SO8001 : Woodchester Mansion - Grand Stair - View upwards

taken 4 years ago, near to Nympsfield, Gloucestershire, Great Britain

Woodchester Mansion - Grand Stair - View upwards
Woodchester Mansion - Grand Stair - View upwards
The Grand Stair which is located in the southern wing beside the central courtyard is a fine piece of architecture. As the guidebook says it "offers a wonderful and very rare example of a vaulted ceiling on a slope - a construction demanding extremely complex calculations"
See also SO8001 : Woodchester Mansion - Grand Stair - Ceiling and SO8001 : Woodchester Mansion - Grand Stair - Open arcade
And see shared description below for more information on the house:
Woodchester Mansion
Woodchester Mansion is one of the most intriguing buildings in all of Britain. A sprawling pile of a house built in the Gothic Revival style which was so popular with the Victorians. It was, however, never completed, and remains to this day a magnificent "work in progress" - but one which will never be finished. This unusual state of affairs allows C21st visitors to see how C19th craftsmen went about creating the architecture of the day.
It was designed and built by the architects Charles Hansom and his protegé, Benjamin Bucknall for William Leigh (1802-1873), a fervent Roman Catholic convert. He had inherited a fortune from his father who had made his money as a merchant trading mostly in groceries, Cheshire salt and tobacco in Liverpool.
Construction started around 1856 and continued in fits and starts for the next 15 years but had ground to a halt by 1870, and ceased entirely when William Leigh died in 1873.
The house's situation is almost as unusual as its history. It is situated deep in a steep sided valley to the west of Nailsworth, with Nympsfield, to the south, being the nearest village. It is accessible only by tracks and footpaths and is remote and isolated. The valley contains five substantial lakes to the east of the house; in order these are: Brick Kiln Pond, Old Pond, Middle Pond, Kennel Pond and Park Mill Pond. These lakes are fed by a stream which originates as a spring just a little way to the west of Brick Kiln Pond (at SO 81153 01495)
The Mansion replaced an earlier house, "Spring Park", which was built by the Ducie family in the Georgian period (1700s) - it was this family that dammed the stream to create the five lakes.
William Augustine Leigh bought the northern part of the Woodchester Estate, including Spring Park, from the Earl of Ducie in November 1845. His original plan was to modernize and enlarge this Georgian house, but the famous architect Augustus Pugin on visiting Woodchester, advised that it would always be damp and uncomfortable to live in. He suggested the construction of a new house - in the Gothic Revival style - on the site. Leigh took to the idea with alacrity, and set about creating the Mansion using the finest materials and skilled craftsmen, so that what now exists is all of the finest quality.
Pugin produced an initial outline plan for the new house, but either because he would have been too expensive, or more likely that he was too busy - Leigh gave the commission to Charles Hansom of Bristol (incidentally, the brother of Joseph, the inventor of the Hansom cab). However, the actual design and ultimate building of the mansion was taken on by a young local architect called Benjamin Bucknall who had worked at Hansom's offices in Bristol.
Bucknall was heavily influenced by Eugène-Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc and brought the French architect's theories and ideas to life at Woodchester.
Ironically, had anyone ever lived in the new mansion, they would probably have found it just as uncomfortable as the old Georgian one it replaced, as there was no central heating planned for it, and insufficient fireplaces to keep such a large structure reasonably warm.
On visiting the mansion today, what is most fascinating is to see the building just as it was being constructed - with, for example: a former still in place beneath an arch; uncovered groin roofs; fireplaces stranded at first and second floor level with no floor to the rooms they would have served - the list goes on.
A large number of rooms, corridors and stairwells over four floors (including the cellar) can be explored when one visits. They are in varying states of completion. The kitchen, for example, has certainly been used, and from the age and wear of the floor and cooking range, this may well be at least in part, a remnant from the earlier Spring Park. One room, named as the Drawing Room is completed (though unfurnished) and gives an idea of how the finished house might have looked. The most remarkable room in the house though is undoubtedly the Chapel - although currently rather stuffed with scaffolding. Leigh intended to spare no expense in creating this particular room due to his ardent Catholic beliefs. Like the rest of the house however, it was never completed. It is believed that it would have been the tallest private chapel in any house in Britain had it been finished.
That the Mansion has survived in such a good state despite its incomplete state and effective abandonment for a hundred years, is down to three main factors: Firstly the solidity of the original construction thanks to Leigh's insistence on fine materials and Bucknall's construction. Secondly, and essentially, thanks to Reginald Kelly who for at least 20 years carried out essential maintenance - especially preventing water egress by keeping the gutters and roof valleys clear. Its third and final piece of good fortune came in the form of English Heriatge, The National Trust and latterly the Woodchester Mansion Conservation Group who have provided money, expertise and committed volunteers to continue its preservation - which hopefully is now assured for generations to come.
There is a vast amount to see at Woodchester, but if you intend to visit (and enter the house) it would be best to check the opening times: see LinkExternal link for details.
The parkland in which it is situated, including the aforementioned lakes, is owned by the National Trust - see LinkExternal link for information.
Unsurprisingly the mansion is listed as being of Grade I importance by English Heritage LinkExternal link
The parkland is Grade II listed LinkExternal link
And there are several other associated listed buildings (all Grade II), viz.
The Gateway LinkExternal link
Scar Hill (former Lodge) LinkExternal link
The Cottage LinkExternal link
The Tower LinkExternal link
The Boat House LinkExternal link
Creative Commons Licence [Some Rights Reserved]   © Copyright Rob Farrow and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.
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SO8001, 111 images   (more nearby )
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Date Taken
Sunday, 20 September, 2015   (more nearby)
Tuesday, 27 October, 2015
Geographical Context
Historic sites and artefacts  Country estates 
Place (from Tags)
Woodchester Mansion  Woodchester 
Primary Subject of Photo
Subject Location
OSGB36: geotagged! SO 8091 0136 [10m precision]
WGS84: 51:42.6387N 2:16.6613W
Camera Location
OSGB36: geotagged! SO 8091 0136
View Direction
Southwest (about 225 degrees)
Looking for a postcode? Try this pageExternal link
Clickable map

Other Tags
Architectural Feature  Stone Staircase 

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