04 Architecture

The architecture of Gedling House is stylisticly of the late Georgian or Regency period, which has led to the wide disparity between the dates of 1780 to 1820 previously given for the construction of the house. By the time Gedling House was built the influence of Robert and James Adam was already felt on the building trade which led to a simpler adornment of buildings, much plainer buildings which used classical proportions to give elegance to the design, and by the 1790s was felt as a chaste neo-classicism with less luxury to be found in the decorative detail (Cruickshank 1986 85). The designs were based on the study of the classical Greek and Roman archaeological remains still to be found, and not the earlier Palladian interpretation of them (Woodforde 1978 22).

General Description.

Gedling House is constructed of brick coated with stucco, which is painted white. The stucco was probably first applied by William Elliott Elliott during his improvements of 1803-6 and, it is recorded as being painted white by 'The Wanderer' in 1835 (Baker 131). The roof is of hipped construction, with four stacks and has recently been re-covered with slates. A parapet hides the roof from close view. The main section carries deep modillioned eaves. An ashlar plinth completely circuits the base, while a band circuits the first floor.

The garden front (Fig 18), facing south towards the River Trent, has a central full height parapeted bow with three curved steps to a tall

Fig 18 Gedling House, South facade, painted early nineteenth century. Entitled 'Seat of W.E.Elliott'. Unknown artist. Glasshouse and temple on hill to left. Facade of wings match at this time.

central sash. Flanking the bow are three sashes to each floor. To the east of the bow are two round-headed sash windows with Gothick glazing bars. It appears from the early watercolours that this motif was originally repeated on the west side. Their are seven sash windows on both the first and second floors, with the higher ones being shorter. The ballroom which was added to the west wing has square and canted bay windows with two casements and a French window which is flanked by single sashes. Although it was originally a lean-to glass-house it was converted into a ballroom early in the twentieth century by Walter Rawnsley. Above the ballroom is a single sash, although originally there were two. The higher sash was used to provide access for a fire escape when the building was converted in the 1960s. To the east of the house is a coped brick wall with a door into the courtyard.

The entrance front (Fig 19), on the north side, has a central aediculated doorcase flanked by Doric columns and with a fanlight and open pediment above. It is interesting that a similar doorcase is contained in a contemporary pattern book of 1789 by William Pain (Fig 20). The door is flanked by three sashes, with six sashes to each of the floors above. To the east is a stuccoed coach house with pyramid roof and a louvered roof vent, a side wall stack, and twentieth century garage doors. There is a round headed doorway giving access through the north wall. Between the coach house and the main house is a two storey service wing with a louvered door and two sashes, and three smaller sashes above. The link to the main house has two sashes provided for each floor.

Fig 19 Gedling House, The North Facade. The Entrance to the house.

None of the original furnishings have survived the occupation by the War Department and the Educational Resources, but there is still some interesting fittings. The panelled entrance hall (Fig 21) has a geometrical cantilevered wooden staircase with a scrolled and ramped handrail, and stick balusters which are square in plan (Fig 22). The early twentieth century ballroom has plaster wall panels and until recently a Baroque Revival style fireplace. At the time of this study the ballroom was particularly suffering from problems associated with dampness. Other principal rooms have simple moulded wall panels and cornices. Many of the rooms throughout the house still contain the original late Georgian Classical fireplaces and hob grates and most of the rooms in the attic storey retain their hobs.

Fig 20 Aediculated doorway to Gedling House compared to a door illustrated in a 1789 pattern book by William Pain. Variations are found in the fanlight, fluting of the columns and an extra dentil on the underside of the apex of the open pediment.

Fig 21 Wooden panelling in entrance hall.

The central axis of the house is based on the entrance hall. A north- south axis runs from the main central doorway to the centre of the bow on the garden front, and an east-west axis runs through the centre of the house. The east-west axis is repeated to each storey as a corridor, providing access to all the rooms. On the eastern extensions the axis kinks slightly towards the north. With the changes being undertaken in 1995 all these axes will be lost as a unified element of the house.

