COUNTRY LIFE - DECEMBER 24, 1910

HAMBLETON HALL,
RUTLAND

A LESSER COUNTRY HOUSE OF THE XVIIth CENTURY

THE story of the home-life of men whose names are writ large in English history is usually fuller than the annals of the smaller manor houses. This is natural enough, for the latter were often occupied by prosperous yeomen rather than by folk entitled to be called esquire. The records of these humbler lives are to be found chiefly in the bare facts that lawsuits, wills and parish registers reveal. Occasionally, however, one comes on a batch of intimate and personal papers which throw a light on the normal current of middle-class country life in bygone days. The great diarists and letter-writers were mostly London men. Evelyn it is true, was a country gentleman, but he was also a courtier and a friend of the great. Pepys was a Cockney by adoption and only a countryman by grace. He gives us some idea of middle-class life in the notes on his visits to his people at Brampton, but it is coloured by his personal predilection for town ways and interests.The Entrance Front There is in consequence a special value attaching to the correspondence of Abel Barker, who was born at the Manor House at Hambleton and only left it to build himself a bigger home at Lyndon. In 1665 Barker was made a baronet, but to the methodical habits of his younger days we owe a delightful, picture of his earlier life as a prosperous gentleman farmer. From 1642 he made a practice of entering in a manuscript book copies of the most important letters he wrote, and also, fortunately, a few written by his wives. Some letters by earlier hands in the same collection take generations to the point when the Barkers were emerging into the ranks of county gentlemen. Abel's grandfather was a Baldwin Barker, described as yeoman, who died in 1603. Baldwin's son, also an Abel, lived at Hambleton and a warrant of 1633 describes him as gentleman. The second Abel, later Sir Abel Barker, had by 1646 a position assured enough for him to be created High Sheriff of Rutland. His excursions into matrimony make an interesting story. Early in 1645 his mother, Elizabeth Barker, writes to Sir Thomas Burton, Knight and Baronet, asking that Abel may "with your consent and approbation prosecute that affection which he bears to your daughter Mrs. Anne Burton." In February Sir Thomas indicates his approval, but refers young Abel's suit to his daughter's wishes. By April Mrs. Barker was- writing again, this time about money, and suggests that Sir Thomas should give one thousand five hundred pounds "in portion"; but while she asks what he requires in return by way of jointure, it does not appear from later letters how this was settled. Abel seems to have been a writer of very moderate love-letters, if one he penned from Hambleton to his sweetheart in London just before his marriage in 1646 is fairly representative " Mrs. Anne, though the distance of place denies us our accustomed communication, yet the intercourse of letters may, if you he so pleased, supply that defect; wherein that you may not judge me oblivious of our forepassed amity, I have presumed to breake the ice, in confidence that you will not disdaine to wade after, . . " Nothing very passionate about that; but in those days it needed the genius for letter-writing of a Dorothy Osborne to set aside the usual formality of phrase. This frigidity is especially marked in the letters from Mrs. Abel Barker to her mother, and reveals the solemn way in which daughters approached their parents. "These presents," she writes in 1647, "with my humble duty. The South FrontMadame, I had wayted upon you before this to have given you thanks for your many favors to me, had not Mr. Barker's extraordinary occasions and my owne sicknesse prevented me." She subscribes herself your dutifull and obedient daughter till death." The same day she is writing with more enthusiasm to "Mr. Augustine Crofts at the Nagshead in the Old Bailey near the pump there." She is in need of fripperies, and "desire you to buy me twelve elnes of a deepe watchet sarcenett for a bed, and a sleight fringe for it . . . five dozen of small silke buttons . . . an ounce of parmacity." A year later Abel's sister Mary is ordering largely from John Swinfield in Drury Lane, to the value of ten pounds and more, "a goune of black tabba, you need not make it as wide as you made my tafaty gowne by a neale (ell). You may lay upon it such lace and in such manner as is the newest fashion." She further asks for "as much tabba either grasse greene or wlllowe greene as will make me a petticote and stomacher, and make it up with as much gold and silver bone lace of about 2s. 6d ye yard as will go once about, and twice up before." Then follows a string of needs-a love hood, a riding coate and hood of scarlet serge, neatly trimmed, bandstrings, laces and ribbons. Abel Barker seems to have been kept busy refusing offers for the hand of this sister. To his "loving friend and most faithfull and obsequious kinsman, Thomas Collin" he has to write his regrets that she "will not allowe the matter" or admit of Mr. Collin's " dedication." Whether the gentleman was soothed by the explanation that "a reason is not always found in love," and what that dim phrase may mean, does not appear. This was in 1642, and five years later Abel has to tell Sir Richard Wingfield, who was negotiating for the lady on behalf of a friend, that she is " altogether unwilling to entertain that motion." A month later Mr. Sherman of Leicester is told that "she hath disposed her thoughts some other way."

