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: Somerset House
List entry Number: 1133901
14 Rawson Street, Halifax
4 Rawson Street, Halifax
Somerset House, 1-13 George Street, Halifax
The building may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
District Type: Metropolitan Authority
Parish: Non Civil Parish
National Park: Not applicable to this List entry.
Date first listed: 03-Nov-1954
Date of most recent amendment: 24-Jan-2012
Legacy System Information
The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.
Legacy System: LBS
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
Town house and two warehouses, subsequently a bank, now commercial, local authority, and residential premises. 1766, warehouses c1780, c1820 extensions, late C19 and early C20 alterations including demolition of eastern warehouse, 1954-6 remodelling of interior including removal of grand staircase, early C21 restoration. Attributed to John Carr of York. Plasterwork in grand salon by Guiseppe Cortese. Built for John Royds, a local woollen merchant Coursed Elland Flags sandstone with dressed quoins and window surrounds, with a stone flag roof, partly replaced by slate.
Reasons for Designation
Somerset House, Halifax, is designated at Grade II* for the following principal reasons: * Architect: Somerset House is attributed to John Carr of York, a nationally renowned architect during the second half of the C18; * Decoration: the grand salon is embellished with the highest quality rococo plasterwork by Italian stuccoist Guiseppe Cortese, who often collaborated with John Carr; * Historic Interest: built in 1766, this is a rare survival of a substantial detached residence built close to Halifax town centre, which clearly demonstrates both the aspirations of its woollen merchant owner and the wealth of the town, also resultant of the woollen textile trade, as evidenced by the building of the Piece Hall during this period; * Architectural Interest: designed with a restrained Palladian dignity, the building is unusual architecturally in having a pair of warehouses incorporated into the polite symmetrical elevation of the main façade, thus presenting an elegant residence to the citizens of Halifax whilst also providing the necessary commercial space in a unified scheme for its merchant owner.
Somerset House, originally known as Royds' House, was built in 1766 for John Royds, a prosperous local woollen merchant, with interests in transport, banking and insurance. The building is attributed to the architect John Carr of York. The grand salon was decorated with fine rococo plasterwork by Guiseppe Cortese, which is reputed to have taken ten years and cost £2,000 to complete. In 1768, shortly after its construction, the house provided overnight accommodation for King Christian VII of Denmark who was touring northern England, including visits to Leeds, Liverpool, and Manchester.
In 1807 William and John Rawson bought the house to use as banking premises, an enterprise which continued in various guises culminating in the Halifax & Huddersfield Union Bank in 1882, subsequently taken over by Lloyds Bank in 1919. The bank remained at Royds' House until 1897-8, when new premises were built on Commercial Street involving the demolition of the eastern five bays of the house. Royds' House was sold to Mr J H Finlinson, general manager of the bank from 1884-97, who renamed it Somerset House.
The building was constructed in a number of phases. An historic photograph of the south elevation shows it to have been symmetrical in appearance, though later alterations mean that this is no longer the case. The first phase was the present eastern end; nine left-hand bays on the north, George Street elevation (Nos 1-7), and seven right-hand bays on the south, Rawson Street elevation (though the right-hand end has since been altered). The original main entrance was on George Street, with 'pleasure grounds tastefully arranged, and secluded from observation by a high wall' to the rear, now the Rawson Street elevation. The George Street elevation comprised a recessed central section of five bays, flanked by projecting two-bay pavilion wings. The ground-floor arrangement of the central section is uncertain; the present colonnade was largely reconstructed in the 1950s and replaced an arrangement shown on the 1852 Ordnance Survey map and photographed in 1954 by the Halifax Evening Courier. Then two flights of steps rose into a full-width open porch with a five-bay colonnade of columns set on low walls. Within the porch were three flights of steps, set at right-angles, rising to doorways. The rear elevation comprised a central section with an open arcaded loggia and three first-floor bays with a balustraded parapet, flanked by slightly projecting wings with parapets and triangular pediments. Inside, a grand staircase ascended from the central section to the grand salon on the first floor overlooking the pleasure grounds.
Abutting the pavilion wings on George Street were two warehouses, which are believed to be slightly later in date, possibly c1780, though only the inner corners of the pavilion wings have quoining, which may suggest that the intention was always to extend to either side with the addition of the warehouses.
