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Legacy System: LBS
1887/0/10026 NORTH BREACHE ROAD
08-OCT-07 North Breache Manor
Small country house, 1881-2 by Aston Webb for John Fletcher Bennett.
MATERIALS: Local stone from Leith Hill Quarry, with brick lining, red brick stacks, plaintile roofs, stone dressings, fittings made of oak from the estate.
PLAN: Roughly rectangular asymmetrical plan in Tudor Gothic manner, but with Arts and Crafts detailing. It was designed to look out over the estate to the Surrey countryside and the sea, the main elevations facing south and west. Two storeys with attics and small cellars, and over the entrance a three-stage tower surmounted by a cupola. A single-storey rear service wing is set round a small inner courtyard and beyond it a further small courtyard. Both are set behind a stone wall facing the garden to the south and the drive to the north. A small porch under the tower gives on to a hall with stairs at the rear. Overlooking the gardens and park to the south is a large drawing room leading to a conservatory, and a smaller morning room or study. The dining room faces north, with kitchens and services beyond. On the first floor is a large billiard room over the kitchen, and approximately five bedrooms with dressing rooms or bathrooms. The back stair gives access to the billiard room, and on the attic floor to the cupola and viewing platform.
EXTERIOR: West, entrance front. This is dominated by a tall three stage tower over the entrance, flanked by an offset external stack to the left, and a first floor oriel window to the right. The door and windows have shallow moulded architraves, the windows have deep chamfered stone mullions and transoms. The hall window has cusped lights to the upper register. The two-light windows are set in stone clad offsets flanking the external stack at ground floor and have ogee moulded outer arches and the clear glass is probably replaced. Windows are timber casements with rectangular leaded lights, the hall and porch windows have stained glass. Throughout the house, original casement frames have a rounded, weather proofing profile, and many have wide hinges allowing the window to fold back for cleaning. Many were reglazed c1920 when fittings were replaced.
The rectangular, embattled tower houses a moulded panelled oak door under an arched overlight with vertical lights with stained glass. The door has upper linenfold panels, central panels with vertical open slits, plain panels below. Above the doorcase is a carved panel with a pair of birds flanking a central worn cartouche. Flanking the entrance is a bell pull, with mechanism surviving inside, and pair of iron boot scrapers. Lower stages of the tower are marked by moulded storey bands corresponding with those across the main elevations. Each stage has a single tall window divided by a broad transom. The tall upper stage is surmounted by a leaded cupola with an ogee profile roof, topped off with a weather vane. The octagonal drum has openings with cusped heads, flanked by blind cusped panels. The south east angle has a small leaded cupola over the stair. Behind the embattled parapet is a gabled dormer window faced in applied timber, with three-light casements. On the external stack, at storey height, is a sculpted panel. The upper stage of the stack is in flush red brick with stone dressings, rising to a facetted multiple red brick shaft with moulded collars. To the right under a stone gablet with a central carved panel, is a first floor oriel with a plain parapet and moulded base.
South, garden elevation. In three asymmetrical bays, the right-hand bay with a two storey canted bay. Similar in detail to the west front, windows have stone mullions and transoms. The study/morning room has timber casements with plain glass panes and replaced ironmongery. The drawing room bay has sashes with two-light window plain, glazed casements, both beneath fixed overlights; upper floor windows have casements with rectangular leaded lights; all windows to the bay have deep opening hinges. At first floor, to the left, is a blind panel in a moulded architrave. Gables and gablets over the first floor windows carry carved shields and insignia and are surmounted by a stone finial. A similar panel over the ground floor bay window depicts a shield flanked by pierced stone tracery. There is a tall brick multiple stack with facetted spines and moulded caps on the ridge, and a large plainer stack in the central valley. Attached to the east is a timber framed conservatory with a canted entrance to the garden. The east gable has blind vertical panels similar to those on the front door. The conservatory was originally planned at right angles to the drawing room. (Building News (41) 1881).