In January, 1647, Abel was mourning his wife, who died in giving birth to her only son, the second baronet. The preaching of the funeral sermon was a great function to which the countryside came, and a dinner followed. A letter of 1648 to his loving sister, Mrs. Elizabeth Goodman, has a curiously modern look, in view of recent controversies and legislation. She was intending to marry her deceased husband's brother, and Abel sets forth the sin and social obloquy attending uncanonical marriages. He implores her not "to impinge herself upon such a rocke, which besides other discommodityes will at once make shipracke of her conscience by the lawe of God and her estate and posterity by the law of man."

South Loggia

It may be suspected that Abel was most worried about the impending shipwreck of her estate. He remained a widower some years, but by 1655 he got a rebuff from Rebekah Partesoyle, who writes her "much respected friend ". that she cannot thinke of comitting my-selfe and estayt into the hands of any man upon 'the tennis you desier." It looks as though Abel had been rather grasping in his proposed finance of the marriage; but the refusal cannot have come, as a surprise, for six days be/ore he got this letter he had written to Geffrey Palmer, afterwards Attorney-General to Charles II., that he had fixed his affections on Palmer's niece, Mary Noell. This went more smoothly; Noell pere seemed desperately anxious for Barker to call and fetch away the money of his daughter's portion, before even the needful documents were all signed, and the civil marriage took place before a justice, as the Commonwealth Act of 1653 required. This alliance seems to have been a very happy one. A year or two later the wife is writing to Abel in London: "Dear heart, I heare you goot safe and well to Lond, and by this time are ready to retorne to her who mournes for youre deare company. . . . Your faithfull loveing wife, Mary Barker." It happens sometimes that the sting of a wife's letter is in its tail, so the postscript must not be omitted. " Remember to by me som sherry of amber; Prea you by me a lased pinner and quioufe of the new fashion for myselfe and I would have a satten mantell for my child to crisen it in."