In c1820 the building was extended in a third phase. The surviving element of this extension is on the west side of the rear (south) elevation, though it is probable that the mirrored east side shown on the historic photograph and now demolished, was built at the same time. The west extension included a projecting outer wing and a range in front of a small enclosed courtyard, which allowed secure access into the original house. It also enabled coach entry from George Street through a passageway inserted into the rearranged ground floor of the western warehouse. There was probably a staircase at the right-hand (east) end of the extension, which is no longer present.
An 1853 Improvement Act granted during town centre development led to the construction of Rawson Street and Powell Street, destroying the grounds of Royds' House. At this time the bank entrance was moved onto Rawson Street. A town house with a warehouse/workshop to the rear was also built on George Street abutting the west side of the western warehouse. This now interconnects with Somerset House, but was a separate premises when built.
At the end of the C19 and during the early C20 there were a number of further alterations. The eastern warehouse was demolished to enable the building of a new bank on Commercial Street in 1897-8 (Lloyds TSB Bank, Grade II), After the demolition of the warehouse two bays were built onto the slightly projecting east wing of the original south, Rawson Street elevation, affecting the symmetry of the original arrangement. The pediment and parapet urns were reinstated on the now extended wing. Internally the property was greatly altered and converted for commercial use. Ground-floor rooms facing George Street were turned into retail space, with the upper floors used as offices or storage. This also resulted in external alterations to the George Street elevations including the refacing of nos. 9a, 11 & 13 George Street. In 1902 a local businessman, William Gray, built a row of four single-storey shops in front of the Rawson Street elevation abutting the altered east wing. A long, two-storey building was constructed in 1926 for Fred Wade, stationers and booksellers, at the west end of the Rawson Street elevation, in front of, and abutting, the end elevation of the c1820 outer wing.
In 1954-6 the Huddersfield Building Society remodelled the large entrance hall to the George Street side of the building. This included removing the grand staircase to form large offices on the ground and first floors. At the same time the pillars to the George Street colonnade were found to be decayed, and were replaced with replica Ionic columns. The portico was also removed and windows inserted.
Since 2005 there has been a major restoration of the building, which has included the removal of the row of 1902 shops to reveal the Rawson Street façade, the opening up of the previously infilled colonnade arches (now fully glazed), and creation of a new fenced and gated forecourt. There has also been a degree of re-ordering to the interior, with a staircase inserted in the north-east corner to provide access to the first floor, particularly the grand salon, which is presently being used as a registry office. The ground floor houses a restaurant and some of the upper-floor space is being converted into flats.
Town house and two warehouses, subsequently a bank, now commercial, local authority, and residential premises. 1766, warehouses c1780, c1820 extensions, late C19 and early C20 alterations including demolition of eastern warehouse, 1954-6 remodelling of interior including removal of grand staircase, early C21 restoration. Attributed to John Carr of York. Plasterwork in grand salon by Guiseppe Cortese. Built for John Royds, a local woollen merchant
MATERIALS: coursed Elland Flags sandstone with dressed quoins and window surrounds, with a stone flag roof, partly replaced by slate.
PLAN: the original house of two and three storeys comprises a recessed central section flanked by projecting two-bay pavilion wings, a central full-width open porch to George Street elevation (original main entrance), and a central open arcaded loggia to Rawson Street elevation (original rear elevation with house gardens). Two three-storey warehouses built in c1780 flanked the pavilion wings (eastern warehouse demolished). To the west on rear (south) side is a c1820 extension with a projecting outer wing and a range in front of a small enclosed yard, originally with coach entry from George Street through a passageway inserted in the rearranged ground floor of the western warehouse (mirrored east side is now demolished). The eastern pavilion wing to the Rawson Street elevation has been extended outwards, affecting the symmetry of the original arrangement. The original entrance hall with a grand staircase was in the central section on the George Street side of building (staircase removed in 1954-6), and the grand salon is located on the south side of the first floor (where it overlooked the garden). The staircase in the north-east corner of the central section is a modern insertion.
