An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Buckinghamshire, Volume 2, North. Originally published by His Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1913.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying and sponsored by English Heritage. All rights reserved.
(O.S. 6 in. xxiii. S.E.)
(1). The Manor House, and a Chapel now used as a coachhouse and storehouse, about 1 mile N. of the Church of St. John, Whitchurch. The House is of two storeys with a basement and an attic, and has a tower of three storeys and an attic. The walls are almost entirely of squared limestone, the roofs are tiled. It was built c. 1330 and then consisted of a Great Hall, probably of four bays, open to the roof, with the daïs in the southernmost bay which formerly projected towards the W., and, at the S. end, a solar of half H-shaped plan with a crypt; the S.W. wing of the solar forms the tower and has a semi-octagonal stair-turret at the N.W. corner; at the N. end of the Hall there was probably a kitchen wing; c. 1610, the Hall was divided into two storeys, the projecting part of the southernmost bay was heightened, and the main staircase inserted in it; the interior of the house generally was altered. Two small drawings, of c. 1820, show that the house then extended considerably further towards the N., the Hall being probably one bay longer than at present, and having a building of two storeys and an attic, possibly of c. 1610, on the probable site of the kitchen. A small wing N.E. of the Hall is shown in one of the drawings, but only two small stumps of the walling remain; early in the 17th century the attic of the tower was added. The N. end of the house, including the northernmost bay of the Hall, was pulled down in the 19th century, when the N.E. drawing-room wing was built and the original W. wall, N. of the projecting bay of the Hall, re-built, part of it being made flush with the face of the bay. Further internal alterations were carried out at the same time. The remaining three bays of the original Hall are now divided into dining-room, study, staircase, and two entrance lobbies. The main block of the solar wing on the ground floor originally consisted of two rooms; one of them is now the kitchen, and the other is sub-divided into domestic offices and a daily, of which the floor is raised above the level of the other rooms, the crypt being under it; the S.E. wing is used as a second dairy, the S.W. wing, or tower, as an outer kitchen. The Chapel has some detail of the 12th century, and remains of two 13th-century windows; other windows were inserted in the 15th century; the building was probably converted to secular uses in the 17th century; a floor has been inserted and many other alterations have been made.
The chapel (see Plate, p. 103) is especially interesting on account of the 12th-century remains. The house is of unusual interest as a survival of 14th-century domestic architecture; the crypt, the remains of the roof of the Hall, the tower and stair-turret, and the traceried windows are remarkable. The 17th-century doors and staircase are good examples of woodwork of that date.
The W. Elevation of the house has two stepped gables, the southern, over the W. end of the main block of the solar, is probably original, with early 17th-century alterations; the other gable, over the S. bay of the Hall, is probably entirely of the 17th century. At the N. end of the elevation are two dormer windows; the southern is of the 17th century and of wood, with a plastered gable; the four lights have moulded mullions and frame; the other dormer is of stone, all modern, except the splayed jambs and moulded four-centred head of the window, which are of the 14th or 15th century, re-used; the porch, under the modern dormer, has a re-set doorway with a large moulded frame and a massive heavily studded door of fifteen panels, with strap-hinges, latch, two handles and an ornamental catch for keeping the door open, all of c. 1610; built into the N. jamb of the doorway is a small carved face, possibly of the 14th century, and in the buttress supporting the porch is a small stone sundial. The junction of the original and modern walling is marked by a straight joint at the N. angle of the S. bay of the Hall: the bay has three windows; that on the ground floor is of the 14th century, and of stone, circular, with quatrefoil tracery; the two upper windows, lighting the staircase, are of the 17th century, and each of two lights, with moulded wood frames and mullions; higher up in the wall are two large patches of brickwork marking the position of former windows. The W. end of the main block of the solar has, on the ground floor, a 17th-century window with moulded wood frame, mullions and transom, partly cut away to make room for the doorway of a small modern addition: on the first floor is a window with a modern frame; in the return wall on the N., is a 14th-century, single-light window of stone, with tracery; the gable has been partly restored with brick, and has a window