A few years later there is a patch of very doleful letter-writing from Hambleton. Mrs. Barker is at home looking after her babes, who are down with whooping-cough (or chincoufe, as she calls it). Small-pox is raging in the village, next door even, and folks dying all round. A later epistle reveals the children still " all sadly trobeled with the chincoufe," and the mother is frightened so much at their fits of coughing that "I am not myself." Abel is ordered to buy lozenges for them, stockings, shoes and what not. "Bell is as ragedy as a beger boy. I prae you let him have a sute." The future Lady Barker was a poor hand at spelling, even in those casual days. The unremitting attention to business and the skill he showed in farming, the steady growth in the acreage he owned and rented, were all this time increasing Abel Barker's importance. The bulk of his correspondence was about land and taxes, money and stock, and there remain also his private accounts from i665 to 1677, written in his own small and accurate hand. His baronetcy came to him, in 1665, the crown of long devotion to public affairs. He was a King's man at heart during the Civil War, but stood on the fringe of things as far as he could, serving his country in local matters rather than in those loftier spheres which meant danger to a rising business man. Among his papers is a letter from the Privy Council to the High Sheriff of Rutland in 1638, which deals with the raising of ship-money. It makes a provision, so prophetic of the present distinction between earned and unearned incomes, that it seems worthy to be transcribed here. The letter directs that " noe persons be assessed to the same unlesse they bee knowne to have estates in money or goods, or other means to live, over and above what they get by their daily labor." The autographs of Archbishop Laud and fifteen others appear on this direction to meet the cost of the Navy by a tax on unearned incomes. The Barker correspondence throws interesting light on the value of money in the seventeenth century. When Abel attended the Oakham Assizes in April, 1647, as High Sheriff, his hospitality to the judges at the Bell Inn and his presents to them cost him fifty pounds. This is a very large sum in the money of those days, and suggests that the sheriff was lavish in the discharge of his hospitable duties. Though in his later years his farming interests increased, he seems to have found time for many social diversions, as his account-book testifies. Despite that, Lady Barker had no more than fifty pounds per annum to spend on dressing herself and her three daughters, and she got only two hundred a year as her housekeeping allowance. It does not appear whether she had to repay her husband out of these sums for the clothes he bought in London in response to her impasioned postscripts.

North PorchIt was only shortly before his death in 1679 that Sir Abel moved from the house at Hambleton, the subject of the accompanying pictures, to the big house which he built on his estate at Lyndon. His son, the second baronet, moved in lofty circles, for we find him in 1706 belonging to a social club, "The Honourable Order of Little Bedlam." Each member took the title of an animal. The Earl of Exeter, Great Master of the club, was Lion; the Duke of Devonshire, Leopard; and so on. They were in part an artistic set, for Sir Godfrey Kneller was Unicorn and Signor Verrio, Porcupine. Barker carried on his father's traditions by bearing the name of Ram, and one George Leafield rejoiced in the honour of representing the "Guiney Pig."

The Bankers died out in the last century, and Lyndon and Hambleton have passed to Mr. Conant. He has taken great care of Hambleton Hall by doing such repairs as are necessary but has abstained from remodelling the house within or from doing anything to take away its original characteristics as manor house of -the early seventeenth century. The gardens lie waste, but the building itself remains much as it was when Abel Baker took his brides there, save that the fitments we long ago removed to Lyndon Hall, and the interior therefore does not call for description. Each of the main fronts of the house has a loggia with a balcony above. On the north side this delightful feature seems to have been altered many years ago form a little porch at one end and to extend a room at the other. The space entered by the two middle arches has become therefore rather meaningless. The stone mullioned windows are spoilt not only by the absence of the leaded lights which are proper to them, but by the insertion of clumsy wood sashes. Though the walling is of simple rubble with dressed quoins, there is no attempt at the grand manner, one notes the charming; design of the balusters, the open arcaded parapet and the massive ashlar chimneys. Altogether, Hambleton Hall is a good example of that enchanting period of our architecture when mediaeval building tradition was perfectly married to classical taste, and their offspring maintained its English nationality unimpaired.


COUNTRY LIFE - SEPTEMBER 27, 1930

THE OLD HALL,
NETHER HAMBLETON, RUTLAND.

The Residence of MISS TRYON

A delightful stone-built manor house of the early seventeenth century, remarkable for the sense of style exhibited in its classical loggias, balustrades and arcaded parapet.

It is really rather surprising, after all the regrettable things which have been done to spoil the countryside, how much still remains unblemished and undiscovered. For all the multitudes of cars which pour out of the towns on a week-end in the summer, there are many parts of England-and quite large parts-to which few ever penetrate.

The North Front

1. THE NORTH FRONT OF THE HOUSE

Fortunately, main roads are much like main lines: they carry nine-tenths of the traffic, so that the country lanes are left not so very different from what they have always been. It is owing to this happy state of affairs that England is still comparatively unexplored and that it is possible to make, now and then, such a 'delightful architectural discovery as The Old Hall, Nether Hambleton. Were the phrase less hackneyed, this charming little manor house might truthfully be described as an architectural gem-or, rather, it is an architectural miniature, reproducing in little the handsome features of the stone-built mansions of Northamptonshire and Rutland.

