The How


Heritage Category:
Listed Building
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Statutory Address:
Houghton Road, St. Ives, PE27 6RP


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Statutory Address:
Houghton Road, St. Ives, PE27 6RP

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

Huntingdonshire (District Authority)
St. Ives
National Grid Reference:


House built in 1868-1870 to the designs of William White.

Reasons for Designation

The How, a house built in 1868-1870 to the designs of William White, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

Architectural interest:

* it is a notable example of the polychromatic domestic work of the highly regarded Victorian architect who is associated with a great number of listed buildings; * the use of local gault brick alongside the prominent red brick dressings and plain clay tiles produces a harmonious palette which is aesthetically very successful, and White’s insistence on using local building materials handled by local builders anticipates the ideas of the Arts and Crafts movement; * the interior displays classic features in White’s decorative repertoire, such as the distinctive staircase, the prominent carved beams, the stained glass in the porch, the beautifully fitted window shutters with their strap hinges, and the doors with their panels of diagonal planks; * it is a well-preserved example of White’s work, retaining a good number of original features, as well as the plan form that clearly demarcates the family and servants’ areas.

Historic interest:

* it exemplifies the historicist style in the architect’s fluid and assured essay in the vernacular tradition, and illustrates the more homely and less showy type of architecture favoured by some patrons during this period for what were still substantial houses.


The How, together with its lodge and stables, was built between 1868 and 1870 to the designs of William White (1825-1900). It was built for Gilbert John Ansley who was related by marriage to White’s sister Mary Martelli. Presumably it was this connection, together with White’s previous work in the locality, that prompted the commission. In the early C19 the Ansley family were local landowners whose family seat was the nearby Grade II listed Houghton Hill House (1840). After his marriage, Gilbert Ansley moved to Green End to the west of St Ives and from there his family took up residence in The How. The grounds must have been carefully designed as there is a rustic stone bridge over a small pond and the walls of another former water feature. Gilbert died in 1875 and his widow Henrietta is shown in Kelly’s Directory to be living there in 1898. On her death, the property passed to her son Major John Henry Ansley who probably sold it soon afterwards. George Ranken Askwith, 1st Baron Askwith of St Ives was recorded as living at The How in 1914, and by the 1960s it was occupied by Cyril Maples Haigh, Mayor of St Ives.

The How is depicted on the first edition Ordnance Survey (OS) map of 1888 in substantial grounds at the south end of a tree-lined drive which has a lodge at its north end on Houghton Road. A stable is shown to the north of the house. No change is shown to the footprint of the buildings on the second edition map of 1901 but a row of small outbuildings has appeared between the house and stable. By the third edition map of 1926 a small extension has been added to the north side of the stable, and another extension to the west side of the lodge. The 1971 OS map shows that at some point since 1926 the house was extended to the north; and since then it has been extended to the west, and the stable has been extended to the north-west.

The How was listed in the obituary of William White published in the RIBA Journal (10 February 1900), along with many of his other 348 commissions for country houses, parsonages, churches and schools located from Cornwall to Aberdeen, as well as in South Africa and Madagascar where he designed the Anglican cathedral. White was the great-nephew of the Rev Gilbert White, author of The Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne (1789). He spent two years in the office of George Gilbert Scott before establishing his own architectural practice in Truro in 1847. He returned to London in 1851 where he practised for the remainder of his life. Mark Girouard has described him as ‘one of the most interesting and least known of Victorian Gothic revivalists', possibly because he did not enter the competitions for major public buildings that brought fame and fortune to his contemporaries, and neither did he produce books to promote his architectural theories.

In Gill Hunter’s monograph William White: Pioneer Victorian Architect (2010), in which she assesses his influence and significance as a Victorian architect, she makes a compelling case for his being in the vanguard of architectural fashion and attitudes to restoration. She notes that his obituary mentions he was involved in more than 250 ecclesiastical schemes. Although he believed that there was less opportunity for innovation in the design of churches, Hunter observes that his designs for parsonage houses and schools show he was a forerunner in the development of the Queen Anne style. As a restorer of both ecclesiastical and secular buildings, White was sensitive to earlier work but realistic about the demands of modern life, arguing that the continued function of a building was necessary for its preservation. He was a prominent architect of the period and is associated with over 100 buildings on the List, ranging from new domestic commissions to church additions and building restorations.


House built in 1868-1870 to the designs of William White.

MATERIALS: gault brick laid in English bond with red brick dressings and a roof covering of plain clay tiles.

