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A Grade II Listed Building in Marcham, Oxfordshire

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Latitude: 51.6688 / 51°40'7"N

Longitude: -1.347 / 1°20'49"W

OS Eastings: 445258

OS Northings: 196875

OS Grid: SU452968

Mapcode National: GBR 7YN.89H

Mapcode Global: VHCY5.LBS0

Entry Name: Denman

Listing Date: 9 February 1966

Last Amended: 6 July 1987

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1368564

English Heritage Legacy ID: 249659

Location: Marcham, Vale of White Horse, Oxfordshire, OX13

County: Oxfordshire

District: Vale of White Horse

Civil Parish: Marcham

Built-Up Area: Marcham

Traditional County: Berkshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Oxfordshire

Church of England Parish: Marcham with Garford

Church of England Diocese: Oxford

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Country house, now college. Built in the late C18 and remodelled circa l800 for George Elwes, with alterations of the C19 and C20.


Country house, now college. Built in the late C18 and remodelled circa l800 for George Elwes, with alterations of the C19 and C20.

MATERIALS: limestone ashlar; the hipped roof is of Welsh slate, with ashlar ridge stacks.

PLAN: rectangular footprint, with a double-depth plan, entered from the east; there are C20 extensions to the south-east and south-west.

EXTERIOR: built over two storeys, with string course, moulded cornice and parapet – the parapet added post-1806, with the central pediment to the principal elevation being removed at the same time. The symmetrical principal elevation, facing east, is seven windows wide, with three windows to the central projecting bay. The central entrance has a segmental pediment with consoles to the doorcase, over a glazed door with decorative overlight. The window openings have stone lintels over six-pane sashes. There is a single oculus to the parapet at the south end. The south elevation has a similar central bay, but with large tripartite windows to either side, the ground-floor windows with Tuscan pilasters. The parapet is pierced by four oculi on this elevation. The six-window north and west elevations are alike, with the windows and string-courses set at a higher level than on the east and south elevations; the projecting second and fourth bays contain tripartite windows, the lower windows having triangular pediments and Tuscan pilasters.

INTERIOR: historic features include early-C19 panelled doors and doorcases, and marble fireplaces. The early-C18 dog-leg staircase to the left of the entrance hall has an S-shaped wrought-iron balustrade; the stair was installed in 1938. The room to rear left has Graeco-Egyptian style plaster panels, with griffins flanking urns, above a blocked door, and two panelled doors which flank a segmental-arched alcove with consoles; there is an Egyptian-style fireplace and cornice. The drawing room chimneypiece has panelled pilasters with palmette and anthemion capitals.

(Formerly listed as Denman College, NEW ROAD (North side) and previously listed as Marcham House now Denman College)

This list entry was subject to a Minor Amendment on 29/10/2015


Marcham House (later Marcham Park) was built in the late C18, probably for John Elwes (1714-1789) – landowner, property developer and noted miser – and remodelled circa 1800 for George Elwes, his illegitimate son; George’s daughter Amelia (Emily) inherited the house with her husband Thomas Duffield and enlarged the estate; the house remained in the Elwes/Duffield family until 1938. A drawing of 1806 shows that at that time the central three bays were pedimented: the parapet was built and the roof lowered soon afterwards. The same drawing shows the gatepiers (qv) with their pineapple finials. The house was bought and restored by the Berners family in 1938, at which time the early-C18 staircase was installed, having been removed from a house in London. During the Second World War the house was used by the Air Ministry.

In 1947 Marcham Park was bought by the Women’s Institute, for use as a training college; at the 1945 WI Annual meeting the decision was taken that the organisation should ‘provide a centre for educational and social intercourse and activities’. The house met the Institute’s criteria of being centrally placed, near public transport, with room to expand, and close to a university to provide a source of tutors. The college was bought, equipped and partially endowed through an appeal in which every WI was asked to raise £10, with support from the Carnegie United Kingdom Trust. The house was renamed Denman College (now Denman) in honour of the Institute’s first chairman, Lady Gertrude Denman, and the college opened in 1948. In the early days of the college, members slept in dormitory-type rooms, and helped with household chores. Courses included domestic and practical skills, including garage work and butchery. Much of the 100 acres of parkland has been sold to raise funds for new buildings, with some land returning to the Duffield family. Denman continues to provide a range of day and residential courses.

The Women’s Institute began in Britain in response to the need for increased food production during the First World War. The movement had started in Canada in 1897, and it was a Canadian, Madge Watt, who was charged with establishing British WIs under the auspices of the Agricultural Organisation Society (the avenue of lime trees in the Denman grounds was planted in 1949 to commemorate Madge Watt). The first WI in Britain was founded at Llanfairpwll on 16 September 1915, and the first in England on 9 November that year; by the end of 1918 there were 199 WIs in Britain. The movement continues to flourish, with about 6,600 branches, and 212,000 members, providing women from all walks of life with opportunities for education, social activities, and campaigning. This List amendment was made in 2015, the Women’s Institute centenary year.

Reasons for Listing

Denman, formerly Marcham House, a late-C18 country house, and now a college, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

*Architectural: as a late-C18 country house of elegant and restrained Classical design, with subtle variations in the features of its symmetrical elevations;
*Interior: the interior retains a number of original features, including chimneypieces and joinery, as well as a re-used early-C18 staircase;
*Historical: for its connection with the Elwes and Duffield family, including the noted eccentric John Elwes;
*Historical: as the Women’s Institute’s college, providing an educational centre since 1948; the building has strong associations with prominent figures within the institute, including Lady Gertrude Denman, for whom the college is named.

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