The Garden Front

2. THE GARDEN FRONT

For a seventeenth century yeoman's residence it possesses a surprising individuality, with its loggias back and front, its balustrade and galleries and its arcaded parapet; while, in addition to, and in spite of, these ornaments, there is a reticence and a conscious sense of design which are altogether modern in feeling. Confronted with the illustration opposite (Fig. 2), one might quite well begin speculating whether the architect was Mr. Detmar Blow or Mr. Guy Dawber, though, on closer inspection, one or two errors-in setting out the windows, for instance-would probably give away the truth. But then, country builders in the seventeenth century were builders and not draughtsmen, and it was only to be expected if sometimes in details they went a little awry.

There are several Hambletons and Hambledons scattered up and down England, and this one in Rutland took a long time making up its mind to which branch of the family it would like to belong. In mediaeval times it was even so far from either as to call itself Hameldon or Hameldune, and then, when it seemed as if the spelling of its cricketing namesake were the only fit and proper one to adopt, it decided otherwise and settled down to appear, at any rate on maps arid printed notices, quite definitely as Hambleton.

Detail of the North Loggia

3. DETAIL OF THE NORTH LOGGIA

The village is almost exactly in the middle of the county, perched on an isolated hill which looks out northwards to the ridge where Burley-on-the-Hill stands proudly in its park. Stretching away to the west is the broad vale of Catmose, with Oakham spire in the middle distance pricking up out of the plain, while to the south lies the shallow valley of the Gwash, Rutland's suitably diminutive river, which flows off eastward to join the Welland at Stamford. Having made our preliminary survey, if we drop down the steep hill to the south, we shall come to a group of cottages at the bottom and a farm track leading off to the left. This soon brings us to the Old Hall with its farm buildings beside it, standing alone in the fields.

A View from the Garden

4. A VIEW FROM THE GARDEN

In the Domesday Survey the manor of Hameldune appears as one of considerable size. Nearly four miles long and three miles broad, it contained three churches and seven hamlets or berewicks, five of 'which afterwards became separate parishes, though continuing to pay annually small sums of money to the 'mother' church. In the Confessor's time his Queen, Edith, owned most, of the land; but after the Conquest the manor belongs to the King, who holds four carucates in demesne, while forty carucates are held by the 140 villeins and thirteen bordars. Eight acres is owned by the church; there is a 'mill and forty acres of meadow, but the majority is wood-silva minuta feitilis per loca-extending, over an area some three miles long and one and a half broad. In the thirteenth century we find the Norman family of Umfraville established as lords of the manor, and they, in Edward III's reign, are succeeded by Badlesmeres. Then, in 1408, John, Lord Lovel, dies seised, and four years later his widow quitclaims to the King. At the beginning of the next century the manor is bestowed on Sir Henry Ferrers, whose family continues to hold it till the end of Elizabeth's reign.

Long before this, however, the property had been divided, for in 1411 we find Margery, the widow of Sir Thomas Burton, granting the manors of Whitwell and Hameldon Parva to Roger Flore. The Flores-or Flowers, as they are sometimes spelt- were an ancient Rutland family with considerable property in Oakham, and their town house, with its thirteenth century Gothic doorway, still exists in Oakham High Street. The Roger Flore we are concerned with held large estates in Leicestershire in addition to those in his own county. He was five times returned to Parliament as knight of the shire, and under Henry V was four times elected Speaker. In Oakham he is commemorated by the lofty spire of the church, for building which he left money in his Will. A hundred years later Little Hambleton was still owned by his descendants, for in 1523 Sir Richard Flore died seised of the manor, in which he held 200 acres of land and 20 acres of meadow. But before the end of the century the property had been sold and Little Hambleton henceforth became separated from Whitwell.

