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Great Barr Hall and Chapel

List Entry Summary

This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

Name: Great Barr Hall and Chapel

List entry Number: 1076395

Location

Great Barr, Walsall

The listed building(s) is/are shown coloured blue on the attached map. Pursuant to s.1 (5A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 (‘the Act’), structures attached to or within the curtilage of the listed building (save those coloured blue on the map) are not to be treated as part of the listed building for the purposes of the Act.

The building may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County:

District: Walsall

District Type: Metropolitan Authority

Parish: Non Civil Parish

National Park: Not applicable to this List entry.

Grade: II

Date first listed: 15-Jun-1971

Date of most recent amendment: 21-Sep-2016

Legacy System Information

The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System: LBS

UID: 219080

Asset Groupings

This list entry does not comprise part of an Asset Grouping. Asset Groupings are not part of the official record but are added later for information.

List entry Description

Summary of Building

A country house which was converted to use as a hospital in the early C20. Part of the fabric is C17 with additions and alterations of c.1767, the early C19 and a chapel building of c.1856, designed by George Gilbert Scott.

Reasons for Designation

Great Barr Hall, Walsall, a former country house of the C17 – C19, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

* Architectural interest: despite unsympathetic alterations made during its use as a hospital and subsequent damage caused by neglect and vandalism, the hall has special interest as an example of C18 Gothick architecture which was later altered and extended to form a picturesque Gothic-revival country house; * Historic interest: the lengthy ownership of the Scott family, their development of the house and landscape and the tenancy of Samuel Galton and his affiliation with the Lunar Society, and documented meetings of the group at the house, combine to give distinct historic interest to the hall; * Group value: Great Barr Hall, together with its surrounding landscape, which is registered at Grade II on the Historic England Register of Parks and Gardens, and related heritage assets, form an integrated grouping which has special interest.

History

The building was initially known as Netherhouse and a hearth tax return of 1666 records Richard Scott as living there with five hearths in the house. In an inventory of 1675 there is reference to both old and new parts of the house and it is possible that the house was divided amongst two households, according to Richard Scott's will of the same year. It may have been a large farm house according to the evidence of inventories prepared in 1709 and 1715 with a barn and cockloft, buttery and dairy. By 1760 it was described as a “handsome and commodious dwelling house” with stables, a coach house and a walled garden. According to Stebbing Shaw in his ‘History and Antiquities of Staffordshire’ of 1798, “The present possessor [Joseph Scott], about the year 1767, began to exercise his well known taste and ingenuity upon the old fabric, giving it the pleasing monastic appearance it now exhibits … and has since much improved it by the addition of a spacious dining room at the east end, and other rooms and conveniences”. Shaw’s book shows a watercolour depiction of the house with a symmetrical entrance front of 11 bays, having a central doorway, turrets to the corners and battlemented parapet. This is assumed to be the present west front and the flank, or south front, appears to have had three bays.

These alterations left the Scotts in financial straights and they went abroad from 1785 and let the house to Samuel Galton junior, the Birmingham Quaker, banker and gun manufacturer. In his time the house was used as one of the venues for meetings of the Lunar Society, a group of entrepreneurs and intellectuals from the area around Birmingham, many of whom were Fellows of the Royal Society and who included Matthew Boulton, James Watt, Erasmus Darwin and Josiah Wedgwood. Meetings of this illustrious group at Barr are recorded in The Scotts returned to Great Barr in 1797 and more alterations to the house followed. The reason may have been given by Galton’s daughter, Mary Anne, who published an autobiography in 1858 under her married surname of Schimmelpennink. She lived at the Hall between 1786 and 1797, and wrote that ‘There were four or five different halls, and as many different staircases. It was more like an assemblage of several houses under the same roof, than the unity of one dwelling’. It was Mrs Schimmelpenninck who provided the only eye-witness accounts of meetings of the Lunar Society at the Hall, but other meetings are referred to in letters between participants. Joseph Scott was made a baronet in the late C18 and became MP for Worcester. The second campaign of alterations which was instigated after 1797 appears to have been intended to address the problems which Mrs Schimmelpennink outlined, as well as to celebrate the family's new status.

