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Kemble House, gatepiers, boundary walls, outbuildings and garden features

A Grade II Listed Building in Kemble, Gloucestershire

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Latitude: 51.6705 / 51°40'13"N

Longitude: -2.0165 / 2°0'59"W

OS Eastings: 398956

OS Northings: 196854

OS Grid: ST989968

Mapcode National: GBR 2Q4.705

Mapcode Global: VHB2X.08BR

Entry Name: Kemble House, gatepiers, boundary walls, outbuildings and garden features

Listing Date: 26 November 1958

Last Amended: 24 January 2017

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1089287

English Heritage Legacy ID: 129361

Location: Kemble, Cotswold, Gloucestershire, GL7

County: Gloucestershire

District: Cotswold

Civil Parish: Kemble

Built-Up Area: Kemble

Traditional County: Wiltshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Gloucestershire

Church of England Parish: Kemble All Saints

Church of England Diocese: Gloucester

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A large, detached house dating originally from the C17, probably built for Henry Poole (1564-1632). Much altered and enlarged in the mid-C19 for the Gordon family by R W Billings, architect (1813-74); restored and partly remodelled in the mid-C20. With gatepiers and boundary walls, outbuildings and garden features.


A large, detached house dating originally from the C17, probably built for Henry Poole (1564-1632). Much altered and enlarged in the mid-C19 for the Gordon family by R W Billings, architect (1813-74); restored and partly remodelled in the mid-C20. With gatepiers and boundary walls, outbuildings and garden features.

Local oolitic limestone, coursed or randomly coursed, under Cotswold stone slate roofs.

The house has a double-depth plan to the main range, an east-west range with two equal cross wings extending southwards. Attached along the northern side is a long, single-depth range which extends beyond the main block to east and west.

The house is in typical Cotswold style, of two storeys and attic, with the exception of the eastern end of the north range, which is of two storeys. Gabled ranges with quoins, raised, coped verges, and ball finials. The stacks are diagonally-set, ashlar, with moulded cornices. The windows are cross windows or mullioned and transomed, all with distinctive lozenge-patterned, leaded glazing; under hood moulds, those to the east side continuous on each floor. The windows are generally two lights to the first floor and attic, and four lights to the ground floor. Cast-iron rainwater goods.

The current entrance front is to the west side. The main range has two gabled bays, each with a gable stack. The west end of the north wing has a small, three-light oriel on its south side, with a small, two-light gabled dormer with kneelers above. The stone stack immediately to the right of the oriel has large, paired cylindrical flues with an offset. The entrance is via a single-storey corner porch in the north-west angle, with a canted corner and a wide doorway under a cusped, arched opening. The western gable end of the now-truncated northern range has a ground-floor doorway to the left, with a studded and part-glazed door, a two-light window to the right, and a three-light window to the first floor. The south front has two double-canted, two-storey bay windows, one to each gable, that to the left with a gable stack. The east side has paired gables and a central entrance door, representing the former cross-passage. The north wing has two- and three-light stone mullioned windows with a square hoodmould on its south side, and a carved plaque with a cipher. The eastern end has an elaborate, projecting crowstepped gable with a flat top, with diagonal stepped buttresses, a four-light stone mullioned and transomed window on the first floor, and ground floor former entrance, with its moulded archway now blocked and a two-light stone mullioned window inserted. Three half-elliptical stone steps up to the former entrance remain in situ. The north elevation was significantly altered in the mid-C20. The scattered fenestration was reordered to allow the creation of a large, external stair with a solid, ashlar balustrade to the first-floor flat, which has a plain-glazed, C20 external door with overdoor and margin glazing. A similar door is set in the ground-floor porch, which has a mid-C20 gable above.

The principal ground-floor rooms have various plaster ceilings in geometric designs, deeply-moulded cornices, stone fire surrounds of various designs and four-centred-arched doorways. The floors are parquet of varying designs. The entrance hall has a dentil cornice and geometric patterned ceiling, which continue above a door-height wall with geometric glazed partition above into the adjacent dining room to the east. This room has panelling with C19 panelling with upper linenfold panels, circular bosses in the toprail between the panels, and an integral overmantel with moulded panels. The fire surround is Tudor in style, with a four-centred-arched opening, and run-outs with elaborate stops. To the south, the two wings each have a single large room with a bay window. The library ceiling is divided into three compartments, with multiple mouldings probably disguising the formerly exposed C17 ceiling beams. The stone fireplace has a Carnarvon-arched opening; the mantel shelf is carried on heavy brackets with escutcheons below, and reeding to the brackets and roll moulding under the shelf. The drawing room has a similarly compartmentalised ceiling with very deep cornice, Gothic panels to the flat surfaces of the beams, and fishscale plasterwork on the surface of the ceiling. The stone fireplace is a late-C20 replacement, in a Gothic style. From the entrance hall, a pair of pointed arched openings give access through the very thick, formerly external wall to the north into the stair hall in the northern wing. The stair hall has C19 panelling, with two square panels below the height of the chair rail, and single panels rising from there to the moulded cornice. The room is dominated by the large, open-well stair, which has square-section newels with moulded caps and carved panels to the visible faces, between which runs a continuous, pierced timber balustrade of strapwork design. The upper newels form ceiling pendants with flattened ball finials. The undersides of the staircase and the ceilings have overall interlaced Gothic plasterwork decoration with relatively shallow moulded members. To the east of the hall, the kitchen has entirely late C20 finishes, and does not retain earlier features apart from its windows. To the west of the stair hall is the study, beyond which the former service rooms were demolished in the 1950s. This room has plainer mouldings and a modest fireplace.