East Front. At ground floor is a conservatory described above. Attached to the south face of the northern block is a lean- to glazed area which is not of special interest. Windows to the gabled east elevation are two and three light timber casements under cambered brick arches, the ground floor with plain lights, the upper floors with rectangular leaded lights. The large external red brick gable stack (to the kitchen and billiard room), is in part repaired. A lower two-storey block extends to the east under a hipped roof with a moulded cornice. Windows have deeper moulded architraves than elsewhere in the building.
North elevation. To the right is a large three-storey gabled bay with a two storey canted bay; to the left are four bays under an embattled parapet. Stone mullion and transom windows some (to the kitchen) with replaced stonework, have timber casements. The ground floor windows have single panes, upper floor windows have rectangular leaded lights. Ground floor windows to the bay are timber sashes with plain glass panes under fixed lights with rectangular leaded panes (1881 illustration before built shows these as leaded casements); first floor timber casements have similar leaded lights and deep opening hinges. Above is a rectangular window similar to those on the other elevations. In the gable is a two bay blind panel. To the east is a single storey service wing under a plain stone parapet with a canted angle. Set back under a barrel vaulted entrance is a vertically boarded door with original door furniture. Adjacent is a bell pull mechanism. Flanking it to the right is a small two light rectangular window. To the east a divided stable door and single boarded door have similar but later details.
Further to the east is a wall with stone outer face and brick lining, facing the easternmost yard and the garden to the south, which has been altered with inserted or altered windows, all of which are not of special interest. The easternmost yard has two arched doorways one to the north, one leading into the garden to the south, and retains iron fencing from former dog kennels.
On all elevations there are cast iron rainwater goods with fine embattled hoppers.
INTERIOR: The porch at the base of the tower is tiled in red, black and cream encaustic tiles, with pair of inner part glazed oak doors under a semicircular overlight in four vertical panels with rectangular leaded lights. This and the front door retain good original door furniture. The overlight to the front door and porch window have similar stained glass. The hall is lined with three-quarter height oak panelling, which continues as a dado to the stair. Flanking the entrance, and lighting the chimneypiece is a large window with good stained glass, and original fittings. The oak chimneypiece, integral with the panelling, has a vine leaf cornice but a later stone fireplace and introduced fire back. At the rear of the hall, a three-bay arcade supported on double ogee moulded shafts and with moulded drop finials defines the staircase. An oak staircase set in a panelled oak frame has moulded balusters, three per tread, robust moulded newels and handrail. Doors are of oak with a central horizontal panel two vertical panels above and below. Door furniture is generally replaced and probably early C20. The study/morning room has a deep moulded frieze and cornice, of the 1880s, but a replaced stone fireplace. Casement windows have replaced ironmongery. The drawing room, shown as a single space on the original plan (possibly altered) responds to the archway, but the cornice and frieze are from the 1880's. Blank alcoves flank a good but introduced steel grate and mantelpiece. Windows appear to be original, with original fittings and have panelled shutters. A pair of glazed doors under an external stone arch lead to the conservatory. The conservatory floor is similarly tiled to the porch and has a simple truss roof.
The dining room is the most altered room in the house, but is unaltered since at least 1933. It has three quarter height oak panelling and skirtings introduced probably c1920. It has original unpainted oak sashes, possibly with vertical sliding shutters, in a moulded architrave. A large inglenook fireplace retains its 1880's flanking oak seats but the chimneypiece has been remodelled, probably c1920. The bressumer has been rationalised and panelling of the chimney breast matches that on the walls. The brick and tile fireplace also appears to be c1920. The introduced fireback is cast iron probably C17. A large scale deep vine leaf plaster frieze butts to the current ceiling, with no cornice. The ceiling looks replaced. The hatch to the kitchen retains original fittings, the door has replaced ironmongery similar to doors giving onto the hall. The gun room has a corner chimney piece with a slender timber mantelpiece and overmantel both probably 1881 although looking slightly later, and a cast iron grate similar to that in the billiard room (removed for restoration at time of visit). Service area doors are mostly vertically boarded and retain original ironmongery. The back stair rises from ground floor to attic and has a ramped and curved rail on stick balusters with square newels with knob finials. A glazed lantern with moulded ribs and drop finial, has been reinstated at 2nd floor level. Formerly it lit the stair and landing at first floor enclosed by a balcony.