formerly lighting the Long Gallery, now blocked, and, in the apex, a small original circular window of stone, with tracery. The Tower has a semi-octagonal N.W. stair-turret, and a moulded parapet with the bases of two original chimney shafts; below the parapet is a string-course enriched with ballflower, four-leafed ornament etc., and, on the E. and W. sides, a carved gargoyle, the E. gargoyle being broken: the S. wall is continued towards the E. as a buttress; the stair-turret has a parapet and string-course similar to those of the tower, and two smaller gargoyles; it is carried above the rest of the building and has in the S. face a doorway opening on to the roof of the tower; in the S.W. face, on the ground floor, is a doorway now blocked, and in the W. face are three looplights; all the windows and doorways are of stone. The W. wall of the tower has, on the ground floor, two single-light windows of the 14th century, with pointed heads, originally trefoiled, but traces of the foils remain only in one window, the other is blocked with 17th-century brick; both windows have moulded rear arches: the upper floors have each an early 17th-century window of two lights with moulded stone mullions, jambs and square head which has the remains of a label; the window on the second floor has also a transom and is blocked. The S. wall has, on the ground floor, a modern doorway fitted into the opening of an old window, of which part of the sill and jambs remain: the upper floors have windows similar to those in the W. wall, but the window on the second floor has no transom and is not blocked. The E. wall has, on the ground floor, a single-light window resembling those in the W. wall, but externally restored; on the first floor is an original window of two trefoiled lights and tracery in a two-centred head with a moulded label which has carved head-stops; the rear arch is moulded; on the second floor the outline of a similar window is visible. The 17th-century attic has, at the N. and S. ends, timber-framed gables with plaster filling; the S. gable is half-hipped.
The S. Elevation of the main block of the solar has, on the ground floor, two windows; the western is original, and of two lights with moulded stone jambs, head, mullion and label; the second window is modern; on the first floor is a 17th-century window of four lights with moulded wood frame, mullions and transom, and above it is a dormer window with a similar frame, etc., and a plastered gable. The S.E. wing of the solar has, on the ground floor, in the W. wall, a 17th-century window of two lights with moulded wood frame and mullion; in the upper storey the E. and W. walls have each an original single-light window with chamfered jambs and square head, of stone.
The E. Elevation has two gables; the southern, over the E. end of the main block of the solar, is stepped on one side; the other gable is over the modern addition at the N. end of the elevation, and is plain. The main block of the solar has, on the ground floor, two original rectangular windows, with moulded segmental pointed rear arches; one of the windows has been widened; below them is a small original window, lighting the crypt; on the first floor is a window with old stone jambs and modern woodwork. In the gable, lighting the Long Gallery, is a 17th-century window, of four lights with moulded wood frame, mullions and transom, all blocked except the two middle lights below the transom; in the apex of the gable is a small quatre-foiled circular window of the 14th century, and of stone. In the angle between the solar and the E. wall of the Hall is a small projection, containing a stone window with a pointed head; the lower part is blocked; the window now lights the passage to the crypt, but may have been originally the entrance. The E. wall of the Hall has, on the ground floor, two modern windows; above them are two 17th-century gabled dormer windows similar to that on the W. elevation, but of three lights. The E. end of the N. wing has, in each storey, a window with a four-centred head of stone; both windows are modern, except the heads, which are probably from two 17th-century fireplaces; built into the wall above the lower window is a 14th-century carved female head with a wimple; in the apex of the gable is a narrow looplight with an old head, which has a projecting moulding with carved bosses and finial.
The N. Elevation is modern, but has a window inserted in an opening with deeply splayed stone jambs and four-centred head, probably originally a doorway; above it is an old moulded stone corbel; in the gable are two recesses, modern except the heads of stone, one moulded, the other chamfered; a third recess, in the drawing-room wing, has a lintel formed of a piece of moulding apparently from a window. Over the S. end of the original Hall is a chimney stack built of early 17th-century brick, with three square shafts set diagonally on a high base. On the E. side of the tower is a 17th-century stack which has two attached square shafts of brick.