Gedling House was designed between c.1795 to 1806, with further known modifications in 1844 and 1904. It is unclear as to what extent the final look of the house was part of the original design built for Thomas Smith, or part of the major changes undertaken by William E. Elliott. For instance, Elliott may have had the stucco applied, added the pedimented doorcase, added the western extension, or even

Fig 22 Geometrical, cantilevered wooden staircase in Entrance Hall, with scrolled and ramped handrail.


J.Gwynne in London and Westminster Improved, 1766, says that 'no publick edifice ought to be built of brick unless it is afterwards stucco'd, for a mere brick face... makes a mean appearance.' (quoted in Hussey 1955, 27). The same opinion was also generally held towards country houses. It was during the 1760s that stucco was invented and patented, with the Adams making it a popular fashion where stone could not be used - usually due to cost (ibid.). The stucco may have been applied as part of the original building in c.1795 or as part of the restyling by William E. Elliott between 1803-6.

The Bow.

It is the elegant full height centrally placed bow in the garden front, on an axis with the main entrance hall, that provides the main focus of interest to the south facade. The bow was a popular motif in English Georgian houses from c.1750. Elliptical bows enjoyed a vogue from c.1790 to 1830 (Cruickshank 1985 42).

In chapter four it was noted that the Reverend John Swete placed two full height canted bays either side of the main facade when he rebuilt Oxton House for himself in the 1780s (Fig 13). If the bay and bow was a favourite motif of Swetes' then it might be that it was he who advised on the design of the bow. It has already been noted that William Elliott, father of William E. Elliott, added a central bow to the garden facade of Stanford House, Castlegate, Nottingham before 1780.

Ballroom and Regency Green-House.

The painting of 'The Seat of W.E.Elliott' by an unknown artist clearly depicts a lean-to greenhouse on the west side of the house (Fig 18). The Ordnance Survey maps of Gedling House show a glasshouse in this position until 1900, after when it was converted by Walter Henry Rawnsley into a ballroom (Fig 10). It is still in the form of an Edwardian ballroom, which until recently contained an elaborate Neo-Baroque fireplace. The fireplace was stolen when the house was vacant. It is the most ornately decorated of the rooms in the house which is due to its later date of construction.

The green-house is refered to in the 1803 sale catalogue as adjoining the drawing-room so was probably part of the original building erected for Thomas Smith, and can be dated to the mid-1790s. The specific use of the green-house is not mentioned, although it is likely to have housed less exotic plants than a conservatory. Humphrey Repton wrote in 1802 "There is no ornament of a flower-garden more appropriate than a conservatory, or a green-house, where the flower garden is not too far from the house; but, amongst the refinements of modern luxury may be reckoned that of attaching a green-house to some room in the mansion" (Repton 1803 217). Most green-houses had to be lean-to well into the Victorian period (Stuart 1979 136).

Principal Rooms.

A plan of the layout of the rooms for each floor is provided in Figure 23. The first description of the use to which the rooms in the house are put is provided by the 1803 sale catalogue which lists the,

"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" (NAO: DD.LK. 50/53).

From this and later interviews with servants and relatives of Sir John Turney it is possible to see the uses to which the rooms were put at various times. The upper rooms were used as bedrooms for the servants and the nursery for the children. The first floor, of nine rooms and a lobby, was also for bedrooms, but for the adults and guests. This floor also had the one bathroom that was provided for the house. The dining room, used for the evening meal, and is identified by twentieth century interviews as being next to the kitchen. Until the 1790s a common practice was to turn a room into a dining room as was convenient rather than having a fixed room and it was common to find the dining room on the first floor (Cruickshank 1990 54) Guests would have assembled for dinner in the drawing room, to where the polite company would also withdraw after dinner, which with the green house attached might have allowed the owner to best show his more exotic plants while entertaining. As the southern of the two rooms adjoining the glasshouse has more ornate plasterwork this might be the drawing room, although, the plaster is probably later. The breakfast room, suggests a less formal room was originally used for breakfast and may have been used for dining when the family was not entertaining. The parlour was the front or best room of the house, The entrance hall is later described as being full of trophies but is unlikely to have had such Victorian decoration in the Regency period. Other rooms described in the sale catalogue are likely to have been arranged around the room which is still identifiable as having been the kitchen (Fig 24) and the open courtyard.

