Upton Cressett Hall
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: Upton Cressett Hall
List entry Number: 1190045
Upton Cressett Hall, Upton Cressett, Bridgnorth, WV16 6UH
The building may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
District Type: Unitary Authority
Parish: Upton Cressett
National Park: Not applicable to this List entry.
Date first listed: 29-Nov-1951
Date of most recent amendment: 30-Oct-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
A house standing on a medieval moated site. It comprises a mid-C15 timber-framed, open aisled hall and solar range; extended with a cross wing in 1480; remodelled and encased in brick in 1580; stair block added in the C17. Later alterations; restored in the late C20 and early C21.
Reasons for Designation
Upton Cressett Hall is designated at Grade I for the following principal reasons:
* Historic fabric: it retains a rich repository of historic fabric of particularly high quality relating both to its C15 origins and the later C16 alterations and improvements including substantial medieval structural timberwork;
* Roof carpentry: it retains a remarkable and substantially complete range of medieval roof structures of high constructional interest and varied form, with the aisled, crown-post trusses of the open hall, alternate arch-braced and queen post trusses to the solar range, and queen post trusses to the cross wing. The exceptional interest of the roof carpentry is further enhanced by dendrochronological evidence which indicates mid- and late-C15 phases of roof construction;
* Complexity: a complex sequence of remodelling and alteration evident in the building reflecting the development of a prestigious house in order to meet changing fashion and the status of the owners;
* Historic interest: while an important and prominent late-medieval house, its interest lies not just in its architecture but in its historical association with the Cressett family who were significant members of the royal court for many centuries;
* Group value: a significant mid-C15 house that has especially strong group with Upton Cressett Gatehouse and the former Church of St Michael (both listed at Grade I), and the scheduled medieval settlement to the south-east.
The settlement at Upton Cressett was known as Ultone in the Domesday Book; a name which comes from the Anglo-Saxon word 'Upton' meaning 'higher settlement'. In 1165, Upton formed part of the Barony of Fitz Alan, being held for some generations by the descendants of Alan de Upton. In the C13, the de Uptons were Verderers of the Royal Forest of Morfe. The Cressetts first appear as Lords of Upton towards the close of the C14, when the family succeeded to Upton through marriage and gave their name to the place. Upton Cressett Hall is primarily a mid-C15 building which appears to occupy the site of an earlier house that stood within a moated site, and attested by the close proximity of the C12 Church of St Michael immediately to the north-east and the medieval settlement to the south-east. The present house has a complex history; its earliest parts have been dated by dendrochronology to 1428-31 and was built for Hugh Cressett, a Royal Commissioner along the Welsh March and Constable of Mortimer Castle. He and his son, Robert, were successively Members of Parliament and Sheriffs of Shropshire. When built, it was a timber-framed house of some status with an open aisled hall, a solar wing at its north-east end, and at least one other cross wing. It is claimed that the future Edward V stayed at Upton Cressett in April 1483 on his fateful journey from Ludlow to the Tower of London. In circa 1498 a further timber-framed cross wing was constructed on the same alignment (north-west to south-east) as the solar wing. The demolition of the south-east or lower end of hall and some other parts of the building, probably in the C18, mean that the original plan of the C15 house cannot unfortunately be determined with certainty; the Pevsner Architectural Guide (2006) suggests that it was probably an H-plan house. What remains of this building reflects the wealth and status of the Cressett family during the later medieval period.
In 1580 the house was substantially remodelled by Richard Cressett, who served as Sheriff of Shropshire in 1584 and went on to contribute a substantial amount of money to the Armada Fund some four years later. The building was encased in brick, large brick chimneystacks were added to the east side of the house and, probably also at this time, the hall was ceiled over to create first-floor rooms. The alterations represented a significant financial investment. A three-storey imposing gatehouse, also of brick, was erected to the south-east of the house. Richard's successor in 1601 was Edward Cressett, a prominent royalist who was killed at the Battle of Bridgnorth in 1646; his son Sir Francis Cressett became Steward and Treasurer to Charles I and thus a significant member of the Royal court. Upton Cressett was a Royalist stronghold during the Civil War and it is recorded that a troop of royal horse was garrisoned there for part of the war. During the reigns of William and Mary and also Queen Anne, James Cressett was a leading diplomat: Envoy at the Court of Hanover in the 1690s and British Envoy extraordinary to Frederick IV of Denmark in 1700.
