061106.Nympsfield, Woodchester Mansion Stairs to the Cellar Ceiling

November 6, 2006 at 12:24 AM | Posted in Architecture, Chisel Marks, Conservation, doorways, Gloucestershire, Mansion, Nymsfield, Ruins, Vaults | 13 Comments

Isn’t this an odd and interesting ceiling? It reminds me of Radio City Music Hall in NYC.

I remember hearing that “cellar door” word combination/sound was the voted the most beautiful in the English language.

061013.071.Glos.Nympsfield.WoodchesterMansion.Cellar Stairs
“Swallow” was voted the most beautiful word in the English language.

When told of this, Winston Churchill supposedly asked, “Which one–the bird or the gulp?” So perhaps “cellar door” too is influenced by the listener’s background with idealized versus grungy mold-ridden basements.

To me, the term sounds more like it belongs in a Gothic novel.

061103.Nympsfield, Woodchester Mansion Grand Corridor’s Halloween Doors

November 3, 2006 at 12:56 AM | Posted in Architecture, Chisel Marks, doorways, Gloucestershire, Halloween, Mansion, Nymsfield, Ruins, Vaults | 3 Comments


This is the entrance to the Grand Corridor on the ground floor from the Billiard’s Room in the South Wing. The “Gothik” door was hung recently part of the Haunted House decorations. Both the estate’s structural engineer and chief architect thought it looked a bit tacky but commented that it was surprising how abandoned and creepy the house could look by actually putting up internal doors, instead of leaving it like the abandoned ruin it was!

I’ll be posting the next Hokusai print juxtaposition tomorrow.

061018.Nympsfield, Woodchester Mansion Original Plans!

October 17, 2006 at 9:49 PM | Posted in Architecture, Conservation, Gloucestershire, Mansion, Nymsfield, Vaults | 3 Comments

 061013.097.Glos.Nympsfield.WoodchesterMansion.DrawingRm.Conservationists drooling over original plans


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?

061013.099.Glos.Nympsfield.WoodchesterMansion.DrawingRm.Original Drawings



061017.Nympsfield, Woodchester Mansion Ground Floor Billiard Room, Entrance Hall

October 17, 2006 at 9:24 PM | Posted in Architecture, Blogroll, Chisel Marks, Conservation, Gloucestershire, Mansion, Nymsfield, Ruins, Uncategorized, Vaults | 9 Comments

Woodchester Mansion Website


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!

061016.Nympsfield, Woodchester Mansion First Floor Bedroom

October 17, 2006 at 9:21 PM | Posted in Architecture, Gloucestershire, Mansion, Nymsfield, Vaults | 3 Comments

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.

061013.229.Glos.Nympsfield.WoodchesterMansion.First Floor Bedroom

061016.Nympsfield, Woodchester Mansion Second Floor

October 17, 2006 at 9:16 PM | Posted in Architecture, Cathedrals and churches, Gloucestershire, Mansion, Nymsfield, Vaults | 1 Comment

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.

061013.186.Glos.Nympsfield.WoodchesterMansion.First Floor Chapel

The chapel design was heavily infuenced by Violet-le-Duc.

061014.Nympsfield, Woodchester Mansion Second Floor

October 17, 2006 at 9:10 PM | Posted in Architecture, Conservation, countryside, Gloucestershire, Mansion, Nymsfield, Overcast, Vaults | 1 Comment

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.

061013.313.Glos.Nympsfield.WoodchesterMansion.Second Floor.SCor

Below are the areas in question:


061013.311.Glos.Nympsfield.WoodchesterMansion.Second Floor.SCor

061013.312.Glos.Nympsfield.WoodchesterMansion.Second Floor.SCor


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