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Rural Buildings Research

Historic rural buildings - whether country houses, cottages, barns or farmsteads - are changing constantly over time. They are fundamental to our experience of the character of the countryside.

Buildings can fall out of use as their function or status changes, resulting in neglect and abandonment. Historic England carries out research and investigation on particularly important rural buildings to determine how they can be restored and used in the future.

17th-century brick stable block at Wimborne St Giles, Dorset
South stable block at St Giles House. © James O Davies/Historic England

South Stable Block at St Giles House, Wimborne St Giles, Dorset

The south stable block at St Giles House is a striking 17th-century building, listed at Grade II*. Due to its poor structural condition, research was carried out on the building to help shape proposals for its reuse.

It was identified in the 1970s as a riding house, but evidence indicated that it had been built as a stable block. Originally this had an elaborate timber arcade in the ground floor of the building, at least one element of which still survives. A research report is being prepared by Historic England on the building.

Nappa Hall
Nappa Hall

Nappa Hall, near Askrigg, North Yorkshire

Nappa Hall is an exceptionally fine Grade I, 15th-century house in Wensleydale. It has towers at both ends of the hall, along with service and stable ranges.

Historic England carried out a survey of the building which resulted in a report summarising its main phases of construction.

Further research on the Hall’s wider landscape, particularly the remains of the formal garden, was commissioned to help determine how Nappa should be restored. A report on Nappa Hall is forthcoming

18th-century Gothic Revival house with inserted Jacobean windows
The east front of Hamsterley Hall. DP157333 © Alun Bull/Historic England

Hamsterley Hall, near Consett, Co. Durham

Hamsterley Hall is a small Grade II* country house, built mainly in the 1760s in the Gothic Revival style by the author and artist Henry Swinburne.

Significant changes to the house were made in the 1930s when many features were added, including mullioned windows. These changes made the structure very unstable and therefore it was added to the Heritage at Risk Register

Historic England was asked to assess the significance and historical context of the building to help determine how the house should be managed in the future.

A report on Hamsterley Hall is forthcoming.

Investigator in hard hat on scaffolding at 17th-century house
A Historic England investigator at the scaffolding-clad Sydenham House. © Allan Brodie/Historic England

Sydenham House, Devon

Sydenham House is a 17th-century manor house set in a remote part of the Devon countryside, listed at Grade I. Severely damaged by fire in 2012, evidence of its early origins emerged during its restoration.

Historic England examined the evidence, in conjunction with a programme of dendrochronology  and we found that the building dated from the 16th century and probably earlier. We found several complex phases incorporated into the later building.

Barrel vault in stone over the ground-floor room at Castle Heaton
The interior of the vaulted building at Castle Heaton. DP156937 © Alun Bull/Historic England

Castle Heaton, near Cornhill-on-Tweed, Northumberland

The stone-vaulted building at Castle Heaton incorporates what we think are the only standing remains of the 14th-century castle once located on this site. The castle was ruined in 1496 and was later adapted to become a stronghold capable of providing a refuge during border raids.

The building is listed at Grade II* and is included on the Heritage at Risk Register. Historic England carried out a survey of this building and the surrounding land and farm buildings to help with the restoration of the structure. See the report on Castle Heaton.

For buildings’ research on larger rural projects, see:

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