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Steward's House

A Grade II Listed Building in Ashton, Northamptonshire

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Coordinates

Latitude: 52.4806 / 52°28'50"N

Longitude: -0.4142 / 0°24'51"W

OS Eastings: 507791

OS Northings: 288142

OS Grid: TL077881

Mapcode National: GBR FXZ.J2M

Mapcode Global: VHFNJ.RXW8

Entry Name: Steward's House

Listing Date: 17 December 2009

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1393618

English Heritage Legacy ID: 507402

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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Oundle

Listing Text

ASHTON

1743/0/10080 ASHTON WOLD
17-DEC-09 Steward's House

GV II
Steward's House built c1900 by William Huckvale for Charles Rothschild.

MATERIALS:
The Steward's house is built of coursed rock-faced limestone and Collywestern stone slate is laid to diminishing courses.

PLAN: Broadly rectangular, the linear plan form of the Steward's House remains intact. The office and other service functions of the house are located to the rear of the building with kitchen and servants accommodation at the eastern end.

EXTERIOR:
The principal southern elevation is symmetrical in design comprising a single bay either side of a central gabled bay. The steeply pitched roof has tall stacks of coursed limestone at the ridge and towards the east end; each with linked ashlar shafts and moulded caps. There are ashlar ball finials on each gable end. The windows have chamfered stone mullions, with ashlar quoins, sills and hood moulds. Those on the ground floor are transomed and all have metal casements. The main entrance is situated at the western end of the house and is set back from the main elevation. The entrance is of classical design with decorative carved frieze above. The door itself is six panelled.

At the eastern end of the building is a single-storey range with an attic, set back from the main fa├žade.

The northern, or rear, elevation is asymmetrical in design and is characterised by two projecting gable bays. A small washhouse is attached to the rear of the building.

INTERIOR:
The linear plan form reflects how the building was used. The eastern end and rear of the house were the service quarters with the kitchen, pantry and office forming the functional core. The small office contains a small service hatch window, accessible from a rear lobby, would have provided an important contact point between the Steward and other workers on the estate. It would have been from here that estate workers were paid, amongst other things.

Well proportioned rooms with simple but well executed detail are characteristic of the house, reflecting the elevated status of the Steward. Parquet flooring, deep cornice and skirtings, ornate window furniture and four panel wooden doors survive in all of the three main living rooms: the dining room, lounge and drawing room. The dining room contains a C20 kitchen and the fireplace and some skirting has been lost. The central lounge has had a mid-C20 fireplace inserted. Setting these losses aside the building retains the vast majority of original features.

To the western end of the house the main staircase is an imposing feature, illuminated and enhanced by a large, stepped mullioned and transomed window reaching almost to roof level. The newel post and balustrades are elaborately carved and continue to the first floor. The underside of the closed string stairs is boxed in with Jacobean style wood panelling.

To the first floor there are three main bedrooms at the front of the building leading from a corridor at the rear. Each bedroom retains the original fireplace, window furniture, deep skirtings and cornices. A partition wall has been inserted to extend the corridor to the east end of the building in order to incorporate a bathroom and lavatory. Beyond the bathroom a considerably smaller bedroom with a more simply decorated fireplace sits within the attic space of the single-storey wing. This bedroom provided accommodation for the Steward's service staff. This is served by a narrow stair with plain square balusters that leads down to the kitchen and service end of the building.


HISTORY: In 1860 the Ashton estate was purchased by Lionel Rothschild at which time it was described 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. In 1900 Lord Rothschild commissioned William Huckvale to design not only a house, but a model farm, and 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 a 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.

High quality design and workmanship were consistent themes throughout the estate, where traditional vernacular building traditions - Collyweston stone slate and thatch roof coverings, steeply pitched roofs, tall chimneys, limestone masonry walling and dressings and mullioned windows were all faithfully referenced. Simple working buildings - cart hovels, wash houses and potting sheds - were consciously afforded the same care as were the dwellings, farmsteads and garden structures.

The Steward's House was built for the estate manager and is still occupied by the manager today.

Little is known about William Huckvale (1847-1936) who worked mainly for the Rothschilds. 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.

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. He bought part of Wicken Fen in 1899, donating it to the National Trust two years later, and formed the Society for the Promotion of Nature Reserves in 1912 (now the Royal Society for Nature Conservation). Although the gardens at Ashton Wold took a conventional Edwardian form, he took care to ensure that the planting attracted butterflies and other wild life, and that much of the estate was left as woodland.

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, but her approach to gardening was also very different, showing a preference for wildness over formality that transformed the Edwardian garden at Ashton Wold; her advocacy of wildflowers became highly influential in the gardening world. She became an international flea 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.

REASON FOR DESIGNATION: The Stewards House is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

* Architecture: It has special architectural interest due to the high quality of craftsmanship, material and decorative detail which reflect not only the relative status of the building but also the funding of the estate by the Rothschild bank.

* History: It has special historic interest as part of an estate built and developed by members of the internationally important Rothschild family.

* Intactness: It survives virtually intact and retains most of its original architectural, decorative detail both internally and externally.

* Group Value: It is integral to an important and unusually intact Edwardian model estate, and has group value both with its immediate neighbours and with the estate as a whole.

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

Reasons for Listing

The Stewards House is designated at Grade II, for the following principal reasons:

* Architecture: It has special architectural interest due to the high quality of craftsmanship, materials, and decorative detail which reflect not only the relative status of the building but also the funding of the estate by the Rothschild bank.

* History: It has special historic interest as part of an estate built and developed by members of the internationally important Rothschild family.

* Intactness: It survives virtually intact and retains most of its architectural decorative detail both internally and externally.

* Group Value: It is integral to an important and unusually intact Edwardian model estate, and has group value both with its immediate neighbours and with the estate as a whole.

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