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County House

A Grade II* Listed Building in Nottingham, City of Nottingham

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Coordinates

Latitude: 52.9511 / 52°57'4"N

Longitude: -1.1445 / 1°8'40"W

OS Eastings: 457577

OS Northings: 339648

OS Grid: SK575396

Mapcode National: GBR LQQ.B7

Mapcode Global: WHDGZ.D27X

Plus Code: 9C4WXV24+F6

Entry Name: County House

Listing Date: 11 August 1952

Last Amended: 12 April 2018

Grade: II*

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1270805

English Heritage Legacy ID: 457239

Location: Nottingham, NG1

County: City of Nottingham

Electoral Ward/Division: Bridge

Parish: Non Civil Parish

Built-Up Area: Nottingham

Traditional County: Nottinghamshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Nottinghamshire

Church of England Parish: Nottingham St Peter with St James

Church of England Diocese: Southwell and Nottingham

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Summary


Townhouse, with possible C15 or C16 origins, rebuilt between 1728 and 1733, remodelled and extended in 1833 to form judges’ lodgings, subsequently converted to offices in 1922, and further extended in 1930 and 1949.

Description

Townhouse, with possible C15 or C16 origins, rebuilt between 1728 and 1733, remodelled and extended in 1833 to form judges’ lodgings, subsequently converted to offices in 1922, and further extended in 1930 and 1949.

MATERIALS: brick walls with stucco, ashlar dressings, and remnants of timber framing; cast-iron columns to the ground floor of the 1833 extension; hipped slate roofs; various brick stacks.

PLAN: U-shaped in plan, comprising a rectangular-plan range facing south to High Pavement; a cross-wing extending north from the west end of the front range; an extension added to the east of the front range in 1833; and extensions to the rear of the 1833 extension in 1930 and 1949.

EXTERIOR: the front (south) elevation of County House has a symmetrical six-bay, three-storey façade over a concealed basement, the central two bays of which are recessed. The front elevation, rising from a plinth, has a deep eaves carried on carved wooden brackets, and plat bands to the ground and first floors. There are sash frames without glazing bars set within projecting carved stone surrounds. The two central bays incorporate a first floor bow-fronted balcony, introduced in 1833, and carried on engaged pilasters with foliage brackets. The central doorcase comprises a round-arched rusticated-stone door surround, with a fielded six-panel door and decorative radiating fanlight, set beneath a scrolled wrought-iron lamp holder. The ground-floor windows flanking the doorway are enclosed by bow-ended wrought-iron railings and a chamfered ashlar plinth, incorporating boot scrapers to each side of the entrance. To the east of the six-bay block, a three-bay two-storey wing was added in 1833 in the Greek Revival style, its upper floor with three tall sash windows separated by giant Doric pilasters set beneath a pediment. Below, the ground floor has an open colonnade with two squat, fluted cast-iron Greek Doric columns carrying a full entablature, a four-panel door with a rectangular overlight, and a flight of stairs to the basement. The colonnade is enclosed by cast-iron railings, with a cast-iron gate to the stair. An earlier three-storey cross-wing of late-medieval origins extends northwards from the west end of the rear (north) elevation. Although built of red brick, it displays evidence of earlier timber framing and blocked openings. The cross-wing has a variety of sash windows to its east and west elevations, with cut stone lintels and sills. The west elevation has two door openings: a round-arched door opening providing access to the stair hall of the cross-wing, and to the north of this, another flat-arched door opening giving access to the former larders. The rear (north) elevation of the front range has a variety of sash windows, and a tall semi-circular arch-headed stair window to the three-storey stair hall (the window most likely heightened in 1784 when the attic storey was replaced by the second floor, and roof replaced). A single-storey glazed corridor of 1930 connects the stair hall with the rear of the 1833 extension, together with a further two-storey rear extension of the same date on the site of the former stable block, and a later single-storey extension of 1949. Attached to the north wall of the 1930s office block, and on the higher level of the former rear garden, is a small two-storey brick building with an external stair, possibly built in the late C18 as accommodation for a groom or gardener.

