History in Structure

White Cottage, former Pest House

A Grade II Listed Building in Grantham, Lincolnshire

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Latitude: 52.9205 / 52°55'13"N

Longitude: -0.6384 / 0°38'18"W

OS Eastings: 491644

OS Northings: 336764

OS Grid: SK916367

Mapcode National: GBR DPY.TPB

Mapcode Global: WHGKH.5V8G

Plus Code: 9C4XW9C6+5M

Entry Name: White Cottage, former Pest House

Listing Date: 1 April 2019

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1462454

ID on this website: 101462454

Location: Grantham, South Kesteven, Lincolnshire, NG31

County: Lincolnshire

District: South Kesteven

Electoral Ward/Division: Grantham St Wulfram's

Parish: Non Civil Parish

Built-Up Area: Grantham

Traditional County: Lincolnshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Lincolnshire

Tagged with: Architectural structure


Former pest house, built in the late C16, largely rebuilt between 1789 and 1790, and altered and extended as a private dwelling around 1880.


Former pest house, built in the late C16, largely rebuilt between 1789 and 1790, and altered and extended as a private dwelling around 1880.

MATERIALS: painted red brick walls, natural slate roofs, timber-framed windows, and timber doors.

PLAN: the house is L-shaped in plan, and comprises a rectangular-plan west range laid out on a north-south axis, and a perpendicular east range constructed in two phases, with a lean-to porch, pantry and sheds to its north side.

EXTERIOR: White Cottage is a two-storey L-plan house with painted red brick walls, which exhibits multiple phases of construction: the ground floor of the north gable of the west range retains the earliest building fabric, constructed of coursed rubble stone in the late C16; the remainder of the west range was rebuilt and extended with a perpendicular east range around 1790; and the east range was extended to the east around 1880. The pitched roofs have a natural slate roof covering, most likely replaced around 1880. The west range has a red brick chimneystack to its north gable with a pair of red brick flues and C20 terracotta pots; and the perpendicular east range has two chimneystacks at the junction of the former east gable and its late-C19 extension to the east, each having a pair of red brick flues and C20 terracotta pots. The west range, rebuilt around 1790, has three symmetrical window bays to the ground floor of its west elevation, and two window bays to the first floor. The south gable of the west range shows evidence of a blocked door opening and a former chimneystack which has been removed (most likely around 1880). The north elevation of the east range has a single-storey lean-to porch, built around 1790, now with a blocked door opening, and was extended to the east with the addition of a pantry and shed around 1880. An additional lean-to shed was added to the north around 1960. The east range has two door openings: the main entrance at the west end of the south elevation has a C20 timber-panelled door within a segmental-arched door surround; and the kitchen has a late-C19 timber battened door within a flat-arched door surround, with a late-C19 door latch and handle. The windows appear to have been replaced around 1880, and mostly comprise two timber-framed casements with a central moulded mullion.

INTERIOR: the west range, built in the late C16, and largely rebuilt between 1789 and 1790, has a two cell plan on its ground and first floors, the south room being larger. Both ground floor rooms have exposed floor joists to their ceiling. The south rooms have a blocked fireplace on their south wall, however no chimney stack survives on the exterior. The north rooms have a fireplace at the centre of their north walls, with replacement C20 fire surrounds. The north room of the ground floor has a recessed cupboard at the north end of the east wall, blocking a former door opening from the single-storey porch on the north side of the east range. The west part of the east range appears to be contemporary with the west range, and also has exposed floor joists to the ceiling of the entrance hall, which has an enclosed winder stair to the first floor in its north-west corner, a door on the north wall from the north porch, and a fireplace with a C20 fire surround at the centre of the east wall. The kitchen, which was added to the east around 1880, has a fire opening on its west wall with an Aga installed in the C20, an integrated cupboard to the north of the fireplace, and a single-storey lean-to pantry off the north side of the kitchen. The first floor of the east range has a corridor running along its north side, with a bathroom over the entrance hall, and bedroom over the kitchen. The roof structure is concealed, with the exception of the first floor stair landing, where the ends of the rafters of the east slope of the roof of the west range and wall plate are visible over the stair.

Detached sheds and greenhouses were constructed to the north-east and east of the house around 1960, and are excluded from the listing.