Interior:—On the Ground Floor the inner lobby has the ceiling and walls decorated with ornamental plaster-work, probably from the ceiling of the Long Gallery, and almost entirely of the 17th century; over the window is a 14th-century stone corbel, carved with the head of a woman in a crown and wimple, re-cut. The ceiling of the outer lobby has some squares of ornamental plasterwork. The study is lined with panelling almost entirely of early 17th-century date, brought from elsewhere and painted white; near the fireplace is a late 17th-century cupboard with raised panels. The dining room has large stop-chamfered beams in the ceiling; the larger beam continues across the ceiling of the adjoining passage, where it rests on two carved wood brackets; in two divisions of the ceiling are square pendants of ornamental plaster-work. In the passage opening into the kitchen is a 17th-century doorway which has a large moulded frame with moulded stops, and a contemporary door of studded battens with a moulded frame planted on, and strap-hinges with fleur de lis ends; the doorway opening into the main staircase is similar, but has plain hinges. The staircase extends from the ground floor to the attic; it is of c. 1610 and of oak, with turned balusters, large moulded handrail, moulded and carved string, and square stop-chamfered newels having turned pendants and removable finials; on the side against the wall are flat boards cut to the shape of the newels with a moulded bracket handrail. The kitchen has, in the ceiling, a chamfered beam and two large beams encased in 17th-century panelling partly carved; the soffit of one window has four panels of the same date carved in low relief; the wide fireplace is partly blocked; the 15th-century doorway opening into the dairy, etc., has a pointed arch in a square head, with traceried spandrels and chamfered jambs, of stone, originally of two orders, it is not in situ and is now much defaced; the door is made up of 17th-century panelling; the doorway opening into the ground floor of the tower, now the outer kitchen, is similar to that from the passage, but has a chamfered segmental pointed rear arch of stone. The outer kitchen has a chamfered beam in the ceiling, and the doorway opening into the stair turret has chamfered jambs and pointed head of stone, and an old battened door. The dairy has, in the ceiling, a rough chamfered beam, and opening into the outer dairy is a 14th-century doorway of stone, with chamfered two-centred head and one jamb; the other jamb has been cut away; the door is of the 17th century, and of moulded battens, with plain strap-hinges. The outer dairy has a rough ceiling-beam. In the N. wall of the solar, near the dairy, is a 17th-century doorway which has a large moulded wood frame with moulded stops, and a contemporary door of three panels with moulded framing; it opens on to the steps of the basement, which are of old stone. The Basement is divided into three compartments, the first, under the dining room, has, in the ceiling, two large chamfered beams, and the old joists of the floor above it are visible; the second, under part of the drawing room, has a pointed barrel vault of brick; and the third, under the dairy, is the crypt: it is approached by a passage, partly faced with modern brick and vaulted; the S. end of the passage retains the old plaster on the walls and on the roof, which slopes up to the small window on the S. elevation. The crypt (14 ft. square and 9 ft. high) has quadripartite vaulting springing from the floor level, with chamfered ribs and plastered filling; at the intersections of the ribs are large bosses, carved with 14th-century foliage and faces, in excellent preservation; where the ridge-ribs meet the walls there are small carved heads, except over the deeply splayed window in the E. wall; in the N. wall is a recess, possibly an original entrance, which has been blocked; the S.W. angle of the crypt has been partly built up, apparently to counteract a settlement; the walls are partly covered with plaster and the floors have the original stone paving.