It is not clear if it was Joseph or his son, Edward Dolman Scott (who inherited the baronetcy and house in 1828 and lived until 1851), who undertook this second phase of redevelopment. The central, top-lit, staircase hall was constructed at this time, and its complex arrangement of flights of stairs with landings at several different levels seems to have been devised to solve the problems which resulted from the earlier piecemeal development of the house. At the same time the ground floor plan was altered to provide an inter-connected group of reception rooms and the exterior was changed to create a more dynamic composition than the existing, slightly block-like, outline which would have looked old-fashioned by the tail end of the C18. The alterations include the three bays which project at the centre of both floors on the west front, and which replace the former five bays which were more closely spaced. At the same time the ground floor projections at either side of the centre were added, with their canted bay windows. What remained of the former façade appears to have been the three first floor windows at either side which also incorporated corner turrets (since demolished, in the early C20) that extended upwards to form an attic floor. A depiction of the earlier form of the house in Stebbing Shaw’s ‘History and Antiquities of Staffordshire’ shows these turrets and would also seem to indicate that the earlier Gothick treatment may have had ogee heads to the windows. Mary Anne Schimmelpenninck wrote of the house having being built in the ‘Ogee Gothic style’ (which would place the house amongst the early examples of Gothic Revival taste in England) and it may well be that the early-C19 additions respected the existing style of c.1767. Unifying the front and adding interest across it are a series of octagonal buttresses which terminate in flat or battlemented caps which were also added at this time.

Between 1830 and 1848 major works included the addition of a clock tower, together with the extension of the south face of the hall and the removal of the entrance to the north elevation from its previous place on the west side. A chapel was added to the south west corner of the building c. 1856, apparently to the designs of Sir George Gilbert Scott who added other estate buildings including two lodges, a bridge and a boat house for Francis Scott, the patron and his architect having first been introduced by Ruskin. Advertisements in the Staffordshire Advertiser and Wolverhampton Chronicle of February 1856, naming Scott as the architect, invited builders to tender for the erection of a new ‘church’ at Great Barr and to respond to Sir Francis Scott at the Hall. Sir Francis died in 1863 and the chapel was never consecrated and was turned into a billiard room. Following the death of Lady Bateman-Scott in 1909 the hall was bought by the West Bromwich Poor Law Guardians, initially to house orphaned children.

From 1918 it served as a hospital for the mentally ill. The auction catalogue of 1911 refers to the large eastern service yard having a laundry, brewhouse, coal and wood houses, and to extensive carriage houses and stables. In 1925 a two-storey extension was added to the north elevation which encroached on the service yard and in 1955 the clock tower, stables and part of the east wing were demolished to make way for a further extension to the hospital facilities. Alterations in the 1960s included the insertion of load-bearing steel beams and the removal of the oriel windows on the north front and their replacement with metal casements (now, in turn, removed).

The house ceased to be a hospital in 1978 and was in a state of some disrepair when it was reassessed at Grade II* in 1986. In 1989 the building was bought by a private individual and they stripped out plasterwork and woodwork in order to stem an outbreak of dry rot. The owner became bankrupt and the receiver sold a part of the surrounding landscape to a property developer. The remaining land, together with the hall, was sold to another individual in 2003. The listing of the hall at Grade II* was confirmed in an assessment of 2008. The property was offered at auction in 2011 and bought by a consortium which is the present owner. In the later C20 and early C21 vandalism across the building and fire damage to the chapel has meant that the house has now lost much of its roof and internal fittings. Water penetration has also caused further damage and loss.

Details

A country house which was converted to use as a hospital in the early C20. Part of the fabric is C17 with additions and alterations of c.1767, the early C19 and a chapel building of c.1856, designed by George Gilbert Scott.

MATERIALS: the early C19 part of the building is of rendered brick with a slate roof and the chapel of c.1863 has red brick walling with blue brick diapering, stone dressings and a slate roof.

PLAN: the house is of two storeys with a basement. The garden front faces west and is raised by two terraces above a lake. The entrance front is to the north. A top-lit staircase hall, together with a small entrance hall at the north end, form the central spine of the building with reception rooms set to the west side, overlooking the landscape. Former service rooms are positioned to the east.

EXTERIOR: the building is in a state of dilapidation. At the time of survey (March 2016) the roof has been almost entirely removed; some details such as mouldings and areas of the upper walls have been lost where stucco render has fallen; brickwork has spalled and sash windows across the building have, with few exceptions, been removed. C20 additions to the eastern side of the building have been demolished. The garden front has nine bays at first floor level with ogee heads to all openings, with square hood moulds and blind tracery to the spandrels. The central three bays project forward from, and above the level of those to either side and the lateral bays at ground floor level also project forward and have canted bay windows (the northern bay has now largely collapsed). These projections appear to date from the early C19 alterations, and the recessed bays at first floor level mark the previous building line of the front. There are polygonal buttresses to the angles with battlemented caps (some incomplete) and battlements to the tops of the walls. The north front has two slightly-projecting bays at centre, in front of which is a projecting, single-storey porch with three-light casements to its flanks. At either side are ogee-headed windows with panels of blind tracery above their heads and, between them, the lower portions of polygonal brackets, which formerly supported first-floor, oriel windows which were then replaced by C20, metal-framed casements (now removed). Extending to the left of this front and set lower, is part of the walling of the service wing which has now been largely demolished. Following the demolition of large parts of the service wing and the additions and alterations made to the house by the National Health Service and its predecessors during the use of the building as a hospital in the C20, the east side of the house now largely consists of exposed internal walling.