Before infectious diseases were identified and differentiated from each other, and their methods of transmission known, attempts were made to isolate the infected from the healthy in order to give a degree of control over what were often incurable and frequently fatal ailments. Unlike general hospitals, most isolation hospitals were established either by Poor Law guardians as part of a workhouse, or by local authorities. Those who could, practiced isolation at home, and hospitals served the working and lower classes. They were invariably erected in response to specific events, such as epidemics, which were also the spur to a growing body of legislation aimed at containing these devastating and repeated outbreaks. After leprosy, plague was the first to cause widespread alarm. There had been intermittent outbreaks of plague since at least the C6, but the Black Death reached London in 1348, and was the first of a series of major epidemics, the last of which in England was the Great Plague of 1665-6. Once outbreaks of the plague ceased to occur in Britain after the 1660s, smallpox caused the greatest fear and revulsion, not least because the disease was so readily identifiable.

The first plague hospitals in England were established from around 1537 in the form of small, temporary pest houses, and by the end of the C16 century, funding was provided through general taxation for the relief of the sick. They were rented or even built by local communities, usually the parish. Surviving examples in Suffolk and Hampshire suggest that they were ordinary houses, commonly of two-room plan with a central staircase. The pest house at Framlingham, Suffolk, functioned on the usual arrangement whereby a nurse occupied the house and cared for patients sent there by the parish. It was not until the C18 that more extensive isolation hospitals were erected, and these were solely for smallpox cases. Urban areas, where epidemics were rife, saw the establishment of a number of isolation hospitals in the first half of the C19, but rural districts continued to rely on small pest houses. By the early decades of the C19 the maintenance of many pest houses was in decline, and this limited local provision was largely superseded by the workhouse system.

At Grantham, a pest house was constructed to the north of the town, and a lease of 1584 records the plot as being leased by the Mayor, Aldermen and Burgesses of Grantham. The lease records: ‘if it shall happen or chance hereafter ... the Town and Borough... to be visited with the plague called the pestilence or any other smiting disease or contagious sickness whereby it shall be thought good to divide the infected people from the whole... better safeguard of the said Town ... upon two days warning ... all the tenants and dwellers within said messuage or house to depart ... to permit and suffer the infected or visited people to enter into the house ...’ While later leases are associated with the Brownlow family, who held a seat at nearby Belton House from the late C16, earlier leases may have been with their predecessors, the Pakenhams. The Grantham Hall Book of 1702 recorded the rent due for the pest house for Michaelmas term as 3 shillings.

John Langwith Jnr, of a local, prominent and wealthy family of master-builders and craftsmen, became joint police constable of Grantham in 1788, and received a major part of the contract for the building of a new guildhall and gaol for the town in the same year. He was chamberlain of the town from 1789 to 1790, during which time he oversaw the rebuilding of the pest house. The Enclosure Award map of 1809 shows a rectangular-plan site delineated on the east side of Belton Road (now Manthorpe Road), containing a single and long ‘H’ plan building, the responsibility of the Alderman and Burgesses of Grantham. In contradiction of this, Dawson’s map of Grantham in 1832 appears to show two detached rectangular-plan buildings standing parallel to each other. A report on the proposed municipal boundary of Grantham in 1837, indicated that the ‘Pest House’ was included within the north boundary of Grantham, and Dawson provided the accompanying map, again showing the ‘Pest House’ as two detached buildings.

Grantham’s Poor Law Union was officially formed in 1836, and in 1837 the Grantham Union workhouse was built to the south-west of the town incorporating an infirmary and fever hospital. Grantham Hospital, designed by Richard Adolphus Came, was constructed nearby to the pest house on the west side of Manthorpe Road in 1874, and was officially opened by Lady Brownlow in 1876. It is probable that the pest house ceased to be used as an isolation hospital around that time, and was likely altered and extended around 1880 as a private dwelling. The 1887 Ordnance Survey (OS) map shows the dwelling in its current form as an L-plan building, and its plan form is confirmed on the 1905, 1931 and 1950 OS maps. Detached sheds and greenhouses were constructed to the north-east and east of the house around 1960, and are shown on the 1964 OS map.

Reasons for Listing

White Cottage, a former pest house, built in the late C16, largely rebuilt between 1789 and 1790, and altered and extended as a private dwelling around 1880, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

Architectural interest:
* as a modest but well-preserved example of a late-C16 pest house, largely rebuilt as a pest house in the late C18, the plan form of which survives intact.

Historic interest:
* as a rare surviving example of this building type, which importantly provides a narrative of health and welfare buildings in rural England from the late C16 to late C19;
* due to the relatively few numbers of pest houses that survive, only six examples are currently represented on the National Heritage List for England.

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