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Winnold House

A Grade II* Listed Building in Wereham, Norfolk

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Latitude: 52.6074 / 52°36'26"N

Longitude: 0.4916 / 0°29'29"E

OS Eastings: 568813

OS Northings: 303979

OS Grid: TF688039

Mapcode National: GBR P6X.K2Y

Mapcode Global: WHKQZ.JQ9H

Entry Name: Winnold House

Listing Date: 9 July 1951

Last Amended: 12 March 2014

Grade: II*

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1077747

English Heritage Legacy ID: 221706

Location: Wereham, King's Lynn and West Norfolk, Norfolk, PE33

County: Norfolk

District: King's Lynn and West Norfolk

Civil Parish: Wereham

Traditional County: Norfolk

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Norfolk

Church of England Parish: Wereham

Church of England Diocese: Ely

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A house, former farmhouse, incorporating the remains of a C12 chapel.


House, former farmhouse, incorporating remains of a C12 chapel built for the monks of a small priory belonging to the French Abbey of St Saulve and St Guénolé (St Salvius and St Winwaloe) at Montreuil-sur-Mer (Pas de Calais).
MATERIALS: Carstone and Barnack rubble, Barnack dressings, brick. Slate roof.
PLAN: Medieval block 10.66m by 8.41m (35ft by 27ft 6 in), with axial C19 extension to the west.
EXTERIOR: The eastern and northern elevations are substantially C12. The north front is of two bays divided by a pilaster buttress, split by two string courses, one half-way up (at the level of the sills of the original windows), and the other level with the springing of the window-heads. A pilaster buttress at the west end of the elevation, but to the east, turning the corner with the east elevation, it survives intact, complete with nook-shafts. Both of the two original windows have been blocked and their external surrounds largely removed, but the lower part and bases of shafts lining the eastern opening remain visible. Corbels re-used as head-stops on the south side of the building suggest that the walls were originally finished with a corbel table.
The original fabric of the east wall largely survives to eaves level, although the south-east corner has been rebuilt (below). In the upper right (north) quarter of the wall is a highly ornamented window, blocked, but missing only the central part of the head. The opening is flanked by coursed nook shafts with mitred cushion capitals with quirked and chamfered imposts, standing on carved bases, and by continuous square-section jamb mouldings. Above (right), a fragment survives of a stepped lozenge label or hood-mould with ‘nutmeg-grater’ moulding, and on both sides two voussoirs displaying single-roll chevron, alternately lateral to the face and the soffit: the chevron detail is perhaps unique. Romanesque detail is notoriously difficult to date, but the studied juxtaposition of relatively simple mitred cushion capitals with geometrically complex arches is a feature of Anglo-Norman decoration in the third quarter of the C12 (as in the west portals of nearby Castle Acre Priory), and probably places the building in the period c.1150-70.
In the centre of the exterior of the east wall, in the lower register, are two narrow pilasters, 1.93m (6ft 3in) apart, the lower of the moulded string courses being carried across their tops. The pilasters are capped with what appear to be the much-worn bases of near-circular engaged piers, probably framing an upper window. This unusual arrangement can be seen as a ‘straightened out’ variant of the buttresses with engaged columns above frequently applied to apsidal east ends. The south elevation has a central doorway, flanked by square-headed windows with Perpendicular-style hoodmoulds re-using C12 corbels as head-stops, with three similar ones above. Each window has modern timber casements of six lights. The gables, roof-structure, roofline and twin octagonal gault brick chimney stacks at each end of the building date from the mid-C19. The two-storeyed western wing, brick-built with some re-used ashlar and of two storeys, is also of 1847.
INTERIOR: Plaster stripping inside the east gable wall in the 1980s exposed the northern jamb and springing of the internal embrasure at the first floor, with a continuous order on the face and soffit of back-to-back centripetal chevron with a roll on the angle. The reveals retain traces of false ashlaring of several periods. At the foot of the window, and extending on to the north wall, is a scalloped frieze with canted hollows, edged, with a cable moulding below - a detail confirming that the Romanesque building contained a single volume, open from floor to roof. There is the potential for C12 fabric to remain in the west gable wall at both ground and first floors. The chamfered and stopped C16 bridging beams remain; the roof structure is C20.