EXTERIOR: the present main façade is on Rawson Street, though this originated as the rear, garden elevation, and is set back from the late-C19 street-line. Later additions and alterations mean that the original façade is now at the right-hand end of the building. It comprises a central two-storeyed section with a five-bay arcaded loggia of Doric columns, three first-floor bays with nine-over-six pane sash windows, and a modillion cornice with a balustraded parapet incorporating a central festooned panel topped by an urn. To either side is a projecting wing of two bays and three storeys. The left-hand wing retains its original form; it projects slightly, with quoining, a modillion pediment and blind parapet topped by three urns. The windows reduce in height with nine-over-six panes on the ground floor, six-over-six on the first floor and three-over-three on the second floor. The right-hand wing has been extended forward to street level, though quoining on the inner face shows that this wing originally mirrored that to the left. The upper floors are modelled on the left-hand wing, but there is an early-C20 shop front on the ground floor with an Ionic corner column. That part of the building to the right of this wing has been demolished. To the left of the left-hand wing is the three-storey, c.1820 extension also built of coursed Elland Flags sandstone with dressed quoining and window surrounds, with a partially balustraded parapet. It comprises an outer, projecting two-bay wing, with urns to the corners, and a slightly recessed three-bay section abutting the original wing. The later wing is largely obscured behind the right-hand end of a 1926 building, though the second-floor windows are visible. The recessed section has a central doorway with a pedimented door surround with engaged Doric columns. To the left is a modern inserted doorway, and to the right is a former window, altered to become a doorway, with a small inserted window abutting the left jamb. Above, on the first and second floors, are similar windows to those in the original wing. The George Street elevation is entirely of three storeys. The original façade is now at the left-hand end of the building. It comprises a recessed five-storey central section with a five-bay colonnade partially rebuilt in 1950s with Ionic columns set on a low wall and supporting an entablature and blind balustraded parapet. Between the columns are modern windows, with a doorway at the right-hand end. Above, the original windows remain, with six-over-six pane sashes on the first floor and three-over-three panes on the second floor, the floors separated by a band course, with a modillion eaves cornice. To the left is a two-bay pavilion wing, now rendered, though the quoining to the inner, right corner is visible. It has a modern shop front on the ground floor, with original fenestration on the upper floors, though the sashes have been replaced with later window frames. To the right is an eight-bay range with shops on the ground floor. The upper levels of the four left bays retain their original appearance, with quoining to the left corner, six-over-six pane sashes on the first floor and three-over-three pane sashes on the second floor, with an eaves entablature band. The stonework courses through, but there is a wider expanse of wall between the two inner windows, with two sets of metal ties rods, suggesting that a similar two-bay pavilion to the right was then extended. The four right-hand bays have been refaced in ashlar stone and remodelled, probably in the late C19. The upper floors have irregularly spaced two-over-two pane horned sash windows, with a parapet.
INTERIOR: the interior of Somerset House has been greatly altered from the original layout due to various subsequent commercial uses, and little remains of original fixtures and fittings. The ground floor of the original house is now a restaurant, with the right-hand, eastern bay partitioned off and a modern staircase inserted in the north-east corner. In the ground-floor corridor leading to the staircase is an original C18 white-painted wooden chimney-piece intricately carved with a central panel depicting a bear stealing honey from beehives and being stung by bees. On the south side of the first floor the grand salon survives. It has high-quality rococo plasterwork by Guiseppe Cortese, including scenes from Aesop's Fables, oval mirrors with foliate frames, a door surround with fluted Corinthian columns, enriched entablature and pediment supporting two putti, an enriched chimney-piece over which is depicted Britannia, dated 1766, medallions with relief busts, a modillion cornice, and coved ceiling with a depiction of Neptune and naiads. The adjacent room, which is in the west wing, has a dentil cornice and simple shouldered chimney-piece. Behind this room, in the centre of the west wing, is an original open-well staircase with dado-panelling to the wall, and a ramped handrail, which has been boxed-in.
Books and journals
Lindstrom, D, West Yorkshire: Architects and Architecture, (1978), 98-9
Pevsner, N, The Buildings of England: Yorkshire: The North Riding, (1986), 232
Wragg, B, The Life and Works of John Carr , (2000), 153
Charlesworth, The History of Somerset House, 2004,
National Grid Reference: SE0916325082
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