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Water Tower at Ashton Wold

A Grade II Listed Building in Ashton, Northamptonshire

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Latitude: 52.4807 / 52°28'50"N

Longitude: -0.4137 / 0°24'49"W

OS Eastings: 507825

OS Northings: 288154

OS Grid: TL078881

Mapcode National: GBR FXZ.J6Z

Mapcode Global: VHFNJ.SX46

Entry Name: Water Tower at Ashton Wold

Listing Date: 21 October 2009

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1393494

English Heritage Legacy ID: 507365

Location: Ashton, East Northamptonshire, Northamptonshire, PE8

County: Northamptonshire

District: East Northamptonshire

Civil Parish: Ashton

Traditional County: Northamptonshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Northamptonshire

Church of England Parish: Oundlew Ashton

Church of England Diocese: Peterborough

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Listing Text


1743/0/10017 ASHTON WOLD
21-OCT-09 Water Tower at Ashton Wold

A private water tower of c1900 in a Vernacular Revival style by William Huckvale to pump water from the River Nene to the estate buildings.

The water tower is built of coursed rock-faced limestone, which is snecked. The roof of the tower is covered in Collyweston limestone slate. The windows are timber with mullions and transoms, and inward opening top sections. All external doors are simple vertical boarded type, painted in the Rothschild estate livery and with no glazing or openings.

The building has a rectangular plan form. It consists of a tower and attached lower range, that contains ancillary and pump rooms at ground floor, and a reservoir and water tanks above.

The building is designed in a pared down Vernacular Revival style. The main bulk of the tower is strengthened by angled buttresses at its corners while the jettied upper section of the tower is supported on a solid limestone corbel table. It has louvered vents beneath a hipped roof with corbelled eaves detail. A pair of vertical boarded doors allows access to the tower at ground floor level, while a pair of metal ladders allows access to the roof at the rear.

The lower range is faced in undecorated stone work, blind above ground floor level. The upper storey has a castellated parapet that conceals a large metal-lined reservoir which is strengthened with the aid of tensioning wires. The building is in general unadorned, and the only decorative details are a pair of finials at either end of the hipped roof, and a wrought iron lamp bracket over the door on the south elevation.

A large central room on the ground floor with internal doors links to smaller rooms on either side. Two smaller storage rooms at the west end of the building can only be accessed externally. There is a fireplace in one of the central rooms as well as original pipework, and a copper, contained in a brick and concrete surround in the north-west corner of the building. A reinforced metal floor to the reservoir above is supported on I-section metal beams, the central beam of which is supported upon a pair of cast iron columns. The interior brickwork is painted and modern lighting has been installed in the latter C20. The tower section, has an exposed timber roof and cast iron water tank which is secured by metal tensioning rods.

The Ashton Estate, stretching from the River Nene near Oundle in the west to Ashton Wold in the east, has been occupied since Roman times. In the C18 it was a well-known sporting estate, with avenues of chestnut trees planted in a cross as rides, and a number of fox coverts. In the early-C19 the estate was owned by William Walcot and was largely farmed by tenants, with Ashton Wold continuing as a sporting ground. However, there is no evidence that it had ever contained a manor house, and when in 1860 it was purchased by Lionel Rothschild the sale particulars describe it as 'a very valuable and important landed estate', with sporting advantages, but no house adapted for the occupation of a gentleman. Both Lionel Rothschild and his son Nathaniel Mayer, 1st Lord Rothschild (1840-1915), showed little interest in the estate, and the only structural work undertaken in the C19 was the building of a hunting lodge at Ashton Wold. However, when Lord Rothschild's second son, Nathaniel Charles (1877-1923) - known as Charles - discovered Ashton by accident whilst on a butterfly-collecting expedition with the vicar of Polebrook, he was so impressed by the rich fauna and flora of Ashton Wold that he persuaded his father to build him a house on the site of the hunting lodge. Lord Rothschild commissioned William Huckvale to design not only a house, but a model farm, an entire complement of estate buildings which included the Steward's house, stables, gardeners' accommodation, a building to house a fire engine, a petrol store, kennels (now derelict) and a dog hospital. Most of the cottages at nearby Ashton were rebuilt to create a model village. The Rothschilds also became the first landowners in the country to provide their tenants with the luxury of both running filtered water and electricity, the latter generated by turbines housed in an old mill below the village on the River Nene, from where water was pumped to the water tower and so to the estate buildings. Each cottage had a bath house and was placed in a large garden planted with a lilac, a laburnum and fruit trees.

Little is known about Huckvale who worked mainly for the Rothschilds and therefore had no need to publicise his work in the architectural journals, and was not a member of the RIBA. After setting up his own practice in London he came into contact with Alexander Parks, agent to Lord Rothschild. He designed a number of buildings for the Rothschilds on the Tring Park estate, undertook considerable work at the Rothschild bank in New Court in the City of London, and was the architect for the Royal Mint Refinery. He also carried out work on the Rothschild estate at Aston Clinton. The quality of his work is reflected in the 42 listed buildings he already has to his name, 13 in Tring and 29 on the Ashton Estate.

Charles Rothschild was a renowned naturalist, and became the leading expert on fleas in the country. He published around 150 scientific papers and was also interested in other fields, including the cultivation of rare orchids, irises and water lilies. He was a pioneer conservationist, arguing that the whole natural habitat needed to be protected, not just rare species.

Following his death in 1923 and that of his wife Rozsika in 1940, their daughter Miriam (1908-2005) inherited the estate. The house was commandeered for use as a hospital during the Second World War and the gardens and estate suffered much damage and neglect. Like her father, Miriam was deeply involved in conservation, and she continued her father's work with fleas to become an international expert in her own right. She was a fellow of the Royal Society, was awarded eight honorary degrees and was appointed DBE for her services to the study of natural history.

SOURCES: Enclosure map of Lordship of Oundle with Ashton (1810), Northamptonshire Record Office 2858.
Map of estates belonging to William Walcot (1811), Northamptonshire Record Office 3703.
Map of Ashton Estate by Messrs Hayward, Surveyors (1853), Northamptonshire Record Office 1728a.
Catalogue of sale of Ashton Estate (1858), Northamptonshire Record Office ZB 706/24.
Map accompanying Conveyance of Ashton Estate to Lionel Rothschild (1860), Northamptonshire Record Office 5173.
Map of Ashton Wold (c1901), in Ashton Wold House.
Ordnance Survey maps 1886, 1900, 1926.
Rothschild, Miriam, The Rothschild Gardens (1996), 82-107 & 169.
'The Hon. Nathaniel Rothschild', obituary in The Times, 15 October 1923.
'Dame Miriam Rothschild', obituary in The Guardian, 22 January 2005.

REASONS FOR DESIGNATION: The water tower at Ashton Estate is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

* Architecture: The building demonstrates a keen appreciation of architectural form and detailing, an accomplished handling of massing and materials and is a rare example of a water tower designed in the Vernacular Revival style, made all the more unique by virtue of its context.
* History: It has special historic interest as part of an estate built and developed by members of the internationally important Rothschild family.
* Group Value: It forms an integral part of an important and unusually intact Edwardian model estate, and has group value both with its immediate neighbours and with the estate as a whole. There is particular group value with Ashton Mill from where water was pumped to the water tower for distribution to the estate.

This text is from the original listing, and may not necessarily reflect the current setting of the building.

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