03 The Estate

 

Date of Construction.

While it has not been possible to give an unequivocal date for the building of Gedling House it is possible to provide a date around which it was built. It has proved easier to disprove the dates that have been given than to give a truly compelling argument for the actual date of construction. While it is agreed that the house is mid to late Georgian the actual dates given for construction ranges from 1780 to 1820. Gerring says it was built around 1780 (1908, 165), a date repeated by Norfolk (1960, 16). As the house is quite clearly not on the Enclosure map of 1796 (Fig 2) this is clearly too early. Gerring records that the title of the property, owned by W. Bettison, was signed 14 October 1773; but as there are no further details it seems more likely that this refers to land sold to the Smiths (op. cit, 166). The List of Buildings of Special Historic Interest dates the building to c.1820, presumably this is purely based on stylistic grounds (DoE 1987). Fig 5. Part of the map accompanying the 1796 Gedling Enclosure Award. The Survey was undertaken from 1792. Thomas Smith can be clearly identified as the owner. A number of sources have already been mentioned that give grounds for supposing the house was built in the mid-1790s. These sources are the maps, land tax assessments and title deeds. John Chapman's Map of Nottinghamshire of 1774, not surprisingly, shows that there is no house at that period (Fig 6). Of more significance is the map accompanying the Enclosure Award of 1796 (Fig 5). The Enclosure map shows that the land belonged to Thomas Smith and, that at the time the land was surveyed in 1792, there were no buildings and no woods on the site. The house could therefore have been built after the survey was undertaken but before the Enclosure Award was made, therefore between 1792 and 1796. George Sanderson's 'Map of the Country Twenty Miles round Mansfield', of 1835, is the first map that shows the house and grounds (Fig 7), but it does not really help in dating the construction as it is some forty years later than that date. The Gedling Land Tax Assessment provides interesting information regarding the worth of Thomas Smith's land and who occupied the land. The Land Tax was a tax on the ownership of land assessed and collected each year between 1692 and 1831, though assessments survive only from 1780 to 1832. The list gives no description of the property, but lists the owner, occupier and the amount of tax payable (Henstock 1988 57). Gedling House estate can be identified in conjunction with other evidence from the owners name. From 1782 to 1803 the owner is given as Thomas Smith, after which William Elliott Elliott is named (NAO: QDE 1/4: Appendix 1). During the 1780s the landtax remains steady at £1 9s 6d. The tax increased in 1790 to £2 4s 7.5d, in 1791 to £2 4s 9.5d and, in 1792 to £2 4s 9.75d, at which point it remained the same until it was redeemed in 1802 (see APPENDIX). What this tells us is that at a period, from 1790 to 1792, when the assessment on other landholders in Gedling remained static that on Thomas Smith was rising. The increase was presumably incurred due to an increase in the size of Smith's estate and does not necessarily indicate any building activity. The occupier of Smith's estate is given as Thomas Hallam until 1795, as Thomas Smith and Thomas Hallam in 1796, and as Thomas Smith from 1797 until 1803. From 1795 or 1796 Thomas Smith occupied his land in Gedling and it is therefore possible that it is in these years that he built his mansion. Fig 6 Extract of John Chapman's Map of Nottinghamshire, 1776, around Gedling. Shows that the house and grounds were not present at this date. Second Edition 1792. Fig 7 Extract from George Sanderson's 'Map of the Country Twenty Miles Around Mansfield', 1835. The first map to show the house and grounds. The windmill included in Rev. Swete's painting lies to the south. An excellent run of title deeds is extant that covers various parts of Gedling House estate from 1565 until 1804 (NAO: DD.LK 50/1-60). The deeds relating to Thomas Smith, and others connected to the house are housed at the archive office. Copies of later deeds relating to the first half of the twentieth century from the offices of Larken & Co., solicitors, are housed at the Sandfield Centre. The title deeds and mortgages prove ownership at at any named point in time. The earlier eighteenth century mortgages show the bankers Abel, Thomas and Samuel Smith to have been involved in the mortgaging and procurement of land that later became part of the Gedling House estate. (NAO: DD.LK 50/1-60). In 1728 Sir Gervase and Dame Anne Clifton sold a house and land to Abel Smith, Thomas Smith's grandfather (NAO: DD.LK 50/42-4). Thomas Smith (1682-1727), great uncle to Thomas Smith the builder of Gedling House, provided in 1727 a mortgage to Anne Hodge on a house and land in Westdale Field, Lambley Dale Field and Bleasdale Field. These lands are later part of Thomas Smiths estate and Bleasdale Field is the open field where Gedling House was constructed (NAO: DD.LK 50/25-6). Jane Bower appears to have fallen behind with her mortgage interest payments and had a house and land repossessed by Abel Smith in 1742 (NAO: DD.LK 50/38-9). Thomas Smith's name first appears in a title deed of 1781 in which he is providing a £500 mortgage to William Butler. This is of most interest because it says that Thomas Smith is a grandson of Abel Smith and that he is a banker (NAO: DD.LK 50/45-6). In 1789 Thomas Smith is recorded as buying West Field, Lambley Dale Field, Bleasdale Field, Upper Meadow and Nether Meadow from from Robert Thorpe for £1,447 (NAO: DD.LK 50/40-1). In 1790 Thomas Smith was granted a £10,000 mortgage on his land and buildings in Gedling from his cousins Samuel Smith and Robert Lord Carrington (DD.LK 50/49). To cover his liabilities as Distributor of Stamps for Nottinghamshire Thomas Smith raised a £10,000 mortgage from Samuel Smith and Lord Carrington, though no money actually changed hands (NAO: DD.LK 50/50). Although it is possible to trace the accumulation of land in Gedling by the Smith family and that Thomas Smith was probably an owner of land in Gedling from at least 1781 what the title deeds do not show is the actual date at which he constructed his new house.

