Wilburton Manor


Heritage Category:
Listed Building
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Statutory Address:
55 Station Road, Wilburton, Cambridgeshire, CB6 3RR


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Statutory Address:
55 Station Road, Wilburton, Cambridgeshire, CB6 3RR

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

East Cambridgeshire (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:


A Gothic country house now a school built 1848-51 to the designs of AWN Pugin, although dated 1888.

Reasons for Designation

Wilburton Manor, completed by 1851 to the designs of AWN Pugin and built by G Myers for the Pell family, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

Architectural interest: * as a design by one of the most prolific and influential of C19 architects; * for the quality of the remaining fittings.

Historic interest: * as an example of a pin-wheel house, which was pioneering at its time and has influenced domestic planning since. The layout remains discernible despite later alterations to the house; * for the associations with the Pell family, the local landowners who had an important role in the area, but also produced figures of note including Lady Margaret Letitia Pell and her son Sir Albert Pell. They were responsible for the building of the new manor and had brought Pugin to Wilburton to work on St Peter’s Church there.


Wilburton Manor was built for the Pell family as the ‘New Manor’ to distinguish it from the old Elizabethan manor house, Burystead, located in the village. That building had been replaced by a new manor as early as 1650. According to Pevsner the house was constructed 'without the supervision of the architect'. However, it appears that Pugin was in Wilburton on 24 August 1848 at which time he may well have discussed the design with the Pells. As noted in the listing application, George Myers then wrote that "I ... hereby agree to erect a house at Wilburton for the Honorable Lady Pell according to the plans and specifications and to the entire satisfaction of A. W. Pugin the Architect, for the sum of two thousand four hundred and seventy five pounds ... completing the same by Midsummer 1849". The internal plan of the house is similar to that of Pugin's own house, The Grange in Ramsgate and is known as the 'pin wheel' plan form. In this arrangement the main living and bed rooms on ground and first floors respectively are accessed from a stair hall which is the focal point of the design. Service areas such as kitchens are located separately from the principal rooms, although they can also be accessed from the main stair hall.

Wilburton Manor had come into the possession of Sir Albert Pell in 1817. Sir Albert died in 1832, and his widow the Hon Lady Margaret Letitia Matilda Pell held the manor in dower until her death in 1868. She was the third daughter of Henry Beauchamp St John of Bletsoe. In 1900 Sir Albert's two surviving nephews were joint lords. Albert Pell the elder, a noted agriculturalist and authority on the poor law, died in 1907 and was succeeded by his nephew Albert Julian, who had been acting as steward. Oliver Claude Pell, the third of Sir Albert's sons, was chairman of the Isle of Ely County Council from 1889 until his death in 1891. On the death of Albert Julian Pell in 1916 his nephew, Beauchamp Stewart Pell, succeeded. Kelly’s Directory notes that ‘Wilburton Manor, a mansion of red brick and stone, erected from the designs of the late A.W.N. Pugin is the property of the trustees of Albert Julian Pell JP (deceased) who are lords of the manor and principal landowners: The house (1929) is currently unoccupied’. Pugin also worked on restoring St Peter’s Church in Wilburton for Lady Pell.

Early photographs of the Manor House show an original multi-headed chimney stack on the entrance side which has since been curtailed. The chimney breast remains but there is an oriel window on the second floor with a date stone with AP/ 1888 in the gable above. A date stone also appears on the photograph, which has been replaced with an inserted window matching the others in its detailing. The building’s late-C19 and early-C20 alterations have been attributed to J. A. Gotch of Kettering (1852-1942) and W. M. Fawcett of Cambridge (1832-1909).

The Manor was sold to Cambridgeshire County Council in the mid C20 and is now used as a school, which opened on 12 October 1965. As a consequence of the reuse, the house has been adapted for use as accommodation for the pupils and other buildings have been constructed on the site.

Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin (1812-1852) was one of the most influential and dynamic architects of his age. He was heavily involved in the Gothic revival, seeing it a purer and more religiously appropriate form of architecture than 'pagan' classical style and one that embodied vital principles of architectural design. This led to the publication of two major works, 'Contrasts' in 1836 and 'The True Principles of Pointed or Christian Architecture' in 1841. As well as a prolific designer of churches, and a pioneer of planning of domestic buildings, he was also a controversial figure, particularly in the religious sphere where he antagonised the likes of Cardinal John Henry Newman. His most famous works include the designs for the interior and St Stephen's Clock Tower (Big Ben) of the new Palace of Westminster, as well as his own house, The Grange in Ramsgate and Oscott College near Birmingham. Pugin died in 1852 at the age of 40 having suffered a total nervous breakdown earlier in the year. He is buried at St Augustine's Church next to his house in Ramsgate, which he also designed.


A Gothic country house now a school built 1848-1851 to the designs of AWN Pugin and built by George Myers.

MATERIALS: the building is constructed of red brick with masonry dressings. It has a clay-tiled roof.

PLAN: the building is roughly rectangular in plan and orientated north-south. It has an axial wing to the south and projecting sections at the north end of the building. The interior has a 'pin wheel' arrangement.

