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Latitude: 53.5561 / 53°33'21"N
Longitude: -2.1966 / 2°11'47"W
OS Eastings: 387074
OS Northings: 406621
OS Grid: SD870066
Mapcode National: GBR FW39.7Z
Mapcode Global: WHB93.7W87
Entry Name: Hillcrest and Briarhill
Listing Date: 5 September 2017
Source: Historic England
Source ID: 1447739
Location: Rochdale, M24
Electoral Ward/Division: North Middleton
Parish: Non Civil Parish
Built-Up Area: Middleton (Rochdale)
Traditional County: Lancashire
Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Greater Manchester
A semi-detached pair of houses of 1892 by internationally-renowned architect Edgar Wood, in red brick with slate roofs and with highly individual and innovative design including elements found in the earliest Art Nouveau houses in the world.
A pair of semi-detached houses of 1892, by Edgar Wood.
MATERIALS: Ruabon brick and terracotta, red brick, stone, Welsh and Westmorland slate.
PLAN: a rectilinear range aligned roughly north-south, with central cross-wing.
EXTERIOR: standing to the west of Rochdale Road and immediately to the north of the pair ‘Redcroft and Fencegate’ (Nos. 33 and 35 Rochdale Road) and a short distance to the south of ‘The Studio’ and Nos. 51 and 53 Rochdale Road, all by the same architect and all listed.
The front faces east to the road and comprises a central three-storey cross-wing, with a block of two storeys plus an attic to each side. The walling is in orange Ruabon brick and terracotta (some painted), the roofing in five different colours of Welsh and Westmorland slate, laid randomly and with blue clay crested ridging including occasional decorative finials. Unless otherwise stated, windows are modern casements (in PVC at Hillcrest and timber at Briarhill).
The central block is gabled with a ball finial and kneelers, and has canted corners where it projects above the roofs to either side. Above this can be seen the front face of a chimney stack of Ruabon brick with a cornice and string course. The upper storey has a window in each canted face, each with two windows adjacent on the front face, with a terracotta sill-band. The first and ground floor each have two triple windows, each window having a single terracotta sill. The lintels are all slightly-projecting, splayed brick very shallow segmental arches, except for the front windows of the top floor which have flush, flat brick lintels. The central lintels of each window of the lower two floors have projecting brick ‘keystones’.
The central gable has three bands of square terracotta blocks, the lowest of which is aligned with a blind oculus with projecting keystones at the compass points. Below the oculus, a further band runs out on either side to form the top course of a parapet, which has the same terracotta coping as the gable. Below this solid course, the parapet comprises three bands of alternating square blocks and brick panels of equal size, each band slightly offset from the one below; in the central area they are offset to the right, but on the canted corners and the side returns, offset to the left of the band below. A string course matching the coping forms the base of the parapet. Each storey has two bands of square blocks running across the windows; the brickwork is all in stretcher bond.
Each side block comprises an entrance bay with a first-floor window, and a gabled bay with a two-storey bow front with a parapet partly concealing an attic window in the gable. The entrance bays are slightly recessed and have the same detailing as the central block. The bow fronts however are in header bond, and divided into three by slender brick pilasters between the windows and at the outer edges, where they are angled. The pilasters are enlivened by sloping terracotta blocks, flush at the top and projecting at the base, which are placed just below the lintels of each storey. The parapet is coped, with capitals to each pilaster. All the lintels are flush brick with projecting terracotta keystones, and terracotta sills match the coping. The attics have Diocletian windows (original at Briarhill, with a six-light central casement). A low projecting plinth runs across the frontage. Pattress plates of three different designs are distributed symmetrically across the façade, those over the central ground-floor bow windows with characteristic Art Nouveau lines. Briarhill retains original cast-iron rainwater goods with hopper heads and some fixing plates in flowing Art Nouveau style.
The left entrance surround is concealed by white-painted render and has a projecting concrete doorcase. The right entrance (to Briarhill) retains its original Art Nouveau character, although the surround is faced in later tiles. An exaggerated keystone is carved with lilies. Beneath this is an overlight of five lights, with a basket-arch head and flowing transom which is gently-arched in the centre. The overlight is leaded, and retains coloured tulips from the original glazing scheme. The door is part-glazed, with a three-light oval window in the upper section, three lights below this with concave heads following the curve of the window above, a transom with decorative letterbox retaining briar decoration, and three rectangular lights at the foot. Three-light sidelights reach down to transom level, where the surround steps in.
