A rectory of 1848 by FC Penrose for Revd Thring, repaired and remodelled by TG Jackson in 1881 and with later alterations.
Reasons for Designation
Hornblotton House, a mid-C19 rectory restored in the later C19, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
Architectural and historic interest:
* as a noteworthy example of a pre-1850 English country rectory with an assured remodelling in the late-C19;
* it is a characterful design with quality detailing to the exterior elevations;
* for the involvement of two distinguished C19 architects: FC Penrose who carried out the original design; and TG Jackson who was responsible for the late C19 restoration;
* the evidence of change including the late C19 insertion of a first-floor library, decorative stair window and adaptation of service rooms illustrates the evolved needs and tastes of the C19 English country rector and his family;
* the building retains a substantial proportion of its historic fabric and layout.
* with the Church of St Peter, Hornblotton (Grade I, also by TG Jackson), with which it forms a traditional group of church and rectory;
* with additional association with the churchyard and its Grade II monuments, which are located on part of a deserted medieval settlement.
Hornblotton House was built as a Parsonage House and Offices on glebe land by the Church of St Peter for Revd John Gale Dalton Thring (1784-1874) in 1848, to the design of Francis Cranmer Penrose (1817-1903). Revd Thring’s father (also John) had bought the adjacent Hornblotton and Alford Manors in 1807 and JGD Thring was made rector of both parishes, which he served from Alford House (Grade II, remodelled by FC Penrose in 1877). By 1848 he had arranged for the new rectory to be built by the isolated parish church at Hornblotton. Penrose was Surveyor of the Fabric at St Paul’s Cathedral for 45 years from 1852 and, later, President of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA).
In 1858, the parishes of Alford and Hornblotton were combined and Thring’s third son, Godfrey (1823-1903), was made Rector by the Diocese of Bath and Wells. Godfrey, a notable writer of hymns, appears to have resided with his parents and other family at Alford House (1861 census) but later resided at the rectory at Hornblotton with his wife (1871 census), whom he has married at Hornblotton Church in 1870. Around this time, he commissioned the architect Thomas Graham Jackson to design a replacement church for Hornblotton. Jackson’s church (listed at Grade I) was consecrated by the Lord Bishop of Bath and Wells in February 1874, following a procession from the rectory (Western Gazette).
The rectory was subject to a highly critical surveyor’s report of February 1881 for the Diocese under the Ecclesiastical Dilapidations Act of 1871. It noted that the buildings on the site were the Parsonage House and offices, stable, coach house and offices, sheds and cow stalls, and that a number of remedial works were necessary, including the replacement of the roofs and a collapsed principal staircase. The use of inferior materials and poor construction methods were cited. In addition, the surveyor approved designs for a scheme of restoration and enlargement already commissioned from TG Jackson, including a new first-floor library some on the east side. Jackson’s specifications for improvements and comprehensive refurbishment were finalised in May 1881, signed off by Godfrey Thring’s brother Theodore and executed under a clerk of works. The scheme included a new east front (facing the church), new roofs and ‘repairing dilapidations’ and decoration throughout, all carried out in accordance with the emerging conservationist ethos of the time. Jackson’s signed certificate notes that “…there will be no timber removed from the old building fit to be used in the new, and only an inconsiderable quantity of stone” and skilled craftsmen and high-quality materials were specified. It is not clear when the stone projecting bay was added to the south end, but it is shown on the depiction of the house on the First Edition Ordnance Survey Map of 1888. Jackson was a celebrated Victorian architect best known for a number of prominent buildings in Oxford including at Brasenose and Hertford Colleges (Grade II). The Thrings were a notable family in the C19 and three of JGD Thring’s sons held important positions across public life, while Godfrey published a number of volumes of hymns.
Further surveys for the Diocese in the early C20 show that minor repair works to the interior were recommended, and presumably undertaken, and that part of the building was in use as a Parish room for a period. In the early C20, the house and outbuildings were sold into private ownership by the Diocese. The service wing was rebuilt to the east between 1928 and 1938 with a two-storey range replacing the kitchen and scullery. In the 1970s, the house was converted to a boarding house for Millfield School, but returned to a private dwelling with various associated business and farming uses in the later C20 and C21. Some rearrangement of room divisions and changes in floor levels has taken place during the C20 and most interior fittings have been replaced or reordered during this period. Some C19 joinery remains, notably to the drawing room to the right of the front door. Many of the chimneypieces are modern insertions. The detached coach house was rebuilt in the late C20 and the dairy converted to residential and storage use. A new barn was built to the north in early C21.
Rectory and offices of 1848 by FC Penrose for Revd JGD Thring, Rector of Alford, updated and enlarged in 1881 by TG Jackson for Theodore Thring, and with later alterations.
MATERIALS: constructed of dressed local lias stone with Doulting and Castle Cary limestone dressings including window openings, quoins and moulded kneelers to the gables, and chimneystacks. Window frames are timber and metal casements and sashes, and of varied date. The roofs are covered in tile and most gables have ventilation slits, stone coping and finials.