DESCRIPTION: Wilburton Manor is a two storey and attic structure with basement. It has a steeply pitched roof of clay tiles with stone copings and decorative kneelers, and groups of tall octagonal brick chimney stacks. The window openings and corners have masonry quoins and the windows at the principal (south) end of the building have cusped lights and a run of small trefoiled openings above. The front (north-west) elevation is irregularly fenestrated. The main entrance is located towards the right of the elevation, via a boarded door set in a pointed arched opening with hood mould. There is a large gable to the right of that which has a former chimney breast which has been curtailed and a small oriel window added. There is a carved shield and date stone above set in the gable head with 1888 and AP incised upon it. This part of the building has a projecting brick and masonry base course and a masonry string course. The window openings are square-headed with trefoil headed lights. To the left are the large windows which light the stair hall. There are two further windows with trefoil heads to the left. Beyond that are placed a series of irregular transomed and mullioned windows. One which is between the ground and first floor levels denotes the presence of the service stair. At the far left is a projecting section which contains a linked gabled building.

The south west elevation has a base course and string course and has large mullioned and transomed windows to the ground floor; that to the left has three lights, that to the right has two. All have cusped and trefoiled heads. In the near centre of the elevation is a two-leaf door below a further pair of window lights. The door has a three centred arch with decorative carving in the spandrels. There are four windows on the first floor one of which is a later insertion. Like those on the ground floor they are square headed, with cusped pointed arches below a band of trefoil openings. A chimney breast rises between the windows off-centre and on the right side of the elevation. The octagonal chimney stack is shouldered and has embattled stone cornices and octagonal chimney pots. There is a gabled dormer to the left and a later square-headed dormer to the right of it.

The south-east elevation formally faced towards a formal sunken garden and now looks towards modern school buildings. The left hand side contained the principal family rooms and is more architecturally decorative than the right hand side with the same window openings as the south-west, a string course and quoins. To the far left is a broad gable containing a bay with windows to ground and first floor. Towards the centre are two tri-partite windows on the ground floor, with a further tri-partite and single light window to the first floor. The right hand side of the elevation is separated by a buttress and has simpler window openings with later metal framed units. Three long box dormers and a ventilation box have been in the roof. To the far right is a gabled projection containing a later two-leaf door with a small ogee window above.

The northern end of the building contained the service areas surrounding a small courtyard. Part of the building has been heightened to provide additional accommodation. To the north-west corner is a small hall the historic use of which is unclear but may have been a nod to the previous presence of a manorial court.

INTERIOR: the interior has been altered during its use as a school. The house is accessed through a plain surrounded two-centred doorway which enters a lobby with a red and black checked tile floor, and a further internal boarded door with ornamental door furniture. The main part of the house is in the 'pinwheel' plan which revolves around a central, open-well, staircase hall, which leads at ground floor level to three main reception rooms. Large double doors provide access between the former drawing room and study The doors and side panels are inset with chamfered panels. The surround has moulded sides and carved finials. There are cavities in each room which denote the location of the fireplaces, which have been removed. The stair hall is double height and the stair, which has original balusters and shaped-head newel posts, rises in a dog leg. The ceiling is coffered with plain timber members and the floor has black and yellow tiles in a keyed design. A full-height glazed safety partition has been installed beside the staircase and the stairs have modern lino covering. The original kitchen fireplace remains but other fire surrounds have been removed. On the first floor, the landing was marked by an arcade of Gothic arches some of which have been enclosed with later partitions. The principal rooms on the first floor have been subdivided and have suspended ceilings and painted render finish. The attic has been enlarged and converted into bedrooms. The service area of the building is accessed via a door underneath the stairs and there is a service stair to the left just beyond which retains original joinery and newel post. A boarded Gothic door with heavy ornamental door furniture also remains in situ. There is a small hall to the north west of the main block which is full height and has an exposed metal roof structure. There is also a wine cellar in the basement of the building which retains brick storage bays.

This list entry was subject to a Minor Enhancement on 05/10/2020


Books and journals
Bradley, Simon, Pevsner, Nikolaus, The Buildings of England: Cambridgeshire, (2014), 683
Rosemary, Hill, God's Architect; Pugin and the Building of Romantic Britain, (2007)
A.W.N. Pugin’s English Residential Architecture in its Context - PHD Thesis by Timothy John Brittain-Catlin, 2004, accessed 10 January 2019 from https://www.repository.cam.ac.uk/handle/1810/238298
Cambridgeshire History - Wilburton, accessed 29 October 2018 from http://www.cambridgeshirehistory.com/cambridgeshire/TownsandVillages/Wilburton/index.html
T D Atkinson, Ethel M Hampson, E T Long, C A F Meekings, Edward Miller, H B Wells and G M G Woodgate, A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 4, City of Ely; Ely, N. and S. Witchford and Wisbech Hundreds, ed. R B Pugh (London, 2002), British History Online, accessed 29 October 2018 from http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/cambs/vol4


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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