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Foxcombe Hall, north gateway, garden terraces and structures to the south

A Grade II Listed Building in Wootton, Oxfordshire

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Coordinates

Latitude: 51.7152 / 51°42'54"N

Longitude: -1.2915 / 1°17'29"W

OS Eastings: 449042

OS Northings: 202064

OS Grid: SP490020

Mapcode National: GBR 7Y4.J8Y

Mapcode Global: VHCY0.K4LZ

Entry Name: Foxcombe Hall, north gateway, garden terraces and structures to the south

Listing Date: 6 April 2017

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1437308

Location: Wootton, Vale of White Horse, Oxfordshire, OX1

County: Oxfordshire

District: Vale of White Horse

Parish: Wootton

Traditional County: Berkshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Oxfordshire

Church of England Parish: Wootton St Peter

Church of England Diocese: Oxford

Summary

Small country house of 1887-9 by HW Moore, extended by Sir Ernest George and Alfred Yeates for Randall Mowbray, 8th Earl Berkeley 1898-1902, partially rebuilt by Sir Albert Richardson in 1935.

Description

Small country house of 1887-9 by HW Moore, extended by Sir Ernest George and Alfred Yeates for Randall, 8th Earl Berkeley 1898-1904 (Messrs. Hayworth and Wooster of Bath the contractors for this phase), W wing partially rebuilt by Sir Albert Richardson following a fire in 1935. Internal reordering and extension by the Ripon Hall College and the Open University in the late C20. The heraldic glass in the hall is by Baron Arild Rosenkrantz. Some of interior metalwork is by Starkie Gardner. Much of the interior wall panelling and other fittings were supplied by Morants, the interior designers.

The N wing of 1964* by Myles and Deirdre Dove, square apse* at the E end of the hall range, extension of 1977* and the interior of the service wing* are excluded from the listing. The former garages and dairy to the NW of the hall are also excluded.

MATERIALS: Moore’s house is of red brick with tile-hung decoration and clay tiled roofs. George and Yeates structures are in rock-faced limestone, some with painted, rendered first floors with applied timber decoration, ashlar dressings and Collyweston stone tile roofs. Their garden structures are in stone and terracotta. Richardson's reconstruction is in stone with Collyweston stone tile roofs.

PLAN: a large country house complex with a courtyard to the NW and gardens to the S. On the S side of the courtyard is the 1880s house, remodelled and extended to the SE by George and Yeates adding a great hall with a large tower at its N side. The tower provided bachelor accommodation above the porte-cochere. The hall has a billiard room to the E, with the master bedroom and dressing room over (all in office use), accessed internally from the hall's gallery, and by an external stair turret at the S elevation. George and Yeates also added a service wing to the NW of the 1880s house. In 1935-6 the S side of the 1880s house and part of the George and Yeates building were rebuilt after a fire. In 1964 a wing* was built on the N side of the tower for Ripon Hall and a square apse* for the chapel was built at the E end of the hall wing. In the late-C20, the N wing was extended to the S and E* by the OU incorporating the modern entrance* to the building and a link* to the former billiard room. The garden terraces lie to the S.

EXTERIOR: the N elevation of Moore's late-C19 house is generally of two storeys beneath a clay-tiled gable roof surmounted by moulded brick chimney stacks, with an attic storey at the E end beneath a sweeping hipped roof. It is of red brick, with tile hung decoration to the first floor, and straight brick heads to the 1935 timber casement windows. Setback to the W (right) is George and Yeates extension, creating a larger service wing, of coursed, rock-faced limestone on the ground floor, rendered with decorative timber above, beneath a gabled roof clad with Collyweston stone tiles. To the E of Moore's house is a flat-roofed, three-storey link, of rock-faced limestone and brick on the ground floor and rendered above, by Richardson in 1935, connecting the W wing to the George and Yeates hall and tower which together form a N return delineating the courtyard. The hall and tower is a set piece in coursed, rock-faced limestone with ashlar dressings and hoodmoulds to the openings. Attached to the N of the tower is the 1964 extension* and modern main entrance* to the building, which are excluded from the listing.

The porte-cochere openings of the George and Yeates tower have late-C20 glazed infill to create an additional interior space; the N wall of the tower has been punctuated to allow access into the main modern reception*. The Tudor-arched openings have carved spandrels; above there are two-light mullioned windows to the first, second and third floor of the tower, the fourth is blind. The E elevation of the tower has single lights to the stair turret at the SE corner and three or four lights to each floor above. Above the fifth storey there is a moulded cornice with carved stone bosses topped by a flat roof with coped parapet, providing a commanding view of the surrounding countryside; the projecting stair turret is embattled.