PLAN: built on an east/ west orientation with a principal west elevation facing the Fosseway. The rectory is of two storeys plus attic and basement. It is a mid-C19 rectory L-corridor plan with central stair hall and ground floor study, drawing room and dining room. There is a corridor behind the stair to service rooms and the service range with a later two-storey early-C20 wing on the east (garden) front. Attached to the north are former stables and coach house now in residential uses, and single-storey attached stores.
EXTERIOR: the principal (west) front is in the Revival style with mullioned casements with eared architraves under cambered heads and drip moulds, and a moulded storey band and stone plinth. The central gabled entrance bay breaks forward and has to the door to the right with a three-centred arch and an inserted two-light opening above under its own drip mould. The inserted window may be coeval with other changes to the fenestration in 1881 including the lowering of some cills and widening of some windows. The bay to the right of the entrance has had a canted bay window inserted in the C20, in place of a former chimneybreast and stack. The left return of the entrance bay has a chimney with offset and ashlar stack. The bays to the former service range to the left have a wider chimney of similar style with casements to each side. The relieving arches at first-floor level indicate where openings have been altered. The bottom left opening was formerly the site of a coach entrance. Dormer windows break through the eaves either side of the stack. The dormer to the left is a later insertion. To the north gable end wall, there are single casements below an end stack and above the former stable roof. The far-left bays of the principal front are the adapted two bays of the former stable with two casements under relieving arches, a buttress with offsets to the left corner, and a modern five-light dormer and ashlar end stack to the roof.
The garden front has two prominent gabled bays with canted bay windows. Between them is a central Anglo-Renaissance bay, canted and of two-storeys in front with a gabled Anglo-Renaissance stair window to the rear, framed by two stone stacks. The windows across the garden front are stone-mullioned, some with transoms, with flat heads. The left bay has a two-storey canted bay with steel tie ends at first-floor level. The central bay has an oak garden door with iron strap hinges. The right bay is of two storeys plus attic and has a ground floor canted bay and an opening with drip mound above. To the right is a two-storey wing of around 1930 in a sympathetic Revival style including an ashlar end stack. Behind its roof rises the roof of the former coach house. To the far right of the garden front is a C20 canted bay window to the parapeted end of the former service wing.
The south end elevation has a two-storey square bay window to the left with tiled roofs to each floor. The corners have stone buttresses with offsets. The windows have cambered heads and slender mullions and the ground-floor windows have a transom. To the right gable eaves is a chimneystack and to the right is a wide chimney with offsets with a two-light mullioned window to its left and a modern conservatory to the ground floor.
INTERIOR: the vestibule and entrance hall have a moulded cornice and there is an open-well stair with C20 balustrade to the rear of the hall. Principal rooms lead off the hall: the study has modern fittings, possibly concealing a fireplace to the north wall. The drawing room has a stone chimneypiece and the south bay window has recessed timber shutters and panelling with chamfer detailing. There is a door with a cambered head to the conservatory. The dining room and hallway have late C19 inserted doorways and steps down to the serving room, which has exposed stone corbels to the ceiling. There is a stone door surround and cambered head to the garden door, pantry cupboards, and steps down in the corridor to the former service wing. The former kitchen to the right has been converted to a lounge with a stone fireplace and is opened out into the former scullery and cook’s court (rebuilt around 1930 of lesser interest). The former servant’s hall has a fitted dresser and a corner fireplace with tiling and plain timber surround. There is an inserted hatchway to the former coach house, now a kitchen with inserted stop-chamfered ceiling beam and range cooker in an inglenook. The room beyond has a kitchen with a brick arch and stone bread oven feature that may have been constructed from material on the site. The corridor through the wing has a servant bell indicator fixed to the wall, a lightwell to one section of the ceiling and various exposed and underfloor pipework to the heating system. There is a plain back stair and at the end of the corridor is a wide ledged plank door under a cambered head leading to storerooms and a yard.
From the landing of the main stair are steps into the former library. An angled doorway to the left is an inserted breach through a former chimney and a stone-mullioned window is enclosed in the wall behind. The former library has a deep vaulted ceiling. The rooms to the former service wing have some stop-chamfered beams irregularly positioned and exposed roof trusses to the attic spaces are distinctively braced and strapped. There are plain chimney pieces to some attic spaces.
To the upper floors of the former rectory, the bedrooms are arranged around the stairwell at different levels and some room sub-divisions have been altered. Plaster cornicework is generally plain. Joinery across the building is mainly of plain detailing and largely of later C20 date but some C19 doors and other joinery of late C19/ early C20 date remains in place. The stone cellar below the rectory is brick-vaulted and the floors are stone-flagged. There are chutes for coal and ash.
The roofs are kingpost structures with braces and primarily date to the 1881 phase, but have some later replacements and strengthening with brick piers, and the north end may date to a phase of repairs in the 1870s.