguished by having a chamfered plinth which runs through behind the others ranges.
Interior: Is largely the result of C19 alterations but where floor beams show they appear to be C17. Apart from a large Tudor arch headed niche in the east wing (possibly a blocked kitchen-size fireplace) no other early features are exposed in the east and west wings and their roofspaces are inaccessible. In the north wing there are 2 large winder stairs to the attics. One of the newel posts still has a shaped finial. Both stairs have been demolished at basement level. What little that could be seen of the north range roof suggested it is carried on C17 A-frame tie-beam trusses with butt purlins.
The Stable Block
Plan: North of the service courtyard is another courtyard enclosed by stables, garage/coach houses, cottages, servant accommodation and at the east end, suites of high status, guest apartments. These are single phase buildings dated 1879. There is a gateway through the west end. To right (south) is a pair of small 2-room plan cottages with a tall clock tower at the end. The rest of this (the south) side of the courtyard is enclosed by the north range of the service courtyard. The north side of this stable yard has stables with segregated servant accommodation above. The rest of this range contains garages (former coach houses) which continue in the return across the back (east) range. There are suites of good rooms over the garages and boiler rooms below the stables.
Exterior: These C19 buildings are built in the same style as the main house. The courtyard is dominated by a tall clock tower; 5 stages with embattled parapet and above is a louvred bellcote with a spire and wrought iron weathervane. Alongside are the cottages with a 2-window front and 2 doorways into the courtyard. The attic windows are gabled dormers. The main roof is gable-ended with shaped kneelers and coping. The shoulders and apexes have ball finials. There is a tall wall across the wet end of the courtyard. The centre breaks forward and contains a tall and wide Tudor arch. The wall is gabled above with ball finials.
The courtyard side of the stables has a symmetrical 4-window front with 3 gables. The 2 stable doorways have tall overlights with pointed arch heads above. In the centre there is a drinking trough set in a Tudor arch-headed niche and enclosed by a low wall. Directly above the centre gable contains a hayloft loading hatch with a shoulder-arched doorway. At the right (east) end a stair block in the same style breaks forward. The doorway has a shoulder headed arch. The rest of the north range and the east range have various garage doors onto the courtyard and 3-window fronts above. The outer sides continue in the same style and include some large canted bay windows with crenellated parapets in the same style as the main house.
Interior: The stables have good quality cast iron stalls. All these ranges include a great deal of original joinery and other detail. There is in the south east corner a grand Jacobean style staircase. Its square section newel posts include panels of carved foliage and have ornate poppyhead finials; it has a closed string; fluted vase balusters and moulded ramped handrail. 2 large rooms (one under the garage section of the north range and the other off the first half landing) have Jacobean style panelling, timber chimneypieces and moulded plaster ceilings. The rooms over the garages are well-finished suites of bedchambers but are not Jacobean style. These rooms are now flats but were probably built for accommodating parties of guests with the lower rooms used for entertainment.
Sources. Department of the Environment Register of Parks and Gardens. John Newman. West Kent and the Weald. Penguin Books Buildings of England series (1969) pp.536-7. H. Avray Tipping. 'Somerhill, Kent'. Country Life, Sept 9, 1922, pp.310-317.
Listing NGR: TQ6212245444
The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.
- Legacy System number:
- Legacy System:
Books and journals
Newman, J, The Buildings of England: West Kent and the Weald, (1969), 536-7
'Country Life' in September 9, (1922), 310-317
Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest in England, Part 24 Kent,
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