A short return at the left is in the same stretcher-bond Ruabon brickwork, changing to dark red common brick at the full height chimney breast, now slated over. Adjacent to the left of the chimney breast is an attic window. Slightly to the left of the ridge is the stair window, in a double-height opening with Ruabon brick round-arched lintel and projecting blocks in the manner of a Gibbs surround, and two lights divided by a central panel of hung slates. Below this at ground floor is an inserted window (over-boarded at the time of inspection) with a blocked basement window below, and to the left a side door inserted across a blocked former window, with concrete steps. The truncated rear chimney stack projects just inside the verge, at the left; its front (east) face has a recessed central channel, the remnant of what was originally a single tall blind arch. Four pattress plates of the same design are distributed evenly around the stair window, with one between the ground and first floor in the Ruabon section at the right, and another at the same height at the extreme left. Rising from the ridge of the central block are the south faces of two other eight-flue stacks; the right-hand (front) one of Ruabon brick and blind-arcaded with a cornice and a string course forming the imposts for the arches, and six crown pots; the left-hand one of common brick with a string course and cornice and six crown pots.
Returning at the left again, the rear is a simplified version of the front façade. At the left the common brickwork is visible, to the right it is concealed by white-painted render. The whole wall is flush, with no canted corners to the second floor, and sloping dormers to the attic. Each house has its own small oculus window in the gable, which has projecting purlins supporting overhanging verges; the oculi each have keystones at N, E and W compass points only. A very small square chimney stack projects from the left-hand eaves of the gable, and is truncated. At the left and right verges are the truncated rear chimney stacks, each with a recessed central channel which originally had an arched head. The west face of the rear stack of the central block is the same as its south face, with string course and cornice.
Within this rear face, Briarhill is divided into four bays, with a window at ground and first floor in bays (from the left) 1 and 2, a window at first floor and an entrance with side light in bay 3, and in bay 4, two windows at each of the three floors. Sills are plain stone, all with white paint*, and the lintels are all segmental arches of Ruabon headers. The entrance has an overlight of four lights and a four-panelled door with an upper vision-light of five fanned panes. Cast-iron rainwater goods remain in place. Cellar windows are found in bays 1 and 2, with small areas and both retaining original casement windows. The rear of Hillcrest originally mirrored that of Briarhill but the ground-floor window in (from the right) bay 2 is blocked, the former entrance in bay 3 has been converted to a window, and in bay 4 one window has been lowered and the other converted to a doorway. There is also a cellar entrance in bay 1, accessed by steps from the south, and a window with an area in front of it in bay 2.
Returning to the left, the north wall of Briarhill is stylistically similar to the south wall of Hillcrest, but with some significant differences. At the left, the chimney breast is much wider and in Ruabon brick. A narrower stack rises from eaves level, also in Ruabon brick, and continues above the verge, although it is truncated above this. The chimney breast has a parapet with terracotta copings at eaves level, which steps up adjacent to the stack. A central pilaster is also coped at eaves level, giving these steps the appearance of merlons in a crenellated parapet. An attic window mirrors that of Hillcrest, with a stone lintel and terracotta sill. Adjacent to the chimney breast, the stair window is also double-height, but the projecting blocks of the surround are of white-painted stone and continue around the arched head, with moulded imposts. The upper window is an original, horned vertical sliding sash with four panes in the upper light and a single-pane lower light, and has a moulded stone sill. Between this and the first-floor window (a replacement casement) is a panel of fish-scale slates, now painted red. The lower window has a plain stone sill. Beneath this the brickwork above the side-entrance surround is rendered and painted. The entrance has a similar surround to the stair window, with moulded imposts to the basket arch with keystone. Like the front entrance, the surround steps in at sill-level of the sidelight, with imposts at this level. The fascia over the door has carved scrolls meeting in the centre. The door has two vertically-boarded horizontal panels and an eight-light oval vision panel, and original knocker. To the right of the doorway is a slender window with arched head matching the blocked window on Hillcrest’s south face, and plain stone sill. Pattress plates match those of Hillcrest’s south wall.