The billiard room is above the kitchen. It is top lit and ventilated, with glazed panels which were removed for restoration at time of visit. The room has a panelled ceiling with moulded ribs, moulded dado rail and deep moulded skirting. Internal window cills are of slate. The chimneypiece has a fine cast-iron grate and tiled (currently painted over) surround and moulded timber mantelpiece with a shaped profile. Leading off the billiard room was a former WC.
First floor doors are of six panels, and painted. Apart from the billiard room fireplaces have been removed. Most first floor casements have original frames but with replaced glazing and fittings, those to the bay window over the dining room are least altered.
HISTORY: North Breache Manor was built in 1881 by Sir Aston Webb for John Fletcher Bennett. It replaced the earlier North Breache Farm on roughly the same site. It is reached by a long drive with a single lodge at the junction with the road. It is not known if Webb designed the lodge. Sir Aston Webb (1849-1930), son of a watercolourist and steel-engraver, was born in Clapham, Surrey. He was articled for five years from 1866 to the architects Robert Richardson Banks and Charles Barry Junior before setting up an independent practice in 1873. From 1881-2 he was president of the Architectural Association, the RIBA from 1902-4, and from 1919-24 president of the Royal Academy.
He was noted principally for his government work and public buildings, many achieved through architectural competitions. He is familiar as the architect of Admiralty Arch (1905-11, Grade I) and for work at Buckingham Palace (1913, Grade I). Conversely he was one of a group of architects asked to contribute to Whiteley Village, Elmbridge, Surrey, a planned philanthropic village of 1912 for the thrifty poor. His successful partnership with Ingress Bell, with whom he collaborated until 1909, resulted in several public commissions including Victoria Law Courts Birmingham in 1886-91, Christ's Hospital, Horsham (1897-1904, Grade II*) and the University of Birmingham (1902). His early work depended very much on the patronage of his family. For example Cookham Dene, Chislehurst (Grade II) was built in 1882 for his brother, and Brackenwood, Higher Bebbington, Cheshire was built in the same year for his uncle. North Breache Manor was one of the largest and most extravagant of his private contracts from this earlier period. Most of his other projects at this time were church work, such as the restoration of St Bartholomew the Great in the City of London, started in 1885, and smaller projects such as additions and alterations to existing buildings, all on a tighter budget. A significant number of Webb's buildings of this period, including Brackenwood, have been demolished.
REASONS FOR DESIGNATION
North Breache Manor, 1881 by Aston Webb, is designated Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Sir Aston Webb is noted particularly for his public buildings, many of which are designated at high grades; this is an important example of his domestic output which compares well with other designated examples of his work
* It is the most ambitious example of a house by Webb from this period of his career, when most of his work was on a smaller scale, and focused carefully on the client's brief
* There are some early C20 additions which have not detracted from the original plan and layout of the house, but added to its overall special interest.
House and Stabling at Ewhurst, FRIBA Nomination Papers, vol 7 f.39 (28 Oct 1882)
Building News (40) May 20 (1881) p 569 (RA review)
Building News (41) Dec 30 (1881) p 880 -1(illustrated)
Ian Dungavell, Sir Aston Webb, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-7)
Janet Balchin, Ewhurst Houses and People, Ewhurst History Society (2006)
Marcus Binney, Pure Prom, article for The Times (2006)
Mark Girouard, The Victorian Country House (1979)
Drawings: Royal Academy (1881) No 1058; Royal Hibernian Academy of Art (1888) No 487.