INTERIOR: the central entrance hall to the front range has a limestone flagged floor, a timber-panelled lobby of around 1930, timber-panelled walls with an integrated timber cornice of various dates, and the ceiling retains a C19 plaster medallion. In the north-west corner of the entrance hall, an early-C18 staircase rises to an intermediate landing and to the first floor, with an open string and three turned balusters per tread. From the west wall of the entrance hall, a single timber-panelled flight of steps of C19 date rises to the first floor, to provide access to what were the judges’ suite of rooms. The room east of the entrance hall retains a late-C18 or early-C19 fireplace on the north wall, a late-C18 cornice, and a C19 plaster medallion to the ceiling. The room to the west of the entrance hall retains an ornate marble fireplace of probable early-C19 date on its east wall. North of the west room, a cross-wing incorporates a large former kitchen with substantial tie beams, and a wide fireplace with a stone lintel on the south wall. A door on the north wall provides access to the rear service hall, with a service stair in the north-west corner. The first floor of the front range is accessed via the main staircase in the north-west corner of the entrance hall. From the first-floor stair landing an C18 archway on the west wall, now fitted with a door, leads north into the passage along the cross-wing to the head of the former service stair (not accessible at time of inspection). From the first floor landing, an oval-well stair with two stick balusters per tread, rises to the second floor, lit by a tall, round arch-headed stair window on the north wall (the stair and second floor were probably added and roof replaced around 1784). To the south of the first-floor landing are a suite of three rooms, which were adapted for use as the judges’ bedroom (west), drawing room (centre) and breakfast room (east) in 1833. The west room retains a classical-style fireplace of around 1784 on its east wall, and the central room retains a finely-carved timber fireplace on its west wall. The east room has four doorcases with shouldered architraves and panelled double doors, and a C19 painted slate fireplace on its north wall. The door on the east wall provides access to the first-floor room of the 1833 extension, formerly the judges’ dining room. This double-height room is ornately decorated in the Greek Revival style, with a frieze and cornice, and timber panelling to the lower part of the walls, together with three ornate doorcases with Egyptian architraves and cornices on brackets, and panelled double doors. A painted slate fireplace with double pilasters survives on the east wall, and the window reveals retain panelled shutters. The north door provides access to a stone cantilevered open-well stair of around 1833 with an iron handrail on stick balusters and a cast-iron fluted newel post, top-lit by a domed lantern with a central plaster boss. The stair hall has C19 red and black tiling to the ground floor. Access to the first and second floor of the cross-wing, and second floor of the front range, was not possible at the time of inspection (2017) due to the condition of the stairs and floor structures. It is understood that the other first and second floor rooms have cornices and panelled doors. The cellars are brick vaulted: that to the north end of the cross-wing is cut into the rock to form a cave; that in the south-west corner of the front range is cut from rock and shows evidence of foundations of an older structure along the west wall; and that in the basement of the 1833 extension shows evidence of a planned subterranean passage south to the Shire Hall (not completed).

SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: a red-brick wall bounds the rear yard to the north, and a flight of stone steps provides access to the upper level to the north (formerly the rear garden of County House, now a car park).

History

Very little is known of the earlier buildings which occupied this site, but it is probable that the oldest surviving parts of 23 High Pavement (now County House) were constructed in the late-medieval period. The plan of the present house, together with surviving structural evidence, suggests that the original building was a timber-framed house of late-medieval plan, having a central hall, presumably with a cross-passage, and a wing at either end. The earliest title deed of 23 High Pavement, dated 1710, provides the names of former owners and tenants back to the early C17. The first recorded owner was Humphrey Bonner, an influential alderman of the town, who served as mayor three times, and died in 1613. He sold the house to John Martin, a gentleman, who seems to have died in 1628. An entry in the Corporation chamberlains’ rental in 1627-28 records the receipt of 8d. from ‘Mrs Martyn for her pales in the streete att her howse on the Highe Pavement late Mr Bonner’s land’; likely referring to an encroachment of Mrs Martin’s railings onto the highway in front of her house. A Corporation lease of the adjacent property in 1628 refers to the ‘messuage or Capittal house’ of the late John Martin on the east.

The property was purchased by Samuel Hallowes in the 1660s or 1670s, and a probate inventory of Samuel Hallowes in 1715 names 15 rooms: a hall, kitchen, great parlour, little parlour, ‘backward parlour’, pantry, cellar, brewhouse, garret, ‘inward chamber’, little chamber, maids’ chamber, great chamber, ‘backward chamber’ and the men’s chamber. William Hallowes succeeded to the property on his father’s death in 1715. In 1728 William Hallowes paid the Corporation £80 for the purchase of the messuage on the east side of his house, apparently for the purpose of creating stables and other outbuildings as well as providing a new access to the rear of his house; and in 1733 paid £300 for the house across the street, formerly the Castle inn and adjoining the Shire Hall for the purposes of creating a vista over Narrow Marsh to the south.

In 1771 the property was purchased by John Fellows, owner of a successful silk hosiery business, who resided in the house immediately west of County House. His existing property was backed by a small yard crammed with workshops, warehouses and framework-knitters’ cottages, whereas the Hallowes’ house possessed both a rear garden and the vista opposite. One of a series of drawings caricaturing contemporary Nottingham society in 1798 illustrates a sedan chair being carried along High Pavement past the vista. Even as late as 1815, Blackner wrote in his History of Nottingham, ‘The mansion of John Fellows, esquire, on the north side of High Pavement, with its rural paddock in front, forms an enchanting country seat in the heart of the town, the sight of which arrests the traveller as he passes along, and fills him with surprise on beholding so charming a vista’. Fellows’ son John inherited the property in 1791, and following his death in 1822, his widow lived there until her death ten years later. A plan of 1832 shows a canted bay on the north elevation of the house projecting into the rear yard, which probably dates from the late C18 or early C19, but was removed during extensive alterations in 1833. John Fellows II also reconstructed some of the stables and other outbuildings in the rear yard, north-east of the house.