The Extent of the Estate.

A clear picture of the full size and extent of the Gedling House estate can be built up from contemporary maps and the series of title deeds. In looking at the estate the land that doesn't form part of the immediate landscape of Gedling House is ignored, as in this dissertation it is only intended to look at that part which forms a coherent statement. It is intended to concentrate on a core area of some 70 acres. Although substantial the farm lands are not part of that statement of parochial landscape design. The map accompanying the Enclosure Award of 1796 shows that the land allotted to Thomas Smith matches closely in form to the area outlined on later maps for the house and grounds (Fig 5). The auction catalogue of 1803 gives a description of the house and estate at the point of sale (NAO: DD.LK 50/50; see Appendix 4; Fig 8). It describes the main part of the estate: "A Capital substantial newly-erected Mansion-House - consisting of Dining-room, Drawing-room, with Green-house adjoining; Breakfast- room, Parlour, Hall, two Staircases, Pantry, Store-rooms, Kitchen, Laundry, Brewhouse, Dairy, and sundry other convenient Offices; seven Bed-rooms, Water-closet, Servants' Bed-rooms, three good Cellars, and lower Dairy: also a very convenient detached Yard containing a double Coach-house, excellent Stables and Saddle- house, a large Barn, Dovecot, Cow-houses, and other Buildings, with Rooms over them; Gardens and Orchards well stocked.- The Mansion-House, fronting South-East, is seated in the centre of rather more than 70A. of Land, comprised within a Ring-fence (and which will be sold with the House) forming a handsome Lawn in Front, with several thriving Plantations, and commanding an extensive and very beautiful prospect over the River Trent, and adjacent rich Vales, abounding with Game, and highly desirable to Gentlemen fond of Field Sport and Fishing" (NAO DD.LK 50/53). While the important elements of the estate in this description are fairly clear the original maps which are said to accompany the catalogue are no longer extant. A much clearer and more straightforward means to reconstruct the estate is provided by an 1868 'Plan of the Township of Gedling' by a Nottingham land surveyor, John Bausor (NAO: GE 1 R; Fig 6) and its accompanying survey (NAO: PR 17250; Appendix 5). The northern boundary is covered by wood, planted by Smith or Elliott to provide woodland walks, which continues round to the west as a belt of trees. The original boundary can be followed south by this belt, around Hall Wong and along the Burton Road to the south. Where it remains on the south boundary this planting is now somewhat thin and has been cut into for bus stops. The White Lodge lies on the corner between the original western and southern boundaries, although the boundary was extended westwards in 1841. The boundary on the south east appears never to have had a belt of trees, which somewhat adds to the assertion that the owners desired to be able to see towards Bridgford Hill House, East Bridgford. Fields to the north east are part of the estate but do not appear to have been part of the designed landscape. There is still a distinct boundary on the ground which can be traced and the main features of the design are extant, although, with Carlton-le-Willows School cutting across much of the grounds, the form is not entirely obvious without other evidence. Fig 8. Title page of Sale Catalogue of Gedling House from 1803, when William Elliott Elliott bought the whole estate. For details see Appendix 4. There were two possible approaches to the house, from the west along the present road leading to Wood Lane and Gedling, and from an entrance at The White Lodge along what is now a path. These details of the grounds are discussed further in chapter five.