The stair rises from the ground floor to the attic, where the balustrade continues to create a galleried landing. The walls of the stair are lined with integral, bolection-moulded frames. The stairwell is top lit by a large, compartmental roof light, divided into square fields by heavy-section mouldings with elaborate pendant finials at their intersections; the fields are glazed with blue and white etched glass in geometric patterns. Doors off the stairwell are all four-centred arched like those to the ground floor.

The first-floor principal rooms are in the earlier part of the house. They have modest moulded cornices and six-panelled doors. No fireplaces survive. The eastern end of the first floor of the northern range, above the kitchen, comprises a flat created in the mid-C20, which can be accessed internally from a door in the attic. The first floor rooms to the western end have modest mouldings and doors. The attic, in the western end of this range, has partly-visible roof trusses and a modest stone fireplace of the C19. The attic rooms in the earlier part of the house, above the principal rooms, have mouldings disguising the visible elements of the roof structure. There are extensive, stone-lined cellars with flagstone floors and various subdivisions, one part vaulted with chamfered stone uprights.

The house is approached from Limes Road via a wide entrance GATEWAY, with large, square-section ashlar piers, moulded caps and ball finials; to either side is a short, straight stretch of flanking wall in ashlar, slightly lower than the piers, with a matching, moulded coping. Curving away from the flanking walls on either side are dry-stone rubble BOUNDARY WALLS, which describe the extent of the property to the roadside.

In the forecourt to the house stands the GARAGES, converted from an outbuilding in the 1950s. The building, of neatly squared and coursed stone, is in three ranges: a central, two-storey, five-window range, with gable end stacks and lozenge-shaped leading to match the house, and a projecting, flat-roofed extension to the front housing two garage doors. The west gable has two-light mullioned window with diamond leaded glazing. The rear has similar windows with diamond chamfered mullions, those to the ground floor with hood moulds. The lower section to the east has a three-light mullioned and transomed window to the gable end, and double garage doors to the south. The lower range to the east has a narrow doorway and window to the right. To the right of the garages range extends a BOUNDARY WALL, of squared and coursed stone, with a stone coping. It includes an arched opening into the adjacent churchyard, aligned on the doorway in the south porch of the church.

The gardens, which extend south of the house and its forecourt, include a number of features. The eastern and southern boundaries are described by runs of low, stone GARDEN WALLS, of short, moulded square-section piers with pierced balustrading between. In the eastern wall, a viewing area is created by a bowing-out of the walls, vase balusters giving way to curving, ashlar walls with moulded capping, flanking a section of pierced balustrading which likely replaces an earlier clairvoyée arrangement. An axial route direct from the south front of the house runs through the length of the garden via two sets of stone STEPS with moulded treads to an elaborate southern GATEWAY to the parkland beyond: the balustraded wall returns a short distance to form the flanks of a final set of stone steps, marked by fat, square-section piers with moulded caps and elaborate finials, of pierced balls with pinnacles. A SUNDIAL stands on the same axis a short distance from the house, moved to this location from a point further to the east around the turn of the C20. The western boundary is delineated by a dry-stone rubble wall, which also forms one side of the WALLED GARDEN; this is a narrow rectangle orientated N-S, bounded at its northern edge by a COTTAGE possibly of the C18, of squared and coursed rubble stone with a Cotswold stone slate roof. The cottage is of three wide bays, two storey with a rear outshut, and small, square and rectangular window openings with timber casements. The rear catslide has two hipped and gabled dormers. There is evidence of a blocked doorway in the eastern gable end. The eastern and southern walls of the garden are a mix of rubble stone construction and roughly squared and coursed stone. The southern end is now given over to a tennis court, the northern end remaining in use as a walled garden, accessed via a segmental-arched opening from the formal gardens. The walled garden is terraced, with stone flags and steps between the beds, and a raised, central circular pond, dating from the C20. To the south-west of the house is a stone SEAT, in limestone ashlar; the high, segmental-arched parapet steps down at either side to accommodate a stout ball finial; the uprights below have large, scrolling shoulders, and each has an unglazed, narrow window opening with moulded entablature above. The main opening is segmental arched, and it and the flanking openings have carved bead moulding. The interior is in tightly-jointed squared and coursed dressed stone, with a pitched roof behind the raised parapet.


