Lecture Details and Reviews

The Tudor Buildings of Harpsden Court

3rd January, 2012 Ruth Gibson


Reviewed by Valerie on 4th January, 2012

The Chairman introduced the speaker, HAHG member Ruth Gibson, who has a joint archaeology & history degree and has worked as a conservation officer for 15 years in Local Government and for the National Trust.

Ruth provided a detailed look at the development of the Tudor buildings of Harpsden Court. According to dendro-dating the timbers were felled between 1568-72 for the main range built by Sir Humffrey Forster. This pre-dates the mansion house of Greys Court built in 1575/6 by just a few years. Both have many similarities and appear to have used the same carpenters according to the very advanced construction methods used for the floor joists seen in both houses

A 1586 drawing by renowned cartographer John Blagrave from Reading exists of Sir Humffrey’s property showing the layout before C18th alterations when a kitchen cross-wing was added.

By 1689 the house with its adjoining farm, was in the possession of Henry and Elizabeth Hall, whose initials can be seen on the barn next to the church. On the other side of the road there are the familiar Victorian wall paper blocks placed on the gable ends of two of the buildings of Home Farm, which by 1855 had been moved across the road. These blocks apparently come from the eclectic collection of Leonard Noble, owner of Harpsden Court since 1897.

Meanwhile Harpsden Court had received a C18th gothick makeover to the window frontage, some of the windows being blocked out for appearance sake. As regards the Rococo music room on the first floor, Humphrey Gainsborough, a family friend of the Halls, introduced a cupola into the attic so as to hold up the laths and plasterwork of the ceiling below. Ruth also showed examples of the timber panelling of the hall, dining room and 1st floor solar; in the latter the panel hides a stone lancet window, a relic of a much earlier tower structure, later incorporated under the Tudor roof.

Ruth responded to questions arising from the interested audience and she was warmly thanked for her presentation.

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