An act of 1826 provided for ‘repairing, improving and rebuilding Shire Halls, County Halls and other Buildings for holding Assizes and Grand Sessions, and also Judges Lodgings…’ and county magistrates were empowered, where necessary, to purchase additional property for these purposes. The Nottingham magistrates adopted the Act and looked towards the Fellows’ vista, which adjoined Shire Hall, as a potential site for extension of the county gaol, and by 1830 were expressing an interest in the Fellows’ house opposite to provide suitable lodgings for visiting assize judges. The house and vista were purchased in 1833 after Mrs Fellows’ death for £5,000 and £3,000 respectively. On the edge of the cliff at the end of the vista new prison cells were constructed on two levels. The former Fellows’ house was extended to the east and north-east in the Regency style, with emphasis on then-fashionable Greek Revival motifs, having ashlar stone walls and cast-iron Greek Doric columns to the exterior, and a magnificent judges’ dining room on its first floor, accessed via a stone staircase with an iron handrail, and lit by a copper-framed glazed lantern. The façade of the Georgian house was updated in keeping with the new extension: balconies, window surrounds (and possibly extra windows), a decorated eaves course, and probably the hipped roof and chimneystacks were all added at this time.

The principal architect of the 1833 alterations appears to have been the well-known Nottingham architect and surveyor Henry Moses Wood, who was also surveyor to the Corporation, but the surviving records only mention Wood as being the joint ‘surveyor’ with James Nicholson. Henry Moses Wood (1788-1867) served as Sheriff of Nottingham in 1836, and Borough Surveyor for Nottingham between 1837 and 1858, and is credited with the design of a number of listed buildings, including the lodge to Nottingham racecourse, built in 1857 in Greek Revival style, and lodges, gates and walls of the city arboretum, erected between 1851 and 1852 in Tudor Revival style (all listed at Grade II). A meeting of Quarter Sessions at Southwell on 28 January 1833 approved the ‘plans prepared by Mr Wood and Mr Nicholson for converting the premises into Judges’ Lodgings’ and instructed them to draw up detailed specifications. It seems the magistrates originally resolved to build a tunnel under High Pavement to allow their worships to proceed to and from the courts in safety, as the estimates for the alterations for the alterations to Shire Hall refer to a ‘New Sub Stairs to the proposed Subterraneous Passage leading to the Judges’ Lodgings’. The width and comparative elaboration of the stairs leading to the cellar in County House and the fact that a sizable passage in the cellar continues to the front line of the building suggests that the plan was at least begun. 23 High Pavement, called County House by at least 1908, was permanently occupied by a resident caretaker, and temporarily by visiting judges. The principal living quarters of the judge were on the first floor, and his retinue occupied the upper floor. A private stair connecting the entrance hall with the first floor seems to have been added some time in the C19.

In 1922-23, the magistrates moved the judges’ lodgings to a house in The Park. County House then became the offices of the Clerk of the Peace and of the County Council. The judges’ drawing room over the entrance hall became the Clerk’s office, the breakfast room adjoining became the Belper Library (housing a collection of books donated by Lord Belper), and the large dining room was partitioned off into small offices. The servants’ hall of the 1833 building was adapted as a muniments room, and a second muniments room was added in a new two-storey office wing, constructed in 1930 to the rear of the servants’ hall on the site of the former stables. This early-C20 extension was extended in 1949, with a new suite of three single-storey rooms for the County Archivist. In 1959-60 the Clerk’s office moved to the new County Hall at West Bridgford, and for the next six years County House accommodated various County Council departments. The former dining room of the 1833 extension was converted for use as a public search room, the old kitchen used as the document-repairer’s room, and the panelled entrance hall as an exhibition space. The building was used by the County Record Office until 1992, and has since been vacant.

Reasons for Listing

A well-preserved and architecturally-distinguished townhouse, with possible C15 or C16 origins, rebuilt between 1728 and 1733, remodelled and extended in 1833 to form judges’ lodgings, subsequently converted to offices in 1922, and further extended in 1930 and 1949, County House is listed at Grade II* for the following principal reasons:

Architectural interest:
* as a building which retains a significant proportion of multi-period historic fabric, including evidence of a late-medieval cross-wing; an early-C18 townhouse, and a notable extension and alterations of 1833;
* as a building within which the evolving phases of its plan form development remain clearly legible;
* for the association of the 1833 extension with the well-known Nottingham architect and surveyor Henry Moses Wood, who is credited with the design of a number of listed buildings in Nottingham.

Historic interest:
* as a building believed to have C15 or C16 origins, and rebuilt around 1730, County House represents the growing prosperity of Nottingham after the Civil War;
* for the historic association of the building with nearby Shire Hall, for which it was refurbished and extended as judges’ lodgings around 1833.

Group value:
* for its significant group value with many neighbouring listed buildings, notably the Church of St Mary (listed at Grade I); Shire Hall and its adjoining County Gaol, and the former police station (both listed at Grade II*); and the former Unitarian Chapel, and nos. 12, 27, 29 and 31 High Pavement (each listed at Grade II).

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