Japonica and The Nook


Heritage Category:
Listed Building
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Location Description:
Statutory Address:
The Street, Somerleyton, Suffolk, NR32 5PS


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Statutory Address:
The Street, Somerleyton, Suffolk, NR32 5PS

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

Location Description:
East Suffolk (District Authority)
Somerleyton, Ashby and Herringfleet
National Grid Reference:


Pair of semi-detached estate workers’ cottages built in the 1850s for Sir Samuel Morton Peto, probably to the designs of John Thomas.

Reasons for Designation

Japonica and The Nook, a pair of semi-detached estate workers’ cottages built in the 1850s for Sir Samuel Morton Peto, probably to the designs of John Thomas, are listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

Architectural interest:

* they are a good and well-preserved example of picturesque estate cottages, drawing on the earlier tradition of the cottage orné; * they incorporate many of the typical motifs of the vernacular, all of which are handled with the skill of an assured architect, resulting in a well-proportioned and delightfully detailed building.

Historic interest:

* they form a notable and coherent ensemble with the visually arresting and ornate estate cottages arranged around the large village green.

Group value:

* they have strong group value with the adjacent Old Post Office and numerous estate cottages, all listed at Grade II, and with the Grade II* listed Somerleyton Hall, extensively rebuilt in the 1840s by John Thomas, which is set within the Grade II* registered park, a C17 park with formal C19 gardens by W A Nesfield.


The Somerleyton estate was purchased by Sir Thomas Wentworth at the beginning of the C17 and shortly afterwards the mansion house was built, surrounded by innovative gardens. In 1844 the estate was purchased by Sir Samuel Morton Peto (1809-1889), a remarkable man who started as a bricklayer before becoming a leading building contractor and the largest employer of labour in the world. He won many notable contracts, including those for the Houses of Parliament and Nelson’s Column, and he built many of the railways in Britain and throughout the world. He was an MP and one of the guarantors for the Great Exhibition of 1851, and in 1855 he was knighted. In 1866 Peto’s firm went bankrupt and he sold the Somerleyton estate to Sir Francis Crossley. His son, Sir Savile Crossley, became the first Baron Somerleyton in 1916. The estate remains (2019) in private hands. Peto employed John Thomas (1813-1864) to rebuild Somerleyton Hall (Grade II*), the parish church (Grade II*), and the picturesque estate cottages around the village green, all of which are listed at Grade II. It is highly probable that Thomas also designed the semi-detached estate workers’ cottages called Japonica and The Nook. Thomas was primarily a sculptor and ornamental mason. Left an orphan at the age of thirteen, he was apprenticed as a stonemason and was chiefly engaged in the stone-carving and the lettering of gravestones. At the end of his apprenticeship, about 1831, he joined his much older architect brother, William, in Birmingham, and from his office he designed and executed a gothic monument in Huntingdon. This caught the attention of Sir Charles Barry who engaged him to execute the Pugin-designed stone-carving of the Edward VI Grammar School in Birmingham. In the later 1830s he worked chiefly as a stone-carver for Edward Blore and for the North Midland Railway but in 1841 Barry again sought him out for the Palace of Westminster where he was appointed Superintendent of stone-carving in 1846. Royal patronage followed in 1848 with the commission from Prince Albert for large bas reliefs of 'Peace' and 'War' at Buckingham Palace, followed by further work at Windsor and a sculptural programme for the Sultan's Palace at Constantinople. In parallel with his sculpture, Thomas practised as an architect designing Somerleyton Hall, the Dairy in Home Park, Windsor (1860) and Huntington Hill House, Oxford (1861). He died in London in 1862, his health reputedly undermined by difficulties with the Shakespeare memorial at the International Exhibition of that year. Thomas has many listed buildings to his name, including statues and memorials as well as the numerous estate buildings at Somerleyton.

Japonica and The Nook were built during the 1850s. They are depicted on the first edition Ordnance Survey (OS) map of 1884 as a pair of semi-detached cottages with outbuildings at the rear. The second edition OS map of 1905 shows that the outbuildings have been extended on the east side. The cottages have been renovated and contain modern kitchens and bathrooms.


Pair of semi-detached estate workers’ cottages built in the 1850s for Sir Samuel Morton Peto, probably to the designs of John Thomas.

MATERIALS: yellow brick laid in Flemish bond with brick dressings and thatched roofs.

PLAN: the pair of cottages faces south-east onto The Street. Japonica, on the left, has an adjoining outbuilding to the rear and is slightly set back from The Nook which has a detached outbuilding.

EXTERIOR: the two-storey cottages are in a picturesque Tudor vernacular style with half hipped roofs and painted bargeboards in the form of pierced semicircles. Rising through the ridge and eaves are tall decorative chimney stacks with grouped flues set at angles to the bases and oversailing brick eaves surmounted by circular pots. The upper floors are pebble-dashed and embellished with applied painted timbers to imitate timber framing. The principal elevation consists of two gabled bays. The left one (Japonica) is set back and contains a vertical plank door under a porch with a half-hipped thatched roof with decorative bargeboards, supported on square-section painted wooden pillars with chamfered and stopped corners. To the left and above are mullioned and transomed wooden casement windows under segmental brick arches with lattice lead cames in the upper lights. The fenestration is similar throughout the building. The right bay, occupied by The Nook, has a canted bay window on the ground floor and casement window above. The entrance is on the right return under a simple lean-to porch with a tiled roof supported by square section painted wooden pillars with chamfered and stopped corners. Above the door is an eyebrow dormer positioned across the eaves. On the right hand side of the north-east elevation is a projecting gabled bay lit by a window on each floor.

The south-west elevation, which is the left return of Japonica, is lit on the ground floor by three windows with an eyebrow dormer above, followed by a chimney breast which projects from the wall and rises through the eaves. The rear elevation of the cottages is lit by a C20 casement window under a concrete lintel and an eyebrow dormer on the first floor. There is a projecting gabled bay on the right and a C20 brick lean-to extension with a pantile roof has been built in the corner. A single-storey red brick extension under a pantile-clad hipped roof was added to the gable end in the first half of the C20.

INTERIOR: the cottages have three ground floor rooms and three bedrooms above, a partition wall having been erected to make a third room. They have a simple internal treatment including closed well staircases with stick balusters and some four-panel doors. None of the original fireplaces remain except for one in Japonica which has been boarded over but may survive. This has a plain timber surround.

SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: the single-storey red brick building to the rear of the cottages has a pantile-clad hipped roof. The south-west end behind Japonica is constructed of red brick whilst the north-west end is of yellow brick. This has a window with lattice lead cames on the north-west elevation and C20 wooden-frame windows on the south-east side, along with two plank and batten doors. Inside, the floor is laid in red brick and there is a stove with a door, serviced by a tall red brick chimney stack.




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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