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The Grove Place Manor House

Manor House





Plan/Structure

Grove Place is a symmetrical crossed-winged house, which became a oommon layout for the stone and brick built great houses of the 16th and early l7th centuries.

The 17th century witnessed the introduction of new plans and influences in vernacular houses, both in Hampshire as elsewhere in England. These innovations included frontal symmetry, innovative planning in the placement of the entry and stairs, double-pile layouts and the replacement of timber framing by brick as the standard building material for houses.

Prior to this period, the courtyard plan persisted as the norm for many aristocratic houses. Grove Place, howevsr, is an early example of the Renaissance influence which led to the adoption of a compressed and symmetrical house plan and allowed the principal rooms to face outwards.

Unlike the earlier examples of Hall Houses (open to the roof), Grove Place was a reasonably early example of a "floored hall" where the chimney stacks were placed at the side of the rear wall of the hall. It did, however, retain a Solar or "great chamber" which was now contained within a private first floor room to which the owner and his family could retire, to entertain guests or to sleep.

The use of two tiers of butt purlins in the consruction of the roof so completely cleared the upper floor that it is possible ihat it was used as a long gallery, a prognosis further supported by the fine ribbed ceiling and plasterwork in this location.

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Solar Gallery
Solar Long Gallery

Fireplaces

From the l5th century, thc straight-head fireplace was gradually replaced by the four-centred arch, which may be quite sharply pointed or relatively shallow. Grove Place has several stone fireplaces and, although the one in the hall has been altered by the addition of an inscription in the 19th century, the others are untouched. The spandrels also have shields at the corners with the foliage taking a free flowing form. The shields are not carved and may well have been painted.

It is claimed that the hall fireplace leads up a wide chimney with a secret hiding place giving access to the roof, where one Samuel Speed hid and fled over the roof from Cromwell's troops in 1648. (More about this here).

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Fireplace in Hall Fireplace in Solar
Fireplace in Hall Fireplace in Solar

Staircases

Grove Place has two prominent octagonal stair turrets set in the angles of the two wings overlooking the approach to the front door, a common feature of grand Elizabethan houses. A description of the stair in the west turret, destroyed by fire in 1969, suggests that it was another example of the closed well stair; "the stairs rest on a solid centre composed of oak uprights, bolted (tenoned?) together, with the interstices filled in with plaster panels. Inside this centre, which is square, is a service lift....." which was presumably installed in the late 19th or early 20th century ro make good use of otherwise wasted space. The stair within the eastern turret is far more unusual, combining the spiral form with a central open well. Thc carved handrail, which would be far more at home in France than in England, is tenoned into newel posts which carry elaborate pendants and finials. The moulding of the handrail is also unusual, having a rounded top but not the indented sides which are characteristic of the 'grip' handrail. The turned 'mirror balusters', so-called because thsy are symmetrical about the centre so that the top half mirrors the bottom half. are very early examples of the type, in which the entire length of the baluster is turned. The construction of this stair was a prodigious feat, as it rises through four storeys to a small lookout room at the top of the turret. Windows in all sides give views over the surrounding countryside and it may have been intended for watching hunting. The most remarkable feature of all is the built-in bench at the top of the stair, whose back has turned halusters matching those of the stairs, with more supporting the seat.

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Turret Stair Turret Top
Eastern Turret Stair Eastern Turret Head

Plasterwork

Hampshire is not rich in decorative plasterwork but some of the best examples are those at Grove Place, which rank amongst the earliest plaster ceilings in the country. Rooms in both the east and west wings have ribbed plaster ceilings with decorative friezes, while in the attic a mini long gallery has individual plaster motifs and a ribbed ceiling. A certain amount of repair and restoration work has been carried out over the years, but most of the work appears to be contemporary with the house. This is confirmed by the heraldry incorporated into the designs, which include the coat-of-arms of James Paget (1561). Other coats-of-arms are of his mother and grandmother and of his first two wives. The third, whom he married in 1581, does not appear, thus confirming the date. The main ground floor room in the west wing, formerly the dining room, has a very fine plaster overmantel bearing the Royal Arms of James I. Above the arms is a frieze of sinuous foliage bearing large bunches of grapes and below is the Paget family coat-of-arms flanked by two lions passant guardant and two fleur-de-lys. The fleur-de-lys, although originally the emblem of France, remained popular in decorative plasterwork in England until the end of the 17th century.

Although the house was built between about 1561 and 1576, the Royal Arms cannot be that early as the unicorn replaced the dragon as a supporter when James I came to the throne in 1603. This implies that there was an on-going programme of building and decorating that continued after the original period of construction.

The overmantel, the heraldry in the frieze around the room and perhaps also the stone fireplace would almost certainly have been painted in bright colours, giving a very different impression from the completely whitewashed plasterwork of today.

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Dining Room Ceiling Dining Room Fireplace
Dining Room Ceiling (West Wing) Dining Room Fireplace (West Wing)

Panelling

Small square panelling became popular in the late 16th century with mouldings around three sides of the panel and a chamfered dust-ledge at the bottom. Panelling was often accompanied by a decorative frieze as is the case at Grove Place. Panelling would have been confined to the principal rooms rather than corridors, leading to speculate that some of this panelling has been relocated. Some of the early oak panelling was later replaced with deal.

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Main Hall Panelling Corridor Panelling
Panelling in Main Hall Panelling in Corridor with Decorative Frieze

Windows

Relatively few original windows have survived in Hampshire and Grove Place is no exception. The large transomed windows in the first floor solar with ogee-moulded stone mullions have survived along with the two-light mullions high in the turrets although the former are in a particularly poor condition. Most of the other principal windows were converted to sashes in the 18th century with the remainder being altered to timber casements at a later date (photographs taken by 'Country Life' in 1904 show existing stone mullioned windows as well as sashes which were clearly altered or replaced after this date}.

The window transoms in the ground floor hall have been "stressed" on their interior side to appear as stone but are, in fact, timber.

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Original Stone Mullions Later Sash Windows
Original Stone Mullions in Solar Later Sash Windows top    

Ownrships & Tenancies

To see a brief history of the ownerships and occupants of Grove Place click here.

(Parts of the above have been taken from an article by Alastair Pott.)