Changes to the House and Grounds.

A number of sources date changes made to the house and grounds, although none make it clear exactly what those changes were as they are either too short or incomplete. It appears that as new owners inherited the property they stamped their mark by adding to the house or grounds. During the course of the nineteenth century the grounds were extended through the purchase of land. Fig. 9 'Plan of the Township of Gedling' by a Nottingham land surveyor, John Bausor, 1868 (NAO: GE 1 R). The accompanying survey is included here as Appendix 5. Abigail Gawthern provides an interesting and important entry in her diary for the 2nd of August 1806, "We dined at Mr Elliot's at Gedling; they have much improved the house, garden, and grounds." (Henstock 1980 123). She provides in such a short quote a tantalising hint of the major changes that may have occured, and could have effected the whole estate between 1804 and 1806. It leaves unanswered numerous questions regarding who undertook various works to the mansion and raises the possibility of speculation about the extent to which the Elliott's went in their improvements. A note in the Sandfield Centre parish file for Gedling raises further questions which cannot be answered in full. Three plans are refered to in the note, two of which refer to alterations, and the other to detailed plans of the mansion. The first alterations, with plans dated 22nd November 1844, were for William Burnside and and the second, dated July 1904, were for Walter Rawnsley. William Stanford Burnside inherited the estate when William E. Elliott died in 1844. W. Rawnsley inherited the estate in 1904 on the death of John Elliott Burnside. We might presume that the 1904 plan refers to the conversion of the lean-to greenhouse, on the west side of the house, into the ballroom. Although the presumption may be wrong it is made due to the fact that the greenhouse disappears from the Ordnance Survey maps during this time (Fig 10). The changes undertaken to the mansion in 1844 will again be pure speculation. The actual title deeds in the archive office and references to title deeds in Gerring provide evidence of some of the later additions to the immediate estate. Over seven acres of land, called Hall Wong, was bought from Lord Chesterfield by William E. Elliott in November 1841 (1908 165). This was a narrow strip of land running from the Lodge towards Gedling Manor, and is only part of Hall Wong. In 1854 Lord Chesterfield sold a small area of unspecified land to William Stanford Burnside (ibid.). Further areas of land in Gedling was sold to the owners but as this is not part of the immediate estate it does not concern us.

The Gedling Enclosure.

An important aspect to the period leading up to the construction of the house was the Enclosure Award of 1796. It is likely that this enabled Thomas Smith, the owner, to consolidate his lands in Gedling into a more or less unified property, in which he could build his new house. The enclosure commissioners met from 1792 following a petition from the most important Gedling landowners, including Thomas Smith and two other Smiths who were proprietors of estates. A plan was drawn up which shows Smith to be the owner of Bleasdale Field and Hall Close, the eventual site of Gedling House. The final award was made in 1796 (Tate 1935 76-7). During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries the enclosure of once open fields to make new compact farm estates provided a great impetus to build new houses in the countryside. An 1804 title deed gives the extent of Thomas Smith's allotment under the award as five closes (70 acres) in Bleasdale Field and the Hall Wongs and two Closes (18 acres) in Nether Meadow, two Closes (19 acres) in Upper Meadow, three messuages, four Closes (26 acres) in the Cow Moor Field, all alloted under the Gedling Enclosure Award, partly in exchange for the Waterhouse Close, Wright's Lane Close and Ramson, an ancient enclosure (NAO: DD.LK 50/54-5). Fig 10 Ordnance Survey Maps of Gedling House, 1900 and 1914 Editions During the early period of Rawnsleys ownership the glasshouse against the house has been converted.