Kemble House dates originally from the C17, and was probably built for Henry Poole (1564-1632), a Member of Parliament for various constituencies throughout his career, Justice of the Peace for Wiltshire from circa 1590, and High Sheriff of Wiltshire in 1619-20. In the 1590s, he fought a protracted battle with neighbouring landowner Sir Henry Knyvet, the leader of a puritanical faction amongst Wiltshire gentry, over his legitimacy as the heir to the manor of Kemble, a battle which only ended with Knyvet’s death in 1598. The house Henry Poole subsequently built appears to equate broadly with the double-pile block with two cross wings which form the southern portion of the present house.

The estate was later sold to Sir Robert Westley (1754-1806), and thence passed by inheritance. Robert ‘Bum’ Gordon (1786-1864), heir to plantations in Jamaica, came to Kemble in 1809 after marrying Elizabeth Anne Coxe, who had recently inherited the estate, ushering in a period of change and improvement at Kemble. By all accounts a forceful and bombastic character who opposed tax rises and supported slavery, Gordon was Member of Parliament consecutively for Wareham (1812-18), Cricklade (1818-37) and New Windsor (1837-41), holding various offices in parliament during this time, and serving as Sheriff of Gloucestershire 1811-12. The ruthless Gordon negotiated the coming of the Great Western Railway through his Kemble estate in the 1830s, resulting in a series of substantial compensation payments, plus interest, from the railway company in consideration of any land on the Kemble estate which it might have to purchase for the construction of the railway. He was also concerned about the visual intrusion that it would make on the landscape of his parkland, and ensured that instead of the shallow cutting required to carry it part of the way through the park, a tunnel almost 380m long was stipulated in the Cheltenham and Great Western Railway Act of 1836, as well as the requirement for planting with appropriate shrubs and trees, and their subsequent maintenance. During the 1830s, Gordon employed the architect Peter Frederick Robinson (1776-1858), later Vice-President of the Institute of British Architects, who worked on or wholly designed several country houses, public buildings and park and garden structures. Robinson also published books of designs including those for farm buildings, lodges and park entrances, ornamental villas and domestic architecture, as well as a five-part continuation of Colen Campbell’s ‘Vitruvius Britannicus’. Robinson was engaged to work on the garden at Kemble House, and designed one ‘garden house’ but is not known how much more extensive his work might have been.

In about 1850-5, Robert Gordon engaged Robert William Billings (1813-1874) as architect, and proceeded to extend and alter the C17 house. A long range was added to the north side of the house, extending east and west of the main block, including an impressive entrance hall with a vaulted ceiling to the north-east, a new stair hall, and a wide range of dedicated service rooms. The work also involved the reglazing of the entire house with the lozenge-patterned casements which unified the old and new work. Large bay windows were added to the ground and first floors of the twin-gabled south elevation, looking out over the gardens. Billings, who had begun his career as an architectural illustrator, appears to have started in practice as an architect in independent practice with his work at Kemble House; and although based in London, he worked primarily in Scotland. A fine painting by Billings in the National Trust collection at Stourhead shows a now-lost carved timber screen in the hall at Kemble House; incorporating linenfold panels, strapwork, and elaborate cusped scrolling tracery, the confection includes a pierced top rail with the legend ‘Friends are welcome for aye’. A lodge, gateway with stone overthrow and a vicarage were built to the east of the house, providing a formal approach to the new entrance. These were subsequently sold into separate ownership.

Further alterations appear to have taken place in the later C19; these probably date from the period after the house was bequeathed by Miss Anna Gordon, in 1884, to her father’s great friend, Hon Michael Biddulph, who later became Lord Biddulph (died 1923). By the middle of the C20, the estate had begun to be dispersed. The house had been unoccupied for many years and had deteriorated badly. It was sold to Mr S J Phillips, a local farmer, who set about remodelling it. Most of the service range to the western end of the north range was demolished. The doorway to the former entrance hall was converted to a smaller window, the room was divided horizontally and converted to a large kitchen and service rooms. A modern flat was inserted in the newly-created first floor, reached by an external stair added at this time. The house was completely reorientated, with the closure of the eastern entrance and the sale of the related buildings there. The former rear entrance to the west was adopted as the main entrance. The outbuilding to the west was converted to garaging, probably from stables, and the opening to Limes Road became the only entrance to the grounds.

The house was subdivided into two or three units in the 1960s, but soon converted back to a single dwelling.

Reasons for Listing

Kemble House, a detached house originally of the C17, altered and enlarged in the mid-C19 by R W Billings, with gatepiers and boundary walls, outbuildings and garden features, is listed at Grade II, for the following principal reasons:
* Architectural interest: the building is a good C19 remodelling of a C17 house, in traditional gabled Cotswold style, with an impressive mid-C19 garden front;
* Interior interest: the rooms largely retain their C19 fittings, which are of good quality in design and craftsmanship;
* Degree of survival: despite the demolition in the mid-C20 of the service range, and the conversion of the former entrance hall, the house is remarkably intact;
* Subsidiary features: the garden features introduced in the C18 and C19 are well-designed and survive in good condition, and the ancillary buildings, though altered, remain in their functional relationships with the house;
* Group value: in particular with the adjacent Church of All Saints, whose living was in the gift of the manor of Kemble.

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