PLAN: the house has an irregular plan consisting of a principal south front containing the reception rooms with the service rooms at the north end. C20 extensions adjoin the western and northern elevations.

EXTERIOR: The How is a substantial two-storey house in an Arts and Crafts/ Domestic Revival style. It is characterised by a rambling roofscape with crest tiles and profusion of gables and tall chimney stacks, and by the polychromatic brickwork which consists of lozenge patterns in red brick forming quoins and window surrounds. A brick string course runs around the building at ground-floor lintel height. The windows are wooden casements with varying numbers of lights divided by mullions.

The principal south-facing elevation has three bays under a steeply pitched roof with a wide chimney stack of red brick, the number of flues articulated only by their distinctive triangular shaped caps. All the chimneys are in the same style. Each gabled bay of the façade is given a different treatment. The first bay has a double-height canted bay window with tile-hanging under a hipped roof. The second bay is similar, though wider, and has a gable head rising above the hipped roof. The third bay has a ground-floor canted bay window and a gabled window above. The first and third bays have French windows. On the south-east corner of the house is a date stone inscribed with the date June 30 1868 and the name John Henry Ansley which is presumably a memorial to Gilbert Ansley’s father.

The four-bay west elevation has a hipped roof and a wide ridge stack on the left hand side, and a cupola surmounted by a hipped roof with sprocketed eaves. The ground floor is lit by a pair of single-light windows under round brick arches, followed by a two-light C20 window which replaced a group of three windows, indicated by the triple round brick arches above. Next is a multi-pane oriel window under a mono-pitch roof, followed by a projecting chimney stack. A long C20 single-storey, red brick extension with a pitched roof obscures the fourth bay. The first floor is lit by three large three-light casements under segmental brick arches, and two small windows to the right of the chimney stack. A wide, tile-hung dormer window with a large window above eaves level is situated in the centre of the roof.

The long east elevation has an irregularly picturesque composition full of tile-hung gables and variations in plane. On the left is the gable end of the façade which has a projecting chimney stack rising through the ridge. To the right, a gabled projection with a brick plinth and leaded lights above contains the entrance porch. It has a plank and batten door with long strap hinges, flanked by stained glass windows with leaded lights, and two overlights of the same design are set within timberwork. This is followed by a projecting gabled bay lit by a two-light window under a segmental brick arch and, above, a square bay under a tile-hung gable head. Then, at right angles, is a shallow gable facing north, lit by a tall first-floor window under a segmental brick arch. The remaining elevation is recessed. It has a hipped roof at the right end and a prominent dormer window with a tile-hung gable head. Below this is a mono-pitch roof over a single-storey projection which is lit by a C20 window. Adjoining the north end of the house is a long, single-storey C20 extension in stone with a tile-clad pitched roof

INTERIOR: the entrance porch, lit by stained glass windows, is lined on one side by a bench and leads into the L-shaped hall through a wide round arch door with panels of diagonal planks and narrow glazed panels above filled with stained glass in a simple floral pattern; the same design is used in the flanking margin lights. The hall has a corner fireplace with a cast iron surround and grate, and tiled cheeks in a stylised floral design. The open well stair with a quarter-turn landing has a panelled soffit, chamfered newel posts, a wide closed string and widely spaced splat balusters which support a moulded handrail. The newel posts at the entrance to the staircase have projecting horizontal members with a carved circular design at the ends. The staircase is lit by a skylight

The wide doors into the reception rooms have two lower panels of diagonal planks and an upper panel of vertical planks, set within recessed doorways. The principal reception room occupying the second and third bay of the south front has four prominent ceiling beams with carved ends, a deep cornice, a window seat in the canted bay and window shutters with long strap hinges. The upper lights have separate shutters. The stone fireplace is not original. The adjacent reception room occupying the first bay of the south front has a similar treatment except that the fireplace is brick with a round arched opening punctuated by brick voussoirs, probably of interwar date. Similar again is the smaller room to the north of the hall which has a deep cornice and window shutters but the fireplace has been replaced by a wood-burning stove. The service areas have been modified to create an open plan kitchen and dining room. The back open well staircase has a plain closed string and widely spaced simple balusters with a rail.

The architectural detailing on the first floor is more simple, consisting of four-panel doors, cornices and some fitted cupboards.

SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: at the north end of the house, to the immediate east of the C20 extension, is a pair of tall red brick gate piers with pyramid stone caps.


Books and journals
Hunter, G, William White Pioneer Victorian Architect, (2010)
Pevsner, Nikolaus, O'Brien, Charles, The Buildings of England: Bedfordshire, Huntingdonshire and Peterborough, (2014)


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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