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The Old Rectory

A Grade II Listed Building in Rushbury, Shropshire

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Latitude: 52.522 / 52°31'19"N

Longitude: -2.7189 / 2°43'8"W

OS Eastings: 351317

OS Northings: 291811

OS Grid: SO513918

Mapcode National: GBR BK.GC9Y

Mapcode Global: VH83B.TWG0

Entry Name: The Old Rectory

Listing Date: 25 August 2010

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1393928

English Heritage Legacy ID: 508367

Location: Rushbury, Shropshire, SY6

County: Shropshire

Civil Parish: Rushbury

Traditional County: Shropshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Shropshire

Church of England Parish: Rushbury

Church of England Diocese: Hereford

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Listing Text


1312-1/0/10009 The Old Rectory

The Old Rectory lies within the village of Rushbury, opposite the Church of St Peter, at the foot of Wenlock Edge and overlooking the valley of Ape Dale. It is a rectory of C17 date much altered and extended in 1852 by WJ Donthorn in the Tudorbethan style.

MATERIALS: The earliest part of the building is thought to be timber-framed, later encased in red Ludlow brick in the C18 with some red sandstone to the stacks. The later additions by Donthorn are in a buff-coloured sandstone from the nearby Soudley quarry. The roof is clay tile interspersed with bands of red fish-scale tiles to the garden elevation. There are three tall moulded Tudorbethan stacks to either gable end and to the porch of the garden elevation. Two further groups of stacks to the older part of the building, shown on Donthorn's drawings, have been lost.

PLAN: The building is roughly square in plan and of two to three storeys with the Donthorn additions wrapping around the earlier parts of the building on the south-east garden front and the north-east principal façade. The Donthorn additions created a suite of new reception rooms arranged in a pinwheel plan around a double height central hall, with the service rooms and lesser bedrooms generally relocated to the older parts of the building. A former dairy of 1852, located to the south-west, has been demolished. The remaining service buildings have been demolished or considerably altered.

EXTERIOR: The principal elevation is irregular but dominated by Donthorn's entrance which is slightly set back under a stepped shouldered gable and leads to the double-height hallway beyond. To the left is the gable end of the garden front and to right a substantial red standstone and brick chimney with a moulded cap which serves the older C17 range beyond. The gothic traceried panelled front door is set within a pointed roll-moulded arch under a hoodmould with plain stops. The whole is set within an expanse of mullioned windows rising to the full height of the hallway beyond, all under a hoodmould with a plain string and further two-light mullion set within the gable above.

The garden front is a more formal, symmetrical composition of three bays and two stories. A central gabled porch projects between two canted bays with mullion and transomed windows, flat roofs and shallow crenellated parapets. The door, a c1930s replacement, is set within a moulded architrave under a rectangular fanlight and hoodmould, with a mullion and transomed window at first floor and a small carved shield set within a square recessed panel above. The face of the shield is weathered and it is unclear if it was ever carved.

The north-west, rear elevation is three stories and comprised of the two projecting gable end wings of the C17 core with slightly later infill between the wings. There is a later C18 two-story canted bay to the left and a small lean-to porch in the return of the right wing with a C18 door with strap hinges. Windows are 12-pane sliding sashes.

The south-western elevation is irregular with sash windows and dormers. A single-story C20 extension is approximately in the position of the former dairy.

INTERIOR: The interior is dominated by the double height hall with views across to the tower of the Church of St Peter. There is an open well stair with an octagonal newel with a shaped finial, turned balusters and a moulded handrail. Half-landings accommodate the different floor levels of the earlier C17 parts of the building and the later additions by Donthorn. There are applied beams supported on moulded corbels to the ceiling of the hall. The principal rooms to the C19 garden front retain their cornices, window shutters, ceiling roses, and tudor-arched stone fire surrounds with crenellated mantels and carved spandrels. Other features of note include reeded and panelled architraves, six-panel doors, a C17 fire surround and stopped and chamfered cross beams to the earlier core of the building.