The elevations of the hall are of rock-faced limestone with ashlar dressings, with the E and S elevations rendered at the first floor, with applied decorative timber. The N elevation, which would have been exposed to visitors being driven to the porte-cochere, has buttresses between which are four large mullioned and transomed windows with ashlar surrounds beneath shallow, segmental heads. Each window has four lights with leaded glazes and central panels of heraldic glass by Baron Rosenkrantz. At the E end of the N elevation, a C20 glazed link to the red brick extension constructed by the OU is inserted through a ground floor opening of the billiard room. Here and at the E elevation are projecting gables, supported on jetties with carved stone brackets over the ground floor. The gables are rendered with timber decoration. At the ground floor of the E end is a projecting square apse, clad in limestone with glazed panels, an addition of the late C20 during the Ripon Hall tenure of the site. The S elevation of the hall is dominated by the low sweeping roofline which projects beyond the S wall of the hall, encircling the angular stone stair turret which formerly created an open verandah, infilled with modern glazing to form an atrium. The S wall of the hall has been punctuated by late-C20 openings into the atrium covered by the sweeping roof, approached by a modern ramp. To the right is a projecting rendered gable with a central casement window lighting the master bedroom suite within: to the E (right) is the S elevation of the billiard room. The roof over the hall and billiard room is covered with Collyweston stone tiles, with pairs of chimney stacks in limestone with ashlar dressings to the S and N, and a ridge stack at the E end of the hall. Rainwater goods have hoppers moulded with the letter 'B'.

To the left (NW) of the hall is Richardson's rebuilding following the fire of 1935, incorporating elements of both Moore's late-C19 house and the George and Yeates reconfiguration in a 'L' - shaped plan. Of two storeys with an attic, it too is constructed of rock-faced limestone beneath a hipped roof clad with Collyweston stone tiles, within which are dormer windows beneath pent roofs. Original, cast-iron rain water goods with hoppers dated 1935 are present. The windows throughout are timber casements with square leaded glazes beneath straight brick heads. The projecting wing (within which is the library), part of Moore's house, has been partially rebuilt in limestone and has a S-facing, double-height bay. The wing's W elevation is of red brick with a large central stack, to the left of which is a tile-hung oriel window supported on timber brackets; to the left of this is an inserted late-C20 stair. Beneath this wing is a cellar where Earl Berkeley conducted experiments, accessed by a separate external stair. To the left (NW) is the extended W wing by George and Yeates, of rock-faced coursed limestone to the ground floor, the first floor rendered with timber decoration, and gables to the N, S and W.

INTERIOR: the entrance into Berkeley's country home was from the porte-cochere at the base of the tower; a Tudor-arched door opening with dentiled architrave and deeply panelled wooden door with delicate linenfold panelling and heraldic motifs, are set into a barrel-vaulted opening and lead into a loggia lit by a window to the right of the door. A side room to the loggia was probably for cloaks. A Tudor-arched panelled door is set in a timber, part-glazed partition; it has its original metal door knocker and bell incorporating the Berkeley crest, both designed by Starkie Gardener. Beyond is the main hall, a dramatic full-height space, largely panelled to half-height, and lit by the four large N windows set in splayed openings with heraldic glass panels bearing the Coats of Arms of the Earls Berkeley from the C12 onwards. The wall panelling is plain, with some linenfold detailing; feature panels between the N windows are carved with trees, foliation, pomegranates and dentils. The exposed timber roof structure comprises common and principal rafters, with pairs of side purlins and a central ridge piece. The collars have dentils and are supported by wide, moulded curved braces resting on carved stone corbels; carved timber caryatids support the corbels at the W end. Above the collars are curved shores to the principals. There are lightly cusped, ogee windbraces to each pitch. To the W is a mullion and transomed stained glass window: the windows to the E have square leaded glazes. A large stone fireplace is located on the S side of the hall. It has a Tudor-arched opening to the grate with carved spandrels, and a metal fireback, cast with the Berkeley Coat of Arms. The shelf above is supported by carved bosses. The overmantel is framed by pilasters which support an elaborate frieze of carved bosses and dentils, at the centre of which is a gilt Berkeley Coat of Arms, on both sides of which are ribbons containing script, presumably the Berkeley motto. On either side of the fireplace, the wall has been broken through to provide access to the modern glazed atrium. The floor covering is modern carpet over the original stone. W of the extension is the garden room, noted as the boudoir in the original plan; it has deeply recessed and splayed window openings overlooking the garden and originally had a separate entrance onto the terrace. It has fielded panelling, a rococo revival marble fireplace and a plaster over-door composed of arrows and ribbons.