Bridgford Hill House, East Bridgford.

While there is not going to be a detailed comparison between Gedling House and Bridgford Hill, it is not possible when studying one to ignore the other. The reason for this is that they have been directly linked as an architectural design and are said to have been visible from one another as part of a combined landscape statement. The design for Gedling is said to be exactly the same as Bridgford Hill.The estate also came into existence through the changes brought about by the Enclosure Award of 1801 (Tate 1935 90). The history and architecture of Bridgford Hill has not been investigated in any great depth. Bridgford Hill (Fig 11), looking over Shelford and the Trent Valley, was built by the Reverend Thomas Beaumont on a small property adjoining the Rectory known as Jackson's Close and Orchard. It was bought from Henry Blagg, to which he added Kirkhill Common, part of the Holme, the East Wong and old highway to the Ferry (Du Boulay Hill 1932 50). The Enclosure Award of 1801 records that Beaumont had exchanged Jackson's Orchard, Jackson's Close and Kirk Hill Close. The Rectory was leased by Beaumont as a girls school from 1792 until 1827. Fig 11 Bridgford Hill House, East Bridgford. Built by the Reverend Thomas Beaumont after 1792 and given as the design source for Gedling House. In the notes of the Reverend Arthur Du Boulay Hill lodged at the archive office it is alleged that in building his new house on Jackson's Orchard he stopped a right of entrance to the Rectory on that side, built a laundry on Rectorial land, and further encroached on the glebe territory (NAO: PR 6603). Reverend Thomas Beaumont was the curate-in-charge of East Bridgford parish during the last 35 years of the incumbency of a non-resident rector, Peter Broughton, who died in 1827. He lived at Bridgford Hill until his death in 1835. The house was left to his nephew, Mr George Beaumont (died 1882), whose son George followed, he died 1899, and his widow occupied the house until her death. The house was sold in 1908 to Mr W.A.Hodges, and in 1922 to Mr W.E.Claye (Hill ibid). The date for the construction of Bridgford Hill has been given as c.1792 (ibid; Pevsner 1979) , the year that the Reverend Beaumont moved to East Bridgford. The East Bridgford Enclosure map, surveyed in 1796, shows the land to be awarded from Henry Blagg to Thomas Beaumont in exchange for other lands (Fig 12). It is clearer here than at Gedling House that the Enclosure was used to amalgamate adjoining land in order to make a unified property. The Land Tax assessment for East Bridgford gives some interesting information about the possible date of its construction (Appendix 1 B). Thomas Beaumont is first assessed in 1794 at 4 shillings, at which level he remains until after 1796, when he jumps to £2 16s 1d. The rise in his assessment resulting from the land gained at the Enclosure Award. This could suggest that Bridgford Hill was built in either 1794, when Beaumont is first assessed, or after 1796 when his land holdings have increased. Fig 12 Extract of East Bridgford Enclosure Map of 1796 to show land belonging to and exchanged with the Rev. Thomas Beaumont. The connections between the Gedling and East Bridgford houses may be followed further through the family connections. Thomas Smith is directly connected to East Bridgford as a major land owner there, which he owned until 1803, the same year that Gedling House was sold. He is mentioned as owner of both properties in a number of documents. By 1802 Smith had his landtax in Gedling and East Bridgford redeemed for £15 8s 3p. The 'Certificate of the Contract for the Redemption of Land Tax', signed in December 1799, lists both estates (NRO: DD.LK/50/51). In an examination of George Mellows, on the 19th January 1801, he states that he was hired to Thomas Smith to serve at his farm in East Bridgford. Mellows served at East Bridgford until June when he moved to his masters house in Gedling until Martinmas, the 11th November, by which time the sowing of corn should be complete (Samuels 1984 42-3). These two documents show that despite a profusion of Thomas Smiths in Nottinghamshire at this time a direct link between the owner of the properties in Gedling and East Bridgford. Thomas Smith is also linked to the Beaumont family through marriage as his grandfather, Abel Smith, married Jane Beaumont in 1713 (Gascoyne 1912 88). It is unclear if this connection through marriage provided a lasting link between the families or is of any great consequence for the connection between the designs of the two houses. Marriages of the female Beaumonts provide a number of family links between the two houses and to James Paine junior. In 1784 Charlotte Beaumont married the Reverend John Swete, who undertook at least one painting of Gedling House (Fig 4) and, in 1788 her sister, Francis Beaumont, married William E. Elliott. Both of these couples were married by the Reverend Thomas Beaumont. The Reverend Swete lived at Oxton House, Kenton, Devon (Fig 13). When he died in 1844 William E. Elliott left John Swete, of Oxton House, £2,000 (NAO: M2097). Peter Leach has described how Swete rebuilt Oxton House in 1781 and laid out the grounds c.1792, including a number of ornamental structures in the gothic style. Some of the work may have been undertaken by James Paine junior although Leach states that the house is not in Paine's architectural style (1984 398). Both the Reverends Swete and Beaumont are cousin's to James Paine junior (ibid 398, 400). The Paine and Swete connections are discussed further in chapter three.

