Country house designed by W.D Caröe and built 1927-30 incorporating parts of a John Nash house of 1808, itself a remodelling of a house of c.1600.
MATERIALS: Red brick, hand-made red clay tile roof.
PLAN: The main house roughly square, with service buildings off the rear (south and east) and a long service wing leading east.
EXTERIOR: The main north front faces Aqualate Mere and has two projecting canted bays (reinstated by Caröe in 1930) topped with concrete-balustraded parapets alternating with two flat gabled sections, the latter designed to harmonise with the lower servants' wing to the east. Set against the centre of the north front is a stone post topped with one of the carved heads (crude; more Celtic than Classical) which stood on the piers of the forecourt of the C17 house (below, History). Stone shields are set in the wall above. The entrance front as remodelled by Caröe is to the east, off the forecourt bounded by the separately listed Grade II stables. A two-storey 1930s polygonal porch with concrete balustrades stands at the south-east corner of the house, linking it with the service range which runs east to the stables. The doorway has a Red Hollington stone archway with armorial shields; the main double door is of the 1930s. The west side of the house is flat and plainer (this is where Caröe truncated Nash's western extension: see below, History), with the principal interest being a canted bay to the rear, again with balustraded parapet, from which rises a tall arrow-shaped brick chimney stack, one of six similar stacks serving the house. The south front, onto the rear lawn, has a central 1930s canted bay with concrete balustrades. The windows to the main house are 1930s rectangular pattern leaded lights set into steel-framed casements and hoppers. The roof is of the 1930s.
Extending south from the rear (south-east) corner of the house is a complex, roughly L-plan brick service range largely C18 and C19 but remodelled by Caröe. Adjoining the main house and facing west onto the rear garden are three end-on gables (above the Hall and Dining Room; a modern glazed lean-to is not of special interest), while beyond to the south is the older, C18 hip-roofed kitchens and sculleries. This range too has imitation Tudor chimney stacks, though smaller than those on the main house.
That range links with another long service wing which runs east from behind the south-east entrance to the house, along the south side of the entrance courtyard to abut the stables range to the east. This range has ornamental gables echoing those on the house and a band of C18 red sandstone ashlar blocks along the base of its north side. There are also red sandstone cills, key stones and curious isolated 'stones' (in fact cast iron components associated with the C19 fireproof floor system within) set between the window openings, two of which retain C18 mullion and transom oak windows. The remainder of the windows on this face of the range are Nash-period double-hung eight-pane sashes. A range is shown in this position on the 1686 engraving of the house in Plot's Staffordshire, and its present form, with clearly different periods of brickwork, appears to represent successive reworkings by Nash and Caröe.
INTERIOR: The ground floor is arranged so that the principal, western, reception rooms have floor levels that are a half-storey higher than the remainder, allowing for cellars beneath and improved views across the gardens. The main Entrance Hall (at the lower level) is a large, L-plan panelled reception room (mainly 1930s), divided in two by a stone-columned arcade and with a grand fireplace; the main stairs to the upper level reception rooms and the first floor rise from its far end. To the south of the Hall is the Dining Room. The reception rooms are (to south-east) the Wainscot Room, panelled as its name suggests, with an alcove in the east wall facing a mid-C18 fireplace opposite; north off this the Snooker Room (or Library) which has a later C18 fireplace; at the north-west corner the main Drawing Room with a late-C18 ceiling, a probably introduced early-C19 fireplace and 1930s panelling; and south of this a broad passage with turret rooms off. The other ground floor rooms to the main house are the Estate Office (with access to cellars) and Strong Room which occupy the north-east corner. The upstairs bedrooms are on two levels, those to the west reached by an additional flight of steps; this reflects the different floor levels provided for rooms at ground floor level. All the bedrooms appear to have been refitted in the Caröe rebuilding of 1927-30, although some incorporate older fireplaces and joinery.
The service range running east from the house has a ground floor (the Long Room, used as a dining room) with a brick-vaulted fireproof ceiling incorporating upside-down cast iron T-beams; this may well be part of Nash's work. Beyond are the Dog Kitchen and the Dog Sitting Room. The upstairs was not inspected but the architect reports simple cell-like bedrooms.
OTHER FEATURES: A decorative low, pierced, brick wall defines the lawns to the north and west sides of the Hall and the entrance forecourt to the east of the house. This is part of Caröe's work of 1927-30. Centrally within the forecourt is a mid-C19 circular fountain basin with a decorative, two-tier, central fountain. This was moved here from elsewhere, probably c.1930 when this (rather than the south) became the entrance front.
HISTORY: There has been a house on this site since 1547 when Thomas Skyrmsher bought the manor of Aqualate and built Aqualate Hall on a low hill above a natural lake, Aqualate Mere. This house was rebuilt c.1600 as a rather plain and not-quite symmetrical three-storey brick house with a principal north front with mullion and transom windows, a row of low gables to the roof and two-storey canted bays with balustrades either side of the front door. A forecourt had tall, rusticated piers topped with large carved heads. That building (to which two flanking wings had been added in 1770, at the same time that sash windows were installed) formed the core of the house reconstructed and extended to the west in a pseudo-gothic style with a grand central gallery by John Nash in 1808 for a new owner, Sir John Fenton Boughey (d.1823), a rebuilding financed by a large inheritance from his grandmother's cousin. The exisiting landscape park was much improved at the same time. Much of Nash's house (watercolour proposals for which are at Aqualate), notably the large western extension, was burnt down in 1910. The present Aqualate Hall, designed by W.D Caröe, was created for Mrs Ethel Morris between 1927 (when she inherited) and 1930. It incorporates the core of the C17 house and elements of Nash's remodelling (the relationship between the houses is only partially clarified by comparing successive large-scale Ordnance Survey maps), although the remaining parts of this were stripped of stucco and reduced by one storey.
SOURCES: A Stuart Gray, Edwardian Architecture: A Biographical Dictionary (1985), 134-7; J.M Freeman, W.D Caröe RStO FSA: His Architectural Achievement (1990), 106-7; Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online edn, May 2005) W.D Caröe; Victoria History of Staffordshire 4 (1958), 104 and facing pls.; D Yale, 'The Landscaping of Aqualate park 1805-1813', Staffordshire Studies 6 (1994), 27-43; T Cockin, The Staffordshire Encyclopaedia (2000), 17-1; T Juhre, Aqualate: Family Connections (priv print 2005).
REASONS FOR DESIGNATION DECISION: Aqualate Hall is listed at Grade II*, for the following principal reasons:
* As a competent adaptation of an older country house by W.D Caröe which created a pleasing and compact historicist house.
* For the quality of its interiors, which have seen little if any change since 1930 and which incorporate elements of its C17 and later predecessors.
* For its part at the core of a fine collection of estate buildings, alongside Grade II listed stables, which together provide an exceptional example of such a complex
* For its place at the centre of a landscape park