To the E of the hall is a tiled room, presumably providing toilet facilities, through which a stair to the rooms above was inserted in the late C20. To the right of this room is a panelled corridor to the billiard room, remodelled to form offices; the panelling to the corridor was reconfigured, probably when the staircase was inserted. The doors here, and elsewhere in the George and Yeates build, are panelled, generally beneath Tudor-arched heads with dentil architraves; they have elaborate furniture, the handles and finger plates featuring dragons, and with decorative face-mounted hinges. The windows are all casements, and similar to the doors, retain their original latches. The billiard room interior is plain, with deep timber cornices; the former chapel's apse forms part of the offices. A window opening on the N wall has been altered to form a door to a modern link* with the modern extension to the N*, both the link and extension are excluded from the listing. To the S (left) of the door into the hall is a blocked doorway; it is possible that this would have led to the morning room had it been built. Above the billiard room are Earl Berkeley's chambers, now offices. These would have been accessed both by the external stair turret, and from the 'L' shaped gallery against the south and west walls of the hall approached by a wide stair at the W end. The Earl's bedroom has painted, plastered ceilings with plain timber cornices and skirtings; the fire surrounds here and in the dressing room have carved wooden and delft tile surrounds. The bathroom has marble tiles to the W and N walls.

Richardson's rebuilt W wing, accessed from the W end of the hall has axial corridors to each floor off which rooms are accessed; the corridors have varying levels, some graded for ease of access. The W wing in general is much restored; it is not entirely clear how much damage was caused by the fire, but the George and Yeates plan of the polite rooms is retained on the ground and first floors. On the ground floor, Berkeley's sitting room, annotated as a drawing room on the plan reproduced by Grainger, has been used as a common room, offices and a meeting room. It has a modern appearance, with a panelled ceiling subdivided by transverse bridging beams with simple mouldings. At its W end is an inglenook fireplace, with carved timber panels and a Tudor-arched opening; the stone fire surround has a carved timber overmantel. Further W is the former library, within the 1880s house. Here the plaster cornices have mouldings of dolphins, dragons and shields also repeated on the elecrtical switch plates and door furniture. The wooden wall and door panels are inlaid with marquetry. The metal fireplace has Art Deco styling, the wooden overmantel has recessed panels of foliation, the Berkeley Coat of Arms and symbols all in marquetry. The original bookshelves remain, fixed in place. Lady Berkeley's drawing room and bedroom on the first floor are accessed from the gallery at the W end of the hall. Now offices, these are much plainer in treatment than Lord Berkeley's chambers. The drawing room has a fireplace with Delft tile surround and an arched wooden chimney piece over. The cornices are plain and the ceiling panelled with a central transverse bridging beam carved with a horn and Latin script, which translated reads 'They were not too in love with life to die'. The rooms on the first and second floors of the wing are much plainer with some simple cast-iron fireplaces remaining, and matchboard cladding to the ceilings in some; these were servants' quarters and were later used as college accommodation. Further to the W on both floors is the former service wing. The interiors of the service wing* are excluded from the listing, the rooms being generally remodelled to form offices and modern facilities.

The upper floors of the tower are accessed from the hall's W gallery. A steep stone dog-leg stair leads to the bachelor rooms on each floor; these are fitted with simple fireplaces, cornices and skirtings with some bathroom furniture of the 1930s.

SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: the garden structures comprise a terrace with projecting curved steps at each end leading to the rockery and garden below. The terrace wall is of rock-faced limestone with ashlar coping; the steps to the garden have lattice balustrades. To the W (left) is a sunken Italian garden with a central stone seat in Art Nouveau style with a running heart and ribbon motif which continues along the arcaded balustrade. The retaining walls are of rock-faced limestone topped with terracotta arcaded balustrades between square-section piers surmounted by statuary.

The gateway of the former N entrance comprises simply detailed gates hung from square limestone piers with ashlar dressings and topped with heraldic statuary. They are contemporary with the George and Yeates remodelling of 1898-1904.

* Pursuant to s1 (5A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 (‘the Act’) it is declared that these aforementioned features are not of special architectural or historic interest.

History

The earliest residence on the site, described by Pevsner and Bradley (Buildings of England: Berkshire 2010, 177) as ‘a picturesque little cottage residence’ in red brick, was designed by H W Moore of Oxford for the President of Trinity College, the Rev Henry Woods and his wife, Margaret, a writer and critic, in 1887-8. Historic photographs of the S garden elevation, later subsumed and rebuilt by Richardson in 1935, suggest the cottage had a 'L' shaped plan, with bay windows to the ground floor and dormers with gablets to the roof. At the W end, a double-height bay beneath a pent roof adjacent to the projecting S wing, contains the library described below. A separate cottage and stable block formed part of the complex; the stable block was later replaced with a garage and N lodge also by George and Yeates. The cottage is no longer extant.

