Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Winslow Hall:- The very name Winslow Hall is also the subject of an architectural debate: Who designed it? "Winslow Hall was built in 1700 by Secretary Lowndes". So claims the Magnus Brittannia , with no mention of an architect. The architectural commentator Lipscombe writing in 1740 is less cautious he notes the "commodious plain brick edifice with a flight of several steps to the door over which is the date of its erection 1700 and the name of William Lowndes" Lipscombe then writes "for whom it was designed by Inigo Jones". This is one of the myths about the hall that have abounded ever since. Inigo Jones died in 1652 so without the assistance of a clairvoyant is unlikely to have designed it. Jones is also supposed to have designed another local mansion (now destroyed) at Ascott, Buckinghamshire
The second suggested architect is more plausible: A ledger book discovered in the early 20th century detailing work on the house has caused new debate on the matter, scattered among the payments made to stonemasons carpenters and bricklayers are alterations in payments to craftsmen authorised by 'St. Critophr Wren Surveior Gen' (sic.) The account book is complete and detailed and yet records no payment to Sir Christopher Wren himself. William Lowndes (the owner) and Wren knew each other, they served on a committee together in 1704. Was Wren the architect, or was he merely looking through a friend's building accounts as a favour? All Souls College, Oxford own a comprehensive collection or Wren's drawings, plans and letters. There is nothing in this collection which connects Wren with Winslow Hall.
There is but one clue in the design of the house, The fireplaces on the ground floor are no longer original, but one room on the first floor retains an original corner fireplace. Corner fireplaces are said to have been a feature of Wren's domestic work. However, they consequently became a fashion at the time. The four massive chimney stacks , dominating the mansion, are not repeated on any house designed by Wren. While in the ledger book is recorded the most menial labourer's name to the