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Kingston Hanse, Bradford.
Every student of Wiltshire Archæology is supposed to be acquainted with the “Halle of John Halle," on the New Canal in the city of Salisbury. Such is the name which the late Rev. Edward Duke in his book called “Prolusiones Historicæ,” (published in 1837), has conferred upon a fine old room now restored and used as a china-shop, but formerly the refectory of a wealthy citizen and woolstapler of the reign of Edward IV. It is less generally known that North Wilts is also able to boast of another Hall, we believe we may add of a second John Hall. For if houses (amongst other things) were always called by their right names, this in all probability should be the proper title of the beautiful old mansion at Bradford, of which a view is given in the plate annexed: although for reasons which will appear, it is more commonly known as “The Duke's” or “Kingston House.”
Of the time at which it was built, the style of architecture employed scarcely leaves a doubt. It partakes of the character of Longleat; but still more strikingly resembles a portion of Kirby, the seat of Lord Winchilsea, in Northamptonshire. The date of Longleat House is well known. It was built between the years 1567 and 1579, and according to a received tradition, by John of Padua, the “Devizor of public Buildings” patronized by Henry VIII., Edward VI., and the Protector Somerset: an architect, who is supposed by some to have been John Thorpe, an Englishman, under the disguise of an Italian name. Kirby House was built between the years 1572 and 1638. There is therefore little difficulty in assigning Kingston House to the commencement of the 17th century. There was at an earlier period and no doubt upon the same site, a house belonging to the Halls of Bradford, which Leland saw when he travelled that way in 1540. He says? “Halle aliàs De la Sale dwellith in a pretty stone house at the east end of the town on the right bank of Avon: a man of £100 lands by the year: an ancient gentleman since the time of Edward I.” The peculiar notice of a “pretty stone house” exactly in the same situation, would almost for a moment suggest the question, could the present house by any probability be the one that Leland saw ? But this is not at all likely, as 1540 is certainly too early for the style of Kingston House.
1 See above, pages 148 and 192.
If Aubrey is to be trusted (which as he sometimes wrote from memory is not always the case) the house, as it now appears, is only the central portion of the original building. For according to his description of it in 1670 it had, when complete, two wings. In his chapter upon “Echos”l he says: “After the Echos I would have the draught of the house of John Hall of Bradford, Esq., which is the best built house for the quality of a gentleman in Wilts. It was of the best architecture that was commonly used in King James the First's reigne. It is built all of freestone, full of windowes, hath two wings: the top of the house adorned with railes and baristers. There are two if not three elevations or ascents to it: the uppermost is adorned with terrasses, on which are railes and baristers of freestone. It faceth the river Avon, which lies south of it, about two furlongs distant:2 on the north side is a high hill. Now, a priori, I doe conclude, that if one were on the south side of the river opposite to this elegant house, there must of necessity be a good echo returned from the house ; and probably if one stand east or west from the house at a due distance, the wings will afford a double echo."
Whether wings would have been any improvement to the house is a question of taste: but whether there really ever were any is a matter of considerable doubt. Aubrey's description is evidently from recollection; for if it had been made on the spot he could not have expressed himself, as he does, with uncertainty as to the number of terraces. Neither does the echo experiment appear to
1 Natural History of Wilts, p. 19.
have been one that he had actually tried, but merely one that probably would have produced a particular effect, if tried. A recent examination of the masonry and general structure leads us to the conclusion that Aubrey must have been mistaken. There is not the slightest appearance against the sides of the house of its ever having had any appendages of the kind. The façade on the western side (as seen in the print) is perfectly regular, is built of ashlar, and has a large doorway in the centre. On the eastern side indeed the masonry is rough and the elevation irregular; but still there is no trace of any projection. The mistake may perhaps be accounted for in this way. There was formerly a range of offices and stables behind and longer than the house. This seen from a distance may have presented the appearance of wings.
“The principal front to the south was divided into two stories with attics in the gables, and was occupied by large windows with stone mullions. These were formed by three projections, the central one coming forward square, and the two side ones with semicircular bows. In the centre was a large sculptured doorway to a porch, and the summit of the window bays was adorned with open parapets."1
The “Duke's House” is noticed in a work called “Observations on the Architecture of England, during the reigns of Queen Elizabeth and King James I.,” by Mr. C. J. Richardson, who has introduced four illustrations of it. 1. The external view. 2. A fireplace and stone mantelpiece in the entrance hall. 3. A mantelpiece of oak on the upstairs floor; and 4. A ceiling. The same plates, with two others of details, appear also in a volume of “Illustrations of Claverton and the Duke's House,” published by George Vivian, Esq., of the former place.
In these works it is described as being of the transition style between the old Tudor or perpendicular, and the new or Palladian. Many of the enrichments peculiar to it are of German invention; artists of that nation having been then much in vogue. The excess of window light, characteristic of houses of that style, and so remarkable in the instance before us, gave occasion to Lord Bacon's observation, that “such houses are sometimes so full of glass that one cannot tell where to become, to be out of the way of the sun or the cold.”
i Britton's Lecture on Domestic Architecture.
One of the terraces with open balustrades of stone, the orchard and the garden, are all that remain out of doors. The offices, gatehouses and every other appendage that it may have had of suitable character, as fountains and bowling green, &c., have disappeared.
Over the chimney piece of a panelled room upstairs, (being the third of the plates above referred to) are still to be seen two shields carved in oak, each bearing the following quarterings.
Sable. 3 poleaxes argent. (This coat with the crest of Hall, “an arm embowed in armour, proper, garnished or, holding a poleaxe argent,” is upon a shield in stone over Hall's almhouse
in the town of Bradford). 2. ATFORD. Three cylindrical open-barred spindles or reels, apparently for
winding yarn. (Or are they eel-traps, called in heraldry, weels ?) The device is very rare and uncertain: but it is evidently some kind of mill apparatus. At-ford was the name of an heiress who married one of the early Halls of Bradford: and in an old Herald's note book in the Harleian collection of MSS. (4199. p. 91.) the word Atford is, just perceptibly, written against this quartering in a rough sketch of the arms of Gore of Alderton.
Giles Gore, Esq., of that place (the purchaser, from the Crown, of the Glastonbury Abbey estate at Grittleton in 1561) married Edith, daughter and heiress of a Julian Hall of Bradford (a younger branch of this family). Edith was buried in Alderton church, where a gravestone, in the south aisle, still preserves her initials “E. G. 1560" without further inscription. Thomas Gore, the writer on heraldry, used the quarterings 1 and 2 (Hall and Atford) in his book-plates: and the same arms were also to be seen in Aubrey's time on stained glass in the windows of old Alderton house now
A bend between 3 leopards or lions heads erased. [The Wilts Visitation of 1565, gives in the drawing of Hall's coat, 3 etoiles on
the bend]. - ? An eagle sable, preying on a fish azure. [This was also found on
a seal attached to one of the old deeds lately discovered in Kingston
House]. 5. BESILL. Argent, 3 torteauxes, two and one. 6. Hall. As No. 1.
As this shield contains none of the later quarterings of Hall, it is not unlikely that it may have come from the older house formerly upon this site.
Over the mantelpiece of the entrance hall (the second of the plates alluded to above) was a painted coat of arms, of sixteen quarterings, upon a stone shield sunk within a carved oval frame, that again being contained within a carved square frame. Mr.Richardson's