The Hall was enlarged into a sizeable country house by Sir Ernest George and Alfred Yeates in 1898-1904 for Randall Mowbray, 8th Earl of Berkeley (1868-1942). George and Yeates added: a tower with porte-cochere at the ground floor: a grand hall with billiard room to the E and bedrooms over; and a W service wing attached to the W end of the earlier building, which was remodelled internally to provide additional polite rooms. The plans of the house (Grainger, 2011, 323) indicate an 'L' shaped morning room range projecting to the S of the billiard room, but this appears not to have been built. Stables, outbuildings, garden terraces, a sunken garden and three lodges enlarged the estate. The lodge to the SE lay adjacent to George’s reconfigured entrance to the estate, from which the driveway led to the porte-cochere of the tower. It was built for Berkeley's younger brother and extended in 1936-7. The E and S lodges are in separate ownership and have not been included in this assessment. Berkeley became a distinguished scientist, specialising in research on osmotic pressure; in 1916 he inherited the title and estates at Berkeley Castle, Gloucestershire.

In 1928, a syndicate bought the hall, hoping to redevelop it, but in 1934, Foxcombe became a training college for Anglican clergy, known as Ripon Hall; during their ownership, the billiard room to the E of the hall was converted into a chapel and an apse added to the E elevation. Following a fire in 1935, the 1887-8 building was largely rebuilt and the S and E elevations were encased in limestone by Sir Albert Richardson. The hall was used as an Orthopaedic Hospital between 1940-46. In 1964, a brick and shingle wing by Myles and Deirdre Dove was added to the N. It is not clear when the entrance to the building complex was repositioned, but it seems likely that it occurred during Ripon Hall's ownership. The Open University (OU) bought the estate in 1976, and until recently the hall served as its Southern Regional Headquarters. The OU undertook a number of alterations to the building amongst the most significant of which are: remodelling the link between the tower and 1964 wing; an extension to the S and E of the 1964 wing which links to the N elevation of the hall; the glazing of the tower's porte-cochere openings, openings to the North wall of the tower and a 1977 extension to the S side of the hall, necessitating the removal of part of the S wall. Internal remodelling includes conversion of the hall, billiard room, former master bedroom and other polite rooms into offices by the OU. Stairs have been inserted between the hall and billiard room to provide access to what was Earl Berkeley’s master bedroom and dressing room above (in use as offices); the stair turret to the Earl’s private quarters, attached to the S elevation, is no longer in use, but remains intact. Items excluded from the listing are marked by a * in the Details below.

The associated outbuildings have also been altered. A thatched dairy to the W was converted in 1901 by Davy and Salter into a laboratory for Earl Berkeley, and was later used as residential accommodation for Ripon College. The roof covering was replaced with tile and the interior is remodelled. The garage has been converted into offices; the door opening on the S elevation was altered, the stone walling on this elevation replaced with reconstituted materials, and internally, a C20 stairs and mezzanine floor have been inserted. A modern flat-building part-forms the W side of the courtyard. All of these outbuildings are excluded from the listing.

HW Moore (1850-1915) was an Oxford-based architect who, along with his architect uncle and partner William Wilkinson, designed the road layout and buildings of the North Oxford suburbs. The buildings of St Edward’s School, designed with his uncle in 1873, are listed at Grade II, and his sole compositions, St Clement’s Mission Hall (1887-91) and Christchurch Cathedral School (1892), both in Oxford, are listed at Grade II. Sir Ernest George (1839-1922) was an accomplished Victorian and Edwardian architect who, with his former pupil Alfred Yeates, designed many buildings, including country houses, between 1870 and 1902 such as Cawston College in Norfolk (1897, Grade II), Puttridge Bury in Bedfordshire (1908-11, Grade II) and the Royal College of Music in London (1911, Grade II). Sir Albert Richardson (1880-1964) was a prominent English architect of the first half of the C20, whose work, heavily influenced by classical traditions, was given a distinctive C20 interpretation. Richardson rebuilt a number of significant buildings following the Second World War, such as Merchant Taylor’s Hall in London (Grade II*) as well as new commissions including Clareville House in Westminster (designed 1955, built 1961-63, Grade II), and Bracken House in the City of London (1958, Grade II*), the first post-war building to be listed.

Reasons for Listing

Foxcombe Hall, a late-C19 house, extended by Sir Ernest George and Alfred Yeates 1898-1904 with the W wing remodelled by Sir Albert Richardson in 1935, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

* Architectural interest: a distinguished composition exhibiting careful attention to external and internal detail, contrasting use of materials and precise planning. Particular interest is found in the hall itself and the prominent tower;
* Architect: by Sir Ernest George and Alfred Yeates, a renowned architectural partnership of the late C19 and early C20 with many listed buildings to their names, incorporating an earlier house by HW Moore and sympathetic restoration by Sir Albert Richardson which adds further to the architectural distinctiveness of the building;
* Interior: the plan-form of George and Yeates’ principal rooms, including the hall, library, polite rooms and master bedroom is generally intact. Fixtures and fittings such as the wall panelling, chimney pieces, doors and their ironmongery and other joinery are executed with craftsmanship and fine detail.

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