A second property, Cound Hall near Shrewsbury, was built for Edward Cressett in 1703-04 and became the family's principal seat from 1792 when Elizabeth Cressett died leaving her estates to her maternal uncle, Henry Pelham, of Sussex. At about the same time Upton Cressett Hall underwent alterations including the demolition of some parts of the building and became a farmhouse. It was bought by Sir Herbert Smith, a carpet manufacturer and owner of Witley Court in Worcestershire, in circa 1937 to use as a shooting lodge. After his death in 1943, the house was unoccupied and gradually fell into partial dereliction; some of the panelling to a number of rooms was removed during this time. It was purchased by the parents of the current owner in 1969 and has since been restored.
MATERIALS: constructed of handmade bricks encasing a box frame; rendered dressings; plain-tiled roofs; two massive chimneys to north-east elevation with clusters of twisted and plain vertically-ribbed shafts. There is an external brick stack to south-west gable end. The windows are a mix of styles and dates; some are late-C20 copies.
PLAN: roughly L-shaped accretional plan with two bays of the former aisled hall orientated north-east to south-west and a four-bay solar range to the north-east. Attached to the former solar wing is a late-C15 cross wing of six bays. At the junction between the aisled hall and the cross wing is a C17 stair block. Two storeys and attics with semi-basement to north-west end of cross wing and a full basement beneath the former solar range.
EXTERIOR: the entrance front (south-east) has a late-C20 sash window and an entrance door to left-hand side. To the right there is diaper patterning in blue brick. Two bays project under a single gable with a pair of late-C20 sash windows under flat-headed lintels of rubbed bricks to the ground and first floors; the north end is blind. The north-east elevation overlooks the C12 church and is the showpiece elevation, dominated by the two massive chimneystacks and with blue-brick diaper work. Bay one is gabled and projects forwards and has four-light mullioned and transomed windows with diamond-shaped leaded lights at ground and first floors; between the windows is a clay plaque bearing the date '1580'. Within the apex is a three-light mullioned window. The short right return has a narrow blocked doorway at ground floor which possibly provided access from the house to both the grounds and the church, and a single light above. The adjacent brick stack has been partly rebuilt; the other stack is also built mostly of brick but has stone rubble to its lower courses. Between the two stacks are mullioned and transomed windows, of which the two right-hand windows are late-C20 replacements in a matching style. To the right of the second stack is a gabled bay with three-light mullioned windows to the first and attic floors. There is a two-light window with a chamfered brick mullion and surround to the ground floor. This is partly obscured by the projecting outer structure of the curing chamber which is built of brick but incorporates some masonry at its base. The north-west third of this elevation contains later timber cross windows. The north-west gable end has a segmental-headed opening with late-C20 door and marginal glazing to the semi-basement and a casement window of three lights to the attic.
The north-east elevation has an irregular arrangement of multi-paned casements to both the ground and first floors of the former cross wing; some are later insertions, others are reinstatements to former blocked openings. Towards the right-hand end is an entrance with late-C20 half-glazed door and fanlight above. At the junction of the cross wing and the stair block is a further doorway and a first-floor casement window. The southern end of the south-east elevation breaks forward and consists of the stair block and the truncated south-west end of the former open hall; each under a gabled roof. The windows are late-C20 casements under segmental heads.