Architects and Builders.

While it has been possible to discover during this research that it was Thomas Smith who had the house built it is less certain who designed and undertook the building work for Smith and who undertook the improvements for William E. Elliott. Nikolaus Pevsner informs us that the Reverend Thomas Beaumont, who built Bridgford Hill in 1792, was a friend of James Paine junior (1745-1829), who may have helped in the design. The plans were then used again at Gedling House, but with the extra storey (Pevsner 1979 113, 131). Peter Leach adds that Thomas Beaumont was in fact a cousin of Paine, "but the house bears no relation to his style." (1984 note 400). By the 1790s Paine had given up trying to pursue his architectural career to concentrate on painting topographical watercolours (ibid 392). Paine worked in a style that followed on from his more illustrious father with embellishments and plans that called on Palladian and Greek Revival influences, but was happier as a sculptor and painter (Colvin 1979). The Reverend John Swete, a close relation of both Thomas Beaumont and James Paine, can be seen as a more likely influence upon the design of both Bridgford Hill and Gedling House. Swete was married to Charlotte Beaumont in 1784 at St Nicholas' church in Nottingham and Thomas Beaumont officiated. Thomas Beaumont also officiated at the marriage of William Elliott Stanford (later Elliott) and Frances Beaumont in 1788. These marriages show the close ties between Swete, the Beaumonts and William E. Elliott. That the Reverend Swete painted at least one watercolour that included Gedling House shows he had a knowledge and interest in the building and landscape. Swete was a noted antiquary, topographical artist, and according to John Claudius Loudon was "an excellent artist in landscape architecture" (Leach 1984 398; Pevsner 1952 224).Devon, which included ornamental garden structures of gothic taste. Richard Polwhele, an acquaintance of Swete, said in 1793 that the work was "planned by the present possessor and executed under his inspection" (quoted by Leach ibid). He later worked on the grounds, replacing the 'formal terraces, cropt hedges, and yew-tree monsters' which had been there before 1803 (quoted by Pevsner ibid). Oxton House is a plain two storey structure with a pair of full height canted bays to the front which contain a single-storey Greek Doric portico covering five bays between them. The portico and certain later garden structures may have been designed by James Paine junior after 1803 (Leach ibid). What all this tells us is that the Reverend Swete was an experienced amateur landscape architect who was connected to the owners of both Bridgford Hill and Gedling House. Abigail Gawthern informs us that he was present in Nottingham in April 1804, preaching at St Nicholas' church (Henstock 1980 107). It is hard to escape from the conclusion deriving from an abundance of circumstantial evidence that the Reverend Swete at the very least, provided advice, and is likely to have been well aware of the potential impact that was possible with the house and grounds. It is debatable as to the extent to which he may have influenced the final design.