INTERIOR: The interior to Hillcrest is largely devoid of historic features, but a small patch of decoratively-painted plaster survives, and a small area of Lincrusta wallpaper with a strapwork design incorporating fleurs-de-lys, together with some cornices (above later inserted ceiling frames), quarry-tile floors (some over-tiled), lath-and-plaster partitions and some window architraves. The original internal plan-form, mirroring that of Briarhill, is however largely intact.
Briarhill’s interior is relatively little-altered and retains several key elements of its original Art Nouveau decoration. As in Hillcrest the innovative and highly efficient plan-form remains largely intact, in which the entrance hall continues through to a rear access, crossing the foot of the stair that runs across the house. A side entrance under the stairs connects with the hall, and accesses service rooms arranged along the rear wall. Beyond the stair, the entrance hall forms a lobby which connects a secondary kitchen door to the rear entrance. The entrance hall in particular forms a set-piece in which Elizabethan and Jacobean influences are combined to create an Art Nouveau overall aesthetic. The arched ceiling matches the profile of the fanlight and is thickly decorated with plasterwork flowering plants, while the doorways have lintels with pointed upward-curving heads. The cellar door is original, with three horizontal panels, the bottom one having the same upward-curving point as the door head. The morning/drawing room retains the projecting ceiling to its ingle nook, which is individualistically decorated with slender pilasters with capitals. The bow window, which gives maximum direct sunlight in the morning, has a double arch which springs from imposts which also have upward-curving chevron-type mouldings. The stair is original and overtly vernacular in character, with a heavy newel with a delicate turned centre and a turned cylindrical finial. The moulded handrail is supported by plain posts with a mid-rail, and unmoulded chunky scrolls run beneath the handrail to the posts. Pendants and embedded half-finials match the newel. Modern kitchen fittings have been inserted in the former rear lobby. The original kitchen retains its original cast-iron cooking range faced with rich ceramic tiles.
Elsewhere including the upper floors the interior retains many features of interest including the majority of the good-quality internal timber door and window surrounds, skirtings and ceilings, covings and mouldings, original doors (some with later over-boarding), and at least two original fireplaces. Archaeological survey indicates that the original plaster remains, and given the high likelihood that this house had a similar painted colour scheme to that of Hillcrest, this is likely to survive much more intact beneath the subsequent wallpaper. The cellar also retains some original flooring, fire surrounds and windows.
SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: the original boundary walls survive on the south and east and between the front gardens, along with the gate piers at Hillcrest. The eastern boundary wall has a stone plinth and bands separated by brickwork, and moulded terracotta coping. It is deeply scalloped, with non-original iron railings* in the concavities. The gate piers to Hillcrest have stone caps carved with lilies matching the entrance keystone, and terracotta finials. The gates* are modern replacements.
The original ancillary buildings in the rear gardens have been heavily altered. Modern gates and shutters* have been installed in the western boundary on modern piers*.
*Pursuant to s1 (5A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 (‘the Act’) it is declared that the aforementioned items are not of special architectural or historic interest.
Hillcrest and Briarhill (Nos 37 and 39 Rochdale Road, respectively) were built in 1892, the year after the adjacent Redcroft and Fencegate (NHLE no. 1162377); the architect, Edgar Wood, lived in Redcroft until 1916. With their Art Nouveau features Hillcrest & Briarhill are among the earliest such designs in the world, fractionally predating Victor Horta’s Hotel Tassel in Brussels (UNESCO World Heritage List). In 1893, Hillcrest and Briarhill were illustrated and described in architectural publications in Britain, the USA and Europe.
Hillcrest’s first owner, Henry Simpson Batey, lived there until his death in 1937. In the late C20 it became the White House Hotel. In the early C21 it underwent substantial renovation. The hotel ceased trading early in the C21 and is presently (2017) unoccupied. After a short occupancy by Arthur Edwin Jones, Briarhill was lived in by Thomas Mills Chadwick, and later two of his daughters, from around 1900 until 1960. It is still a family home.