INTERIOR: the entrance hall occupies the ground floor of the former mid-C15 hall. The room has an elaborate chimneypiece brought in from elsewhere and panelling to the north wall that has been imported from another part of the house. The lower parts of the two aisled posts of the former open hall are exposed. In the right-hand wall are two identical C16 flat-headed doorcases with moulded jambs and later square-panelled doors. The principal room (drawing room) to the north-east of the entrance contains a stone fireplace with depressed four-centred arch and chamfered jambs with stops; to the right is a deep, raised bay of the late C16. The walls are panelled, although some of the panelling has been brought in from elsewhere. To the rear of the fireplace is a doorway with a late-C16 studded plank door with strap hinges; it is blocked externally. The chamfered ceiling beam has ogee stops. In the adjacent room the timber framing is exposed and there is evidence for a blocked window or door towards the north-east corner. The basement which is accessed via stone steps from this room is lit by two, two-light windows of chamfered brick. Its roof is supported by a central timber post and a ceiling beam, both deeply chamfered and with ogee stops. The former kitchen beyond contains a large fireplace with massive stones forming a chamfered four-centred arch and has an exposed chamfered ceiling beam with ogee stops and joists. At the southern end of the room are two closely-set timber uprights which represent the former outer wall of the north-western end of the solar range and the abutting south-eastern end of the later cross wing which was added at the end of the C15. The present kitchen retains C19 bread oven and the remains of a former curing or smoking chamber. A late-C20 staircase at the north-west end of the room leads to the first floor, and a short flight of steps provide access to the semi-basement at this end of the wing.
The principal staircase to the rear of the entrance hall has a square open well with plain newels which are surmounted by early-C21 finials with relief carvings of the Upton Cressett sea monster; the well has been partly infilled. The stairs continue up to the attics in the form of a winder with oak treads and risers. The principal bedroom in the south-east part of the house has a plain-plastered barrel ceiling and original timber panelling with an arcaded frieze to the walls. The fireplace, which is also original, has a stone lintel which has traces of a black and red painted scheme and a restored timber chimneypiece of circa 1600. This date is painted on the panelling together with the initials R & JC, for Richard Cressett who died in 1601 and his wife, Jane. A small closet at the north-east corner originally served as a garderobe. The timber framing is exposed in the adjacent bedroom which has a brick fireplace; there is also a fireplace with a timber lintel in the en-suite which was probably a former antechamber. The other first-floor rooms to the cross wing, which are accessed from a corridor running the length of the range, retain no evidence that they were heated.
The sophisticated roof carpentry to the former open hall is visible at first floor and has been dated to 1431. It retains two aisled trusses with short crown posts that clasp the collar-purlin. The curved long braces are chamfered and moulded at the base and extend below the tie beam; the lateral braces are cusped. The truss at the north-east end of the room is closed, while the open truss has a carved rosette boss below the crown post. There is billet moulding to the surviving arcade plate. The roof over the solar wing has alternating queen post and arch-braced, collar-beamed principals, wind braces and clasped purlins. It has been dated by dendrochronology to 1428-30. The cross wing has a queen post roof of six bays, dating to circa 1498.
Throughout the house are extensive early-C21 schemes of painted decoration by the artist Adam Dant which incorporate the Upton Cressett sea monster motif and other Tudor-inspired designs.
This list entry was subject to a Minor Amendment on 24/11/2011
(Formerly listed as Upton Hall)
Books and journals
Cash, W, Pike, A, St Michael's Church, Upton Cressett, Shropshire (Churches Conservation Trust pamphlet), (2001)
Jenkins, S, Thousand Best Houses, (2003), 654
Moran, M, Vernacular Buildings of Shropshire, (2003)
Pevsner N, , Newman, J, The Buildings of England: Shropshire, (2006), 668-69
Mercer, E, Stamper, P, 'Transcations of the Shropshire Archaeological and Historical Society' in Plaish Hall and Early Brickwork in Shropshire, , Vol. 66, (1989), 90-96
White, R, 'Historic House Magazine' in Focus On Upton Cressett Hall, (Summer 2011)
Upton Cressett Hall, accessed from http://www.uptoncressetthall.co.uk/
Bill Cash, MP, The De Uptons and Cressetts of Upton Cressett,
RCHME Survey Photographs of Upton Cressett Hall, 1957 and 1967,
National Grid Reference: SO6558492402
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