Winnold or ‘Winwall’ House, an isolated former farmhouse in the Norfolk parish of Wereham, incorporates the remains of an elaborate Romanesque building of c.1150-70. This was built for the monks of a small priory belonging to the French Abbey of St Saulve and St Guénolé (St Salvius and St Winwaloe) at Montreuil-sur-Mer (Pas de Calais), and, as has recently been shown (Impey, 2004), was their chapel. Its dedication was to St Winwaloe, and forms or corruptions of this name have been continuously applied to the site from the Middle Ages to today. As a property of Montreuil, it was one of over a hundred ‘alien’ cells or priories in existence in England by c.1200, dependent on continental abbeys - products of post-Conquest landholders’ generosity to the monasteries of their homelands.
Montreuil’s possessions in Wereham of ‘part of the manor…with its church and ploughland and the chapel of that township’ are first mentioned in a Papal confirmation of 1154. The donor was either Richard or Gilbert of the powerful Clare family, or, more probably, Rainald son of Ivo, a Domesday tenant-in-chief with substantial holdings in Norfolk and Lincolnshire in 1086, including the whole manor of Wereham. The case for Rainold in part relies on his half -Breton descent, which would explain the patronage of Montreuil, a community of Breton origin and with continued Breton associations. This would date the gift to between 1086 and Rainold’s death in c.1100. An Inventory of 1294 gift implies that the original grant included 92 acres of land – the acreage still farmed, unchanged, by the monks’ successors at ‘Winnold Farm’ in 1851. They also had the right to hold a fair, which (in another remarkable example of English continuity) was still held adjacent to Winnold House, and still called ‘Winnall Fair’, in the early-C19. In the early years the priory’s local revenues were supplemented by others from Norfolk, London, Hertfordshire and Essex, adding up to £12 p.a. in 1154, out of which the abbey claimed to pay ‘for the full maintenance of the schools of Montreuil and the care of the sick of the same town’.
The earliest reference to monks at Wereham – a Prior and perhaps one other - dates from 1199, but it is likely that they were settled there by or shortly after the building of their chapel c.1150-70. Their installation at Wereham was probably at the behest of the donor, for whom they would have been expected to pray, and to ‘serve’ (ie perform masses in) the chapel, rather than on the abbey’s initiative. Initially there may have been up to four monks, but their chapel, although well-built and lavishly decorated, was not designed as part of a full set of claustral buildings (ie., with cloister, refectory, dormitory etc). Under these circumstances they would have made no attempt to follow the full rigour of the Benedictine daily routine, and much of their time was spent managing their property.
By 1291 the abbey’s other English property had been sold and the Priory’s income reduced to £7.2s 8d , barely enough to support two monks and leaving no surplus for the abbey. In 1320, citing debt and poverty, and encouraged by the increasing difficulty of maintaining cross-channel links during repeated Anglo-French hostilities, the monks were withdrawn. At first the abbey may have intended to send them back when things improved, but seven years later the property was sold to a creditor, Hugh Scarlet of Lincoln. After a decade or so of complications, it was acquired in 1332 by Elizabeth de Burgh, ‘Lady of Clare’, heiress of the Clare’s Norfolk estates. Her aim was to set up a family chantry in the priory chapel, which she arranged in 1336 by enabling the nearby Premonstratensian Canons at West Dereham, through a gift of land, to provide a priest. A plan and description published in 1819 by John Britton suggests that to house the priest, or to help him in serving the chapel, the west end of the interior was partitioned off to create a vaulted ground-floor space and a first-floor bed-chamber or gallery. How long the chantry lasted is unknown, but it may have ceased to function in the later C14, and had certainly done so before the formal abolition of the chantries in 1545-7. With the suppression of West Dereham in 1539, the former priory lands were granted to Mary, Duchess of Richmond, widow of Henry VIII’s natural son Henry Fitzroy. After her death in 1557, the property was granted to Thomas Guybon of King’s Lynn, who remained Lord of the Manor until at least 1602. Under his ownership, and certainly by 1588, the chapel had been converted into a house, a view of which was made by the painter and antiquary George Cattermole (1800-68) in 1819. A long succession of other owners followed, but in 1839 the farm was bought by Sir Henry Bedingfeld of Oxburgh, and by 1840 the building’s poor condition led his agent, Tyssen, to propose its demolition. It was saved, however, by the furious opposition (perhaps out of respect for the Old Religion) of Bedingfeld’s catholic chaplain, Gubbins, who threatened to horsewhip Tyssen if he should ‘dare touch the said building’. Gubbins had his way and in 1847 the house was repaired and given its present form by a Swaffham builder, Mr Carter, and let to Thomas Towers. A succession of tenants followed, but the 92-acre farm was last worked as a single entity in the1870s, although Winnold House remained the farmhouse of a larger holding into the 1970s.
A substantial study of the building and its history, carried out at various stages between 1986 and 2000, was published in 2004. The present form of the elevations and the internal arrangements result from three main periods of alteration. The first, known largely from antiquarian evidence, dated from the 1330s, and consisted of the partitioning-off of the western end of the interior to form a gallery or upper chamber with an internal stair: this was associated with the conversion of the former priory chapel into a chantry chapel. The second was the conversion in the mid-C16 of the whole building into a house of two floors and an attic. Little fabric of this period survives, but a dendrochronology assessment of the bridging beams (English Heritage, March 2013) confirms that they're C16 in date. The approximate C16 appearance of the house is recorded in Cattermole’s drawing and in the engraved version published by Britton. The third and most drastic set of alterations, in 1847, saw the rebuilding of the C12 south wall, punctured and weakened by the C16 windows, on a much narrower footing.

Reasons for Listing

Winnold House, a C16 and C19 farmhouse incorporating important and substantial remains of the C12 priory chapel of St Winwaloe, is listed at Grade II* for the following principal reasons:
* Rarity: a supremely rare survivor of the chapels built for non-conventual priories, alien or native, in England in the C12;
* Architectural and artistic interest: the treatment of the east front is rare in English Romanesque architecture. The form of chevron decoration to the surviving east window is perhaps unique, while the quality of the carving here and elsewhere is of exceptional quality. The juxtaposition of an imaginative chevron type with capitals of long-established form may also mark the work of a designer with quite exceptional and confident mastery of the Romanesque style and its grammar and vocabulary;
* Historic interest: the original building is an eloquent testament to the importance attached by lay patrons to non-conventual priories in the C12. The later adaptations to the building are also of interest, particularly the probable insertion of a chantry priest’s chamber in the C14, representing an alteration with no known parallel;
* Archaeological/evidential interest: the fabric of the building undoubtedly contains, concealed under later accretions, a great deal of evidence of the buildings original form and of its later structural history;
* Comparison with other listed structures: the two most important comparators at Isleham and Cogges are listed respectively at Grade I and Grade II*.

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