Oxton House, Kenton, Devon built 1781 by Reverend John Swete.

What can only be guessed at is the extent to which the main influence where the two owners themselves. While they may only have commissioned the work and overseen its completion, on the other hand they may have been responsible for the complete design of the estate. As rich landowners they are quite likely have wanted to show their wealth and learning by making use of an architect or someone knowledgeable in architecture. The leading builders in Nottingham in the late eighteenth century were Samuel and William Stretton. While there is no direct link between the Stretton's and the construction of Gedling House there is circumstantial evidence that hints towards but does not prove a connection. In 1776 Samuel Stretton [1732-1811] rebuilt Colwick Hall (Fig 14) for John Musters to the design of John Carr of York (Pevsner 1979 251). While Colwick is more ornate and on a larger scale than Gedling House there are similarities between the basic designs. Gedling could be seen as a smaller Colwick Hall stripped of its superfluous classical decoration. Of particular note are the single storey south wings at Colwick, with round-headed windows, which are very similar to the smaller wings on the south facade at Gedling. Wilford Hall (Fig 15) was built by Stretton for Samuel Smith to designs by William Henderson of Lougborough in 1781 (Robinson 1910 227). While Wilford is a plain red brick Georgian house it provides a connection between Stretton and the Smith family, Samuel and Thomas Smith being cousins who appear to have had some close contact. Abigail Gawthern also used the services of Stretton in May 1792 when she undertook work to her Castlegate home and, as has been seen in chapter two, she had some close associations with Thomas Smith and William E. Elliott. While William Stretton [1755-1828] made comprehensive lists of what he considered his more important of the 1780s and 90s his list is incomplete (ibid), and both Samuel and William Stretton erected a number of gentlemen's residences in and around Nottingham (Brand 1988 14). There are a number of other buildings with family connections that may have had some influence on the final look of Gedling House. Pevsner suggests that Stanford House, 19 Castlegate (Fig 16) has window lintels which are a survival from the earlier Bromley House, Angel Row, while a central bow to the rear elevation is more up-to-date and Adamish (1979 234) Fig 14 Colwick Hall, South front by John Carr of York c.1776. Fig 15 Wilford Hall, built for Samuel Smith by Samuel Stretton to designs by William Henderson of Lougborough. Stanford House was bought by William Stanford (Later William Elliott), father of William E. Elliott, in 1775 and completely remodelled between 1775 and 1785. Stanford House was owned until 1843 by William E. and John Elliott (Anon 1962). These provide an architectural link between the Smiths and Stanford/Elliotts and give a source of inspiration if it was William E. Elliott who added the central bow as the main feature of the south facade of Gedling House.A final house and grounds that may have provided inspiration for William E. Elliott was built by the elder William Elliott in 1789-90, and called Radford Grove (Fig 17). He built a country seat and laid out the grounds with an artificial lake filled by the River Leen. Within the lake was an island on which was built an octagonal tower of brick and stone with a raised canopy roof. In 1792, after William Elliott's death, the estate was sold to a Charles Sutton or Smith, who let it to a man called Parr who set it up to become a popular tea-garden. In summer the lake was used for boating and in winter for skating. On one side of the lake was a wooden fence ornamented with a colourful painting of the Bay of Naples (Walker 1928 135). The gardens were closed by about 1840 (Meakin n.d.). The house and grounds are no longer extant. Apparently one of the Elliotts had a daughter who drowned in the lake which may explain why it was sold in 1792 (LSL: Swann Scrapbook II 207). Fig 16 Stanford House, 19 Castlegate, owned by the Stanford-Elliotts from 1775 and completely remodelled by William Elliott. Fig 17 Radford Grove or Folly, House and grounds constructed from 1789 by the elder William Elliott [1704-1792]. The temple may have provided inspiration for the garden temple at Gedling House.