Fig 23 Gedling House, Plan of floors and rooms. (not to scale).


The sale catalogue of 1803 records that there are two stairs, while now there are three stairs, and the possible site of a fourth in the western annex. Presumably the catalogue does not include the stairs down to the cellar. The main stair in the panelled hall to the first floor is a cantilevered wooden staircase with stick balusters and a scrolled and ramped handrail (Fig 22). The handrails and balusters were replaced during the repair work of 1966 (Swain 1966). The other stairs are much simpler dog-leg affairs tucked away as they are not there to make an impression but just to connect the floors and were primarily for the use of the servants (Fig 24).

Fig 24 Kitchen in East Wing, site of ranges.

Fig 25 Stairs up to the Second Floor.


The sash windows of the garden facade are of particular interest because they show something of the 'Battle of the Styles' that developed through the first half of the nineteenth century. The main facade has correctly proportioned classical windows, while the single storey wings are Gothic (Fig 26). From the early nineteenth century painting even the south wall of the green house can be seen originally to also have had Gothic windows (Fig 18). This reveals the awareness at the time of the developing arguments between the two styles while showing that the owners were not averse to taking a non- partisan view and adding whichever style they saw fit.

Fig 26 Gothic style sash window from east wing, removed for repair.


"If a facade could have only one ornament during the Georgian period, that ornament would generally be the doorway. No matter how economical the structure, nor how austere the design, it was practically inevitable that at least a little extravagance and a little freedom of design would be allowed for the door." (Cruickshank & Wild 1986 82). And so it is at Gedling House, with the only slight expression, on an otherwise pure facade, being the entrance. It is fairly clear that the design for the door is based upon a design in a pattern book by William Pain (fig 20). While there are clearly differences between the detail of the door on plan and that which was executed, such as the fluting on the actual columns, and the variations between the fanlights. Internally the doors are a complete mix from 1960s firedoors to original Georgian doors with their fittings.


Some of the best surviving authentic Georgian features of Gedling House are the fireplaces, although, as has already been mentioned above, the grandest of them have recently been stolen. The fire became the central feature to a room so it is no wonder that they received most decoration. In the late eighteenth century the free-standing fire grate was replaced with a fixed grate, usually with bars that bowed and sometimes with a pierced apron. For the bedroom and less important living rooms the hob grate started to be used . The ducks-nest grate was a popular form in the form of a double semi-circle (Fig 27a,b). Front casings were embellished in high relief for polishing with black lead (Woodforde 1978 125). Marble was used for the fireplaces as part of the simple classical designs.

Fig 27a Fireplace: duck's nest hob grates, a double semi-circle to be found in a variety of designs. Compare with Fig 27b.

Fig 27b Fireplace: duck's nest hob grates, showing a double semi-circle to be found in a variety of designs.

Fig 28 Fireplace: with Gothic designs on surround.

Fig 29 Fireplace: With classical decorations, derived from Adam. Bears name Smith on the base.

Mouldings and Plasterwork.

The main ground floor rooms have fairly plain mouldings on the walls and cornice. It is the cornices, between the wall and ceiling, that have received most treatment and in some cases have dentils. most cornices have some decoration. The later decoration in the ballroom is more ornate and this has been repeated in the room adjoining. The main rooms have chair-rails to prevent damage to the plasterwork by chairs.

Fig 30 Mouldings above the main staircase in the entrance hall.