The first map on which the houses are marked is the 1909 1:2,500 Ordnance Survey map. This shows the L-shaped ancillary building in the rear garden of Briarhill, continuing (as a linear range only) in the garden of Hillcrest, where its southern end is aligned with a wall running from the rear of the house. A similar cross-wall divided the front garden into a small northern portion and a larger southern one. The northern boundary of Briarhill’s garden lay further to the north than at present, with a second ancillary building in the north-west angle, linked to the north-west corner of the house by a short wall dividing the front garden from the rear. A small rear porch is shown to Briarhill only. The 1922 edition shows the same arrangement, with the addition of a wall at Hillcrest dividing front from rear gardens, just forward of halfway along the end wall. The 1955 1:,1250 map does not mark the rear porch or any of the garden dividing walls. Maps of 1960 and 1970 show the same.
Externally, both houses have had nearly all of their sash windows replaced with casements (in PVC at Hillcrest and timber at Briarhill). Sadly, at Briarhill, this removed the bulk of what might have been the first comprehensive Art Nouveau glazing scheme in the world, in which the upper sashes of the front windows had sinuous glazing bars and upper lights filled with leaded and coloured glass in a stylised representations of briars. Large timber gates have been replaced by slender modern metal versions, and the railings within the boundary wall cut-outs are not original. All of the rainwater goods and their ornamental fixings have been repainted in alternatives to their original white colour, and some replaced in PVC. The site has varying ground conditions, and measures to combat differential movement were integrated during the build, probably because movement began to occur almost immediately. Numerous ties run through the building, with decorative pattress plates on the elevations.
Hillcrest has had major internal works including some drylining and tiling, and has lost most, but not all, of its interior features. A small area of surviving painted plaster shows it originally had a sophisticated Art Nouveau painted scheme. A recess on the back wall of the dining room (probably originally with a serving hatch) is now knocked through to the kitchen. Externally, the two tall end chimneys were lowered in 2008 to the level of the roof and slated over. The Hillcrest entrance Art Nouveau stone panel has been covered over, but remains intact. The rear wall of the house and the garden walls have been rendered.
Briarhill’s chimneys are only partly lowered. Several original internal doors have been boarded with hardboard and some fireplaces have been removed. Interior pine woodwork, originally transparent-varnished, has been painted or stained in darker colours. In the morning/withdrawing room the chimney breast of the semi-inglenook fireplace has been removed, and as with Hillcrest, the recess on the back wall of the dining room is now knocked through to the kitchen. The original plaster at Briarhill appears to have survived beneath subsequent wallpaper, and it is believed that a similar painted colour scheme to that of Hillcrest survives much more intact here.
Edgar Wood (1860-1935) was born and educated in Middleton, Lancashire. After qualifying as an architect in 1885, he established a practice in Middleton and then subsequently at Oldham and Manchester. Pevsner described him as the most progressive of all Edwardian architects whose designs were at the cutting edge of European contemporary architecture, and he gained a considerable national and international reputation, notably in Germany. A highly individualistic architect, he is internationally recognised as a pioneer of Modernism, his style developing through the idiosyncratic application of vernacular features, Arts and Crafts design, and an Art Nouveau style largely independent of continental influence. He is noted for his use of broad surfaces making use of colour, texture and massing rather than applied ornament for visual interest, but this is the only known example of his work where this is achieved in bright red brick. His designs, with individualistic and efficient internal plans influencing the overall form of the building, were unconventional at the time. During his career, Wood designed many highly-regarded buildings; more than 45 are currently listed, seven at Grade II* and three at Grade I.
Hillcrest and Briarhill, a semi-detached pair of houses of 1892 by Edgar Wood, are listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* As an excellent example of innovative design for the period, sharing many characteristics with the most avant-garde designs of the time in continental Europe and anticipating elements of the architect’s later pioneering Modernist design;
* For the good survival of the internal plan-form and retention of many interior decorative features, particularly at Briarhilll;
* For the strong visual and historical relationship with the adjacent pair of Redcroft and Fencegate (NHLE no. 1162377) by the same designer (who lived in Redcroft until 1916), and close proximity and shared features with two of Wood’s other listed buildings at 51-53 Rochdale Road (NHLE no. 1356254), and Arkholme (NHLE no. 1391983);
* For their attribution to the internationally-renowned architect Edgar Wood.
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