One of the greatest aspects of Woodchester, apart from its incomplete state and exposed vaulting is the existence of not only the architects’ original plans, sections, presentation drawings, and correspondence letters but also working diagrams that were sent to the masons to carve details! Here, our Conservation class is drooling over these as everyone makes a mad dash to grab and photograph their section of interest. Each piece of paper is protected in a plastic sheet and is typically signed and dated.
The architect in charge explained to us that the house was being constructed as the design changed. The best example is the multiple changes in the chapel, which went from two bays on plan to five bays (possibly for papal purposes) and then once the purse-strings were tightened, the chapel was reduced to three bays. The masons had been building a chapel of five bays before the budget cuts set in because they abandoned two additional huge bosses for the additional bays. These were never cleared from the site because Woodchester was never finished, and thus the eveidence survives.
Below is an early plan and section for the chapel from the late 1850s. I dotted in red the vault containing the private organ, where a line drawn by the architect leads to a note questioning whether or not it was proportionally large enough. But honestly, when is a private organ large enough?
As explained in earlier posts, this house was never compeleted. Abandoned in the 1870s, it is a remarkable surviving Victorian construction site. It remained standing because of the strength of its masonry walls. For the most part, floors were never put in and the walls rely on heavy buttresses. Here in the South Wing’s Billiard Room, one can gaze up at three sets of fireplaces and the springing stones where the ceiling vaults would have attached themselves to the walls.
The Woodstock Mansion estate had a brick manufacturer on site, as well as stone a few feet under the ground, but there was very little timber on the estate. The foundations are all stacked on solid bedrock, and the mansion was built almost entirely of materials found on the property making the mansion somewhat afordable for your average business baron.
Try as I might, I could not get all three complete fireplaces in the picture, but you can see the mantel of the ground floor and the next two floors quite well. There is a large stone arch supporting the roof timbers, and several holes in the oak and slate roof.
Apart from the brick arches taking the load off the delicately carved fireplaces, another aspect to note are the holes in the masonry for the scaffoldings (no longer there). They would normally have been sealed up with brick and then plastered over. The most interesting construction remainders are the cheap wooden boards over the top mantels (barely visible). These boards were placed over all delicate stonework during construction, so nothing was chipped before the house was turned over to the owner.
Don’t go there when it’s raining, which is pretty much every single day. But if you ignore the freezing dampness, it is well worth the trip. And I’m told they throw an incredible Halloween party for 15 pounds. They’ve added spooky doors to complete the “haunted” look of the house and each scaffolding hole is filled with a small candle, which must look amazing in the dark!
This room is directly over the drawing room (the only finished room in the house). The drawing room was completed in 1893 for Cardinal Vaughn’s visit and its ceiling has the minimal arch to support its own weight. The walls of the bedroom, of course, date from the 1870s and were standing without this floor for a good twenty years. The walls are structurally self-supporting and because the drawing room’s ceiling vault is so weak, typical groups are not allowed in. It is an interesting space because there is still a timber vault mold from the construction period, and you can see the drawing room’s ceiling vault quite clearly from on top.
Our assignment was to find an area of structural failure and try to record it as much as possible for a paper assignment. The chapel and this room are the two areas of the most severe structural damage, caused by water getting into the masonry.
I don’t actually know who the girl is, but I liked how she was framed. I believe she is either a fourth year student at the University or from the Structural Engineering class that tagged along.
Construction stopped on Woodstock in the 1870s due to a variety of reasons. The original occupant for whom the house was constructed was getting old and was warned against living in Woodstock’s damp and cold valley would for health concerns.
Anther reason is that construction began following English Catholic Emancipation. Woodstock was first designed by the country’s leading Catholic architect (A. W. N. Pugin) and then by the second-best, and so on. The house’s purpose was to anchor a new and isolated Catholic community. A convent had already been built and established at the edge of the valled on the same property. Rumor has it that the house was designed as a papal residence for a second Babylonian Captivity, which would have been caused by the turmoil Italian unification was going through during the mid to late 1800s.
I can’t imagine an English papacy so soon after Catholic Emancipation. There was an English pope, Adrian IV, but he just didn’t cut it.
The chapel design was heavily infuenced by Violet-le-Duc.
A fellow conservationist in the second (really 3rd) floor south wing cooridor windowsill sketching the structural failings brought about by a iron bolt (intended to hold a curtain rod) in the limestone. The metal rusted, expanded, and cracked the otherwise undamage interior stone.
The floor was intended for servants but it really was well-designed. There was little wood on the property but much stone and brick so all the structural aspects of the mansion were carried with stone and brick, sparing lumber as much as possible.
Below are the areas in question:
Took a trip to the incredible Woodchester Mansion in Gloucestershire today. This is a view of the south east Drawing Room bay window. The house was designed in the late 1850s and 1860s and constructed in the 1870s. Work ceased in the late 1870s and the house has been left as a Victorian Gothic construction site. I will have to write more and post more photos from this incredible site. It’s solid stone and brick construction with few floors having been laid down. I got to walk over the vaults! The site is conserved with lottery funds as a teaching center for Masonry Conservationists. Ccertainly it is money well spent but it needs a lot more.
The most likely cause for the abandonment of the site rests in its location at the bottom of an isolated and ever-cold valley. Although I do not know if I can call the mist clouds for this photo, I hope “Zannnie” will appreciate it. The weather cleared up by the afternoon and it was a bright blue sky for the rest of the day. I don’t understand English weather, but I understand this place throws an incredible Haunted House for Halloween.
This is the William Street Gate to the Recreation Grounds, off of Great Pulteney Street. The Bathwick section of Bath is on the east bank of the River Avon, and although it is conncted to Claverton Down through Bathwick Hill Road, it primarily consists of one long street: Great Pulteney. The land was owned by the Pulteney Family, who built the Pulteney Bridge, Pulteney Street, and Great Pulteney Street and set an architectural scheme for the new Georgian neighborhood.
Unfortunately, it was constructed in the late 1780s and 1790s, right before the Napoleonic Wars began and therefore the economy could not support more than one grand avenue. The roads, crescents, and circuses planned to lead off of Great Pulteney Street were never built and the land left undeveloped. Today the north of Great Pulteney Street is Henrietta Park and the south is the Recreation Grounds.
I took this photo early in the morning when I wasn’t sure if it would storm or not.