On the First Floor, the Hall retains in the partitions of later date, the moulded arched supports of two of the original roof-trusses; against the S. wall is visible the tie-beam of another truss; two doorways have 17th-century moulded frames, and contemporary panelled doors. The room over the kitchen is entered from the main staircase by a 17th-century doorway with a large moulded wooden frame; the door has two leaves, each of two panels, with a moulded frame and original strap-hinges, handle and large cranked, iron bolt; the ceiling is divided into six panels by large moulded beams, covered with late 17th-century plaster, and the oak overmantel of the same date has attached balusters, fluted pilasters and moulded panels; the room is now sub-divided by a partition, in which is a moulded door frame of early 17th-century date, re-used. The room over the dairy etc., has a stop-chamfered beam in the ceiling, and a doorway with a 17th-century moulded frame and a door of moulded battens. Opening into the room over the outer dairy is a 14th-century doorway, which has chamfered jambs and two-centred head with a moulded label, all of stone; the door and strap-hinges are old. The room over the outer kitchen has a richly moulded ceiling-beam of the 14th century, supported at one end by a moulded bracket of later date; the fireplace has late 17th-century mouldings; the doorway opening into the stair-turret is original, but now blocked.
In the Attic are visible three of the trusses of the original open timber roof of the Great Hall; they are covered with soot and have heavy moulded and cambered collar-beams, with moulded purlins, arched supports and curved wind-braces; upper collar-beams with plain arched brackets, moulded purlins, etc., and arched wind-braces; the upper collar and brackets are repeated and form secondary trusses between the main trusses. The doorways from the staircase have early 17th-century moulded frames; that on the N. side has a door of six panels with strap-hinges, and that opening into the Long Gallery has a door in two leaves, each of ten panels, with strap-hinges and an iron rest for a bar to secure the door on the staircase side. The Long Gallery (48 ft. by 18 ft.) occupies the whole of the top floor of the main block of the solar; the plastered ceiling has an elaborate scheme of decoration with lozenge-shaped panels formed by moulded ribs with plaster leaves at the intersections; it is probably of early 17th-century date, but much of it has been destroyed or removed (see lobby). The room in the third storey of the tower is three steps below the level of the Long Gallery, communicating with it by a doorway with a chamfered frame and a door of old battens with strap-hinges and a moulded frame of two panels, planted on; the ceiling has a stop-chamfered beam; in the E. wall is a recess with some 14th-century carved and moulded stonework, re-used, and in the S. wall is a tall recess with plain jambs and a moulded pointed head, probably the rear arch of the destroyed window in the E. wall. In the attic of the tower is a late 17th-century fireplace of brick.
The Chapel, N.W. of the house, is a rectangular building (41½ ft. by 23 ft. externally). The walls are almost entirely of limestone rubble; the roof is tiled. The E. end has been re-built and has a gable of timber and brick, in which is a window, possibly of the 17th century, now blocked and only visible internally; the rest of the wall is covered by an outbuilding. Part of the N. wall has been re-built and contains the remains of the head of a 12th-century doorway, with cheveron moulding and a label which has billet ornament; it was originally semi-circular, but has been re-set in a pointed shape; further E. are two blocked 15th-century windows each originally of two cinque-foiled lights; the mullions and part of the tracery are missing; between the windows is a blocked 13th-century lancet. In the S. wall, a 15th-century window has been blocked, and W. of it are traces of a blocked lancet similar to that in the N. wall; high up is a 17th-century window of two lights with moulded mullion and frame. The lower part of the W. wall is covered by a raised enclosure with walls of stone and brick, approached by stone steps; on it is a small lean-to building of the 18th century. Inside the chapel, low down in the W. wall, is a recess with chamfered jambs and a plain lintel. The roof is of the 15th or 16th century, and has chamfered and cambered tie-beams and collar-beams, arched supports and wind-braces.
The Garden-walls (see Plate, p. 74), N. and W. of the house, are of early 17th-century date, built of stone. In the W. wall are two large stone gate piers with moulded caps and ball tops and a small modern bell-cot, the head composed of the old finial of a gable, from the house or the chapel.
Condition—Of house and chapel, good on the whole, though the chapel suffers from present use and has much ivy at the W. end. The two large W. gables of the house are leaning outwards, and need repair; the N.W. corner of the solar is in bad repair; one shaft of the large central chimney stack is out of the perpendicular. The attic of the tower has been long disused, and the floor is rotten.