INTERIOR: plasterwork, joinery (including fireplaces, doors and their surrounds) and floorboards have largely been removed from the building as a result of dry rot. To the centre of the plan is a rectangular, top-lit staircase hall. This connects at its northern end to the entrance hall and doors from it lead off to the three principal rooms along the west front; a central drawing room, with a doorway out to the terrace, a library at the north end and a dining room at the south end. A short passageway from the dining room leads to the chapel. The staircase hall had a central imperial staircase which started as two flights, rose to a central T-shaped gallery and then split again into two flights which climbed around the walls of the hall to a top landing on the west side. The staircase is now lost. To the upper walls are a series of pilasters which are inset with strapwork decoration. To the heads of these are projecting capitals which support depressed arches. These divided the hall into a series of bays; three to each of the shorter ends (which largely survive) and nine to each of the longer flanks (which are now fragmentary). Plaster vaulting ribs spring from the corners and sides to create an interlacing pattern. Set at the centre of the hall are three octagonal lanterns, with incomplete strapwork decoration to their drums. A further, first-floor landing has a similar octagonal skylight to its ceiling. A stretch of walling at ground-floor level on the eastern side of the house has stone footings and may be a part of the fabric of the C17 house, as may the circular well shaft, which is lined with bricks. C18 cellars with brick barrel vaults lie under the centre of the house. One has barrel stands to either side and a wine cellar has arched storage bays. The vault of one cellar room has partially collapsed.

CHAPEL BUILDING: attached at right of the west front of the house, and projecting slightly, is the mid-C19 chapel building. This is of red brick with blue brick diapering in a lattice pattern. A lower, linking, corridor joins the house and chapel. This has a doorway with moulded ashlar surround. The western flank of the chapel has three bays and a projecting plinth with blue brick moulding and a flush ashlar sill band. Each window is set beneath a gable and has two lights with Carnarvon arches to the lower windows and a very generous transom, which hides the sill beam supporting the roof structure and which is set with two quatrefoil panels of foliage carving. Immediately above this are the upper arches and these rise into the gable. The heads to the windows had cusped lights and trefoils to the apex and dogtooth ornament to the outer arches, but these upper portions of the windows have now collapsed and are lying on the floor of the chapel or nearby. At the time of survey (March 2016) the central archway and window had been removed. At either end of the walling are elaborately-carved kneelers and the gables across the building have ashlar copings. The east side of the chapel is similar. The southern gable end (ritual east) has lost the majority of its upper walling, including the former window of five lights with cusped heads and quatrefoils and trefoils to the apex. The north gable end (ritual west) has a rose window with deeply-carved ashlar surround and a series of six quatrefoils surrounding a central polygon.

The building has suffered from fire damage and the roof covering of the chapel has almost entirely gone. The two charred roof trusses remain and consist of a tie, supported by arched braces, which carry a moulded king post and two ranks of purlins. There are ashlar posts connected to the common rafters. To the floor are plain tiles and the internal walls carry the same trellis pattern of diapering seen on the exterior.

MAPPING NOTE: The outline shown hatched in blue on the map which accompanies this listing indicates the historic extent of the house as it existed prior to its conversion to hospital use in the early C20 and does not show buildings and their foundations added to the eastern and southern sides of the house which were constructed after the change of use in 1918.

Selected Sources

Books and journals
Bradley, JL , Ruskin's Letters from Venice, (1955)
Colvin, H , A Biographical Dictionary of British Architects 1600-1840, (1995), 692
Pevsner, N, The Buildings of England: Staffordshire, (1974), 137
Robson-Glyde, S , Report: Building Assessment and Recording of Great Barr Hall, Grear Barr, Walsall, West Midlands, (2013)
Schimmelpenninck, MA, Autobiography of Mary Anne Schimmelpenninck, (1858)
Scott, GG (Author), Stamp, G (Editor), Personal and Professional Recollections, (1995)
Shaw, S, The History and Antiquities of Staffordshire, (1798)
Summerson, J, The Life and Work of John Nash, (1980), 192
Other
BJO Burrows; Dissertation: The Development of Great Barr Hall, University of Central England (1991)
Pamplet: Shall the New Foreign Office be Gothic or Classic; Sir FE Scott (1860)
Peter Allen; Touched by Genius, Great Barr Hall and The Lunar Society (2013)

National Grid Reference: SP0546295384

Map

Map
© Crown Copyright and database right 2016. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
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End of official listing