HISTORY: The Church of St Peter contains reportedly Anglo Saxon fabric suggesting pre-Conquest origins to the parish. A rectory has been recorded in Rushbury since around 1260 with the living belonging originally to the lord of Rushbury Manor until 1792 when patronage reverted to the Bishop of Worcester as owner of the freehold of the manor. It remained with the Bishop of Worcester until transferred to the Bishop of Birmingham on the creation of that see in 1903. The rectory was recorded as being worth £14 in 1291, increasing to £19 15s 4d in 1535. The earliest surviving phase of the present building is the C17 core, probably originally timber framed but refaced and extended in the C18. Contemporary descriptions of the rectory report it as having farm buildings and a pigeon house in 1589 and in 1793 it was described as 'very handsome'. In 1818, the Reverend MY Starkie undertook renovations to the house soon after becoming rector, including the whitewashing of the external brickwork, although the archdeacon was critical of the work, suggesting that this had destroyed the 'respectability' of the building.

Concerns about the suitability of the accommodation as a rectory continued, however, and in 1852 when the Reverend Frederick H Hotham became rector, he petitioned the Bishop of Hereford for permission to enlarge the rectory on the grounds that the existing building was 'not fit for a gentleman and his family to live in'. Following approval of his petition, Hotham set about work rebuilding the church and rectory. Perhaps having become familiar with his work in his native Norfolk, Hotham appointed WJ Donthorn to enlarge the rectory while William Smith of Smethcott carried out works to the church.

WJ Donthorn (1799-1859) made his career in London but built on connections with his native Norfolk, making his name as a country house architect. He began his architectural training at Sir J Wyattville's office in London in 1817 before beginning a series of commissions in 1823 which soon set the precedent for this work designing in both Gothic and Classical styles and culminating in his designs for Highcliffe Castle, Dorset (listed Grade I) perhaps his most ambitious country house. As well as his country house work, Donthorn adapted and enlarged some 15 rectories, chiefly in eastern England, and undertook a number of commissions for public buildings including the Peterborough Gaol (listed Grade II) and notably the Leicester Monument at Holkham, Norfolk (listed Grade I) . Built in 1852-3 Rushbury was perhaps his last rectory commission although The Priory, Oundle Road, Chesterton Cambridgeshire (listed Grade II) built in 1852 is contemporary. Two drawings of the garden elevation he designed for Rushbury survive in the folios of his work in the RIBA Library, one in a rusticated style and one in the more restrained ashlar finish which was implemented.

The Old Rectory was sold into private hands along with four acres of land in 1968. In the late 1980s, it was purchased with the intention of conversion to a health care centre although these plans were not realised and it lay empty for a number of years until purchased by the present owners in 1993.

John Newman and Nikolaus Pevsner, Buildings of England. Shropshire (2006), 491-492
Howard Colvin, A Biographical Dictionary of British Architects 1600-1840 (2008), 326-328
Roderick O'Donnell, 'WJ Donthorn 1799-1856: architecture with "great hardness and decision in the edges"', Architectural History, Vol 21 (1978), 83-92
'Obituary', The Builder, Vol 17 (1859), 367
CRJ Currie (ed), The Victoria County History: A History of the County of Shropshire: Volume 10: Munslow Hundred (part), The Liberty and Borough of Wenlock (1998), 52-77

The Old Rectory is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* ARCHITECT: a characteristic example of a rectory by WJ Donthorn, an interesting early C19 architect
* ARCHITECTURAL INTEREST: a good example of an evolved vicarage with a C17 core, showing the mid-C19 concern for clerical dignity
* ARCHITECTURAL STYLE: a representative example of Donthorn's pared-down approach to design, here given Tudorbethan treatment as befitting a rectory
* HISTORIC INTEREST: one of the key buildings, along with the church and the manor, reflecting the importance of Rushbury as a settlement from the Anglo Saxon period onwards
* MATERIALS: a good use of local materials
* INTACTNESS: survival of early C17 core
* GROUP VALUE: with the nearby Church of St Peter and the Church of England School

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

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