The liv­ing Clas­si­cal tra­di­tion

A 1750s Clas­si­cal coun­try house, prob­a­bly de­signed by Wil­liam Half­penny, has been bril­liantly ex­tended by the ad­di­tion of a new hall and wing. Jeremy Mus­son re­ports

Country Life Every Week - - A Walking Life - Pho­tog­ra­phy by Will Pryce

Up­ton House, not far from tet­bury in Glouces­ter­shire, built in 1752, is a be­guil­ing West Coun­try ex­am­ple of the com­pact, Clas­si­cal coun­try house with a mag­nif­i­cent double-height hall (Fig 1). Its story, how­ever, does not sim­ply rest in the Ge­or­gian era. In or­der to demon­strate the rel­e­vance of the Clas­si­cal tra­di­tion he so ad­mires, the present owner, Roger seelig, com­mis­sioned a new double-height hall and wing that was com­pleted in 2005 to re­place mod­est ser­vice build­ings mostly of the late 1930s on the north side of the house. this new ad­di­tion was de­signed by Craig Hamil­ton and is an orig­i­nal and witty re­sponse to the ex­ist­ing build­ing, cre­at­ing a gen­er­ously scaled toplit room (Fig 2) that trans­forms the cir­cu­la­tion and feel of this much-ad­mired Cotswolds villa.

the mid-ge­or­gian up­ton House was built for one nathaniel Cripps, whose fam­ily had been mi­nor landown­ers and mag­is­trates in this area since the late 16th cen­tury. not much is known about nathaniel, but he left the house to his brother sa­muel, de­scribed as ‘of Bris­tol’, who was then suc­ceeded by his son, thomas.

In A New His­tory of Glouces­ter­shire (1779), sa­muel Rud­der gives a long ac­count of the me­dieval his­tory of the manor and then says of the rel­a­tively new house only: ‘thomas Cripps is the present principal in­hab­i­tant who has a good es­tate and an el­e­gant new-built house in the ham­let where his fam­ily have resided for many gen­er­a­tions and once en­joyed a larger es­tate than it does at present.’

up­ton House might be seen as an at­tempt to as­sert an old fam­ily’s sta­tus in the county. the main show front to the south-east or, for sim­plic­ity, south (Fig 4)—now the gar­den el­e­va­tion, but orig­i­nally the en­trance—is a care­fully mod­u­lated com­po­si­tion that echoes the de­tails of cer­tain de­signs pub- lished in James Gibbs’s Book of Ar­chi­tec­ture (1728), es­pe­cially, per­haps, plate 54.

Its ground floor is boldly rus­ti­cated, its win­dows in­cor­po­rat­ing a keystone and vous­soir ar­range­ment with an al­most Van­brughian qual­ity. Above, the tall, first­floor win­dows have blind balustrades and are crowned by ped­i­ments sup­ported on Ionic pi­lasters. over these is an at­tic storey with oval win­dows in the cen­tral three-bay pro­jec­tion of the façade. this cen­tre­piece is crowned by a tri­an­gu­lar ped­i­ment filled with a carved coat of arms.

per­haps the most sur­pris­ing fea­ture of the house is that none of this rich or­na­men­ta­tion con­tin­ues onto the side el­e­va­tions; the side walls have huge ex­panses of rub­ble ma­sonry and that to the west is even en­livened by in­laid pat­terns of stone.

It seems from 19th-cen­tury ar­chi­tec­tural sur­veys that the 1752 house re­tained part of an ear­lier 17th-cen­tury build­ing as the do­mes­tic of­fices. some­thing of this is still just vis­i­ble on the east side.

the iden­tity of the orig­i­nal 18th-cen­tury ar­chi­tect of up­ton House is still not known for cer­tain. Mar­cus Bin­ney’s con­fi­dent at­tri­bu­tion of the house on stylis­tic grounds to the Bris­tol-based ar­chi­tect Wil­liam Half­penny (Coun­try Life, Fe­bru­ary 15, 1973) has, how­ever, since been sup­ported by oth­ers, in­clud­ing ni­cholas Kings­ley, au­thor of the most im­por­tant mod­ern study of Glouces­ter­shire’s coun­try houses.

Half­penny is most fa­mous as a pro­lific pro­ducer of nu­mer­ous pat­tern books, from the Art of Sound Build­ing (1725) and A New and Com­pleat Sys­tem of Ar­chi­tec­ture (1749) to Ar­chi­tec­ture Prop­erly Or­na­mented (1752). De­spite the res­o­nance—even fa­mil­iar­ity—of his name, as a re­sult of his ener-

Fig 1: The double-storey hall of the 1750s with its fine plas­ter­work, which has been at­trib­uted to Joseph Thomas

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