Monday, 25 June 2012

The Lady and the Laypeople

Hungerford Almshouse

Seeing as the sun was actually shinning yesterday, I met up with a friend for a drink in Corsham.

I have driven past this building for about the last ten years and never have I once stopped and got out to have a look. I continued to crane my neck to try and keep it in my view for as long as possible whilst driving on past (which in hindsight isn’t a very good idea as it is on the edge of a mini roundabout!)

Anyway, enough about my poor driving skills, this fabulous mixture of a building is the old almshouse and school of Corsham town. Essentially an early form of hospital, it is a form of charitable housing which enabled local townspeople (mainly the elderly, ill or those who couldn’t pay rent) to continue living in that particular community.

Because of their function, almshouse often comprised of many smaller terraced houses that provided accomodation for a small number of residents. The gabelled ends on one side of the structure reflect this and on closer inspection it looks as though some doors have been blocked up as well.

Almshouses began cropping up in England from the 10th century. According to the arms above the main entrance, Corsham almshouse was built in 1668 by Lady Margaret Hungerford. Though there are a few bits of information that lead me to think that this date maybe a bit late for this building as a whole:

The porch for example is made of a different quality of material compared to the rest of the structure, which appears to be more local stone with possibly a lime render. Where as the porch stones are larger, smoother and begin to take the appearance of ashlar stonework that became so popular throughout the later half of the 1600s.There are also two ionic columns flanking the porch entrance.

Secondly, the position of the smaller Elizabethan Tudor window on the left hand-side of the porch makes me think that the porch is a later addition to the rest of the building. There are also Restoration style windows on the upper left hand corner of the building. So what I think (and this is just my opinion and maybe wrong) is an earlier Tudor building that has been adapted by Lady Hungerford who added the porch and possibly the later windows (may suggest something about the use of those rooms??) in the late Jacobean/early Restoration period?

Corsham Court


Lady Hungerford lived a stone’s throw from this stunning building, right next door infact, in
Corsham Court
.  Her Husband, Sir Edward Hungerford, was Commander of Cromwell’s forces in Wiltshire throughout the Civil War.

                                                       Please note the new bag, Kerri is very proud of it.

There has been a manor on this site since the Saxon period and it used to belong to the Royal Family. Two of Henry VIII’s wives (Catherine of Aragon and Katherine Parr) lived here through the mid 1500s. The estate passed out the Royal family shortly after Katherine Parr’s time here and the original centre part of the house was built in 1582 by Thomas Smythe.

                                                         Corsham Court website  

During the 1740s it passed into the Methuen family who had the gardens redesigned and the wings added by none other than Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown.  In 1796, John Nash completely renovated the north fa├žade in the Strawberry Hill Gothic style. However, much of this was replaced in the early 1800s due to unseasoned timber.

                                        Corsham Court website

The building is now used by Bath Spa University for postgraduate research projects for those undertaking Masters and Doctorates.  

No comments:

Post a Comment