In the Kitchen

5. IN THE KITCHEN

Whether or not the immediate purchaser was Christopher Loveday, it was he who built the present house, although he did not choose to live long in it. This we know from a deed in the possession of Mr. Roger Conant of Lyndon, which relates to the purchase of the manor from Loveday by Roger Quarles, and in which the hall is described as "that his capital new erected messuage." The date of this transaction was 1611, so that the house was probably built in the first decade of the century. Who this Loveday was or where he came from I have been unable to find out. We have information of his predecessors and of his successors, but the builder of the hall remains a mysterious figure ; he erects his house and then disappears, leaving no record of his ownership in carved date or initials.

The Staircase

6. THE STAIRCASE

In plan the house reproduces on a small scale the characteristic H-shaped form of the larger mansions of the time. Two gabled wings are connected by a central hall; one wing, the east, contains the sitting-rooms, the other the offices, to which is attached a one-storeyed appendage, which was once a bakehouse. The old idea of a screens passage is retained, so that the hall is entered from the front at its east end through the right-hand arch of the stone loggia (Fig. 3). With this one concession to tradition the prevalent desire for symmetry finds almost complete expression. Wings and windows balance one another, while the hall chimney is set exactly in the middle of the house, so as to form the central feature of the design (Fig. 1). On the south front (Fig. 2) we find, in place of the chimney, a small central gable lighting the attic and repeating in its triangular form the gables of the wings. Instead of the plain wall surface in the centre necessitated by the chimney breast in the north elevation, there is here a large transomed window of eight lights, making the room over the hall the sunniest in the house. Actually the window is divided into two by a thick central mullion so that each constituent half corresponds with the windows on either side of it. The plain mullioned windows of the wings are like those to be found in all the cottages and farmhouses of the period. They have plain moulded dripstones in place of the labels which are always to be found in contemporary buildings in the Cotswolds.

Much the most interesting features of the house are its stone loggias. Their occurrence in so small a building as this is very remarkable. Even in large houses of the time they are not particularly common, and show, where they occur, that the architect was very conscious of his acquaintance with the new Italian fashions.

Perhaps the nearest parallel to that on the north front (Fig. 3) is the arched loggia added to Cranborne manor house much about the same time, but the work there is lighter and more elaborate. The proportions of this little composition are not altogether happy. The designer seems to have had in mind two ideas which, rather muddle-headedly, he put into execution at the same time. The result is that we find an arcaded and a pillared loggia combined in one, and the unlucky centre pillar supporting the arches seems to have been given an unfair share of the work compared with its fellows, elevated on their pedestals, with only a small projection of entablature to carry. The filling in of the left-hand arch is not an addition, as might be supposed, but part of the original design. It balances the right-hand compartment walled off to form a porch, uniformity of elevation being sacrificed to uniformity of plan. If the architect found this north porch rather a difficult problem, he succeeded admirably in the graceful loggia on to the south (Fig. 2). Here he was content content to have pillars without arches, and there is no trouble about double levels or two cornices beneath the balustrade. Both in design and in its relation to the whole elevation it is a perfect composition. Access to the galleries over the loggias is by means of two doorways above the screens passage in the room over the hall.

The Hall

7. THE HALL

The remaining external feature, -the pierced parapet connecting the gables (Figs. 3 and 4), is almost identical with one on the front of Exton Old Hall. No doubt the same master-mason was employed on the two houses, and he may easily have been engaged on much more important buildings when there were so many large houses in the neighbourhood in process of building. To take only one, the additions made to Apethorpe by Sir Francis Fane contain some striking resemblances of detail-the design of the balustrades may be mentioned-suggesting that the mason was, at any rate, acquainted with the work there, if he was not actually engaged in it himself. These additions to Apethorpe, however, were made between 1617 and 1623, a few years after the Old Hall, Nether Hambleton, had been completed, so that, unless we are to suppose that the loggias were added by Roger Quarles after he had bought Loveday's "capitall new erected messuage," they would actually be anterior in date. That they were additions seems not at all improbable, if we take into account the difference in the character of the masonry of these architectural "features" and the rough stone of which the walls of the house are composed. Moreover, however perfectly the south loggia fits into the design, that on the north certainly has the appearance of being an afterthought. But this feeling of clumsiness may be equally well explained if we suppose that the designs for the classical features were obtained from an architect of repute and left to a local mason to execute.

The Dining Room

8. THE DINING ROOM

Roger Quarles, the new owner, came from Old Sleaford in Lincolnshire, though his father was a Northamptonshire man. He was a first cousin of Francis Quarles, the religious poet, whose " Emblems " ran into countless editions, achieving a popularity among readers of devotional verse which lasted for more than two centuries. On his death 1616 Roger was succeeded by two nephews but in 1634 they assigned the property to Abel Barker, and the Quarles ownership came to an end. The new owner is described in the deed as "of Hambleton"; he was probably a yeoman farmer whose father had risen by his own efforts to a position of prosperity. This Abel Barker only lived for three years after making the purchase but his son of the same name enjoyed a long ownership of more than forty years. He was elected Sheriff of the county in 1646, and was created a baronet by Charles II. Finding the hall his father had purchased too small for him, in 1662 he and his brother Thomas bought the adjoining property of Lyndon and soon afterwards commenced building a new and larger house there. This meant that Lyndon thenceforth became the family seat, so the house at Nether Hambleton soon acquired the name of the " Old Hall. " Both properties remained in the possession of the Barkers until the family died out in 1845. They are now owned by Mr. Roger Conant, whose grandfather inherited the estates from an uncle whose mother was the last representative of the Barker family.

The East Bedroom

9. THE EAST BEDROOM

Since 1910 the Old Hall has been rented by Miss Tryon. The illustrations well show the care spent on the garden and the taste with which the house has been furnished. The dining-room (Fig. 8) in the east wing has seventeenth century wainscoting, but this probably dates from the time of Abel Barker's purchase rather than from the original building. A narrow wainscot partition with no wall behind divides this room from the staircase (Fig. 6). This is of stout oak construction with tall balusters and substantial newel posts surmounted by balls resting on well designed pedestals. The hall, or main living-room (Fig. 7), would have been separated from the screens passage by wainscoting, like that dividing the dining-room from the staircase hall, but a modern partition has replaced the original woodwork, which has also disappeared from the walls. The large stone chimney opening and the doorway of Late Gothic form leading to the staircase are noticeable features. A similar doorway led into the dining-room, but it is now blocked up. The front and back doorways and that leading to the offices are of the same traditional design, in marked contrast to the classical work of the loggias. In the bedrooms we find large stone fireplaces, again of strongly traditional design. The bedroom in the east wing (Fig. 9) contains a fine four-poster bed of Jacobean type, but which surprisingly enough, is dated as late as 1671. The kitchen, with its paved floors and old oak boards (Fig. 5), and the bakehouse, with its massive chimney and raftered roof, each makes a charming picture.

Plan

10. THE PLAN

With its pleasant walled garden and miniature gate-piers, its loggias, its discreet chimneys and gables, this little house in the fields is indeed a treasure. One would like to associate it with diminutive Jeffrey Hudson, the celebrated Court dwarf, who was brought up at Burley near by and given by his master, the Duke of Buckingham, to Charles I. It would be pleasant to imagine the midget man driving up in a coach to his little house - it would have been a palace to him - and passing between the two dwarf gate-piers. And once inside and seated in front of the hall fire, what stories he would have told his neighbours about the kind ladies at Court, and his exploits in the Civil Wars, and that famous duel in Paris when he shot dead an opponent who was more than double his size. But Jeffrey does not seem to have returned to his native county once he had left it for the Court. Perhaps he resented the idea that it was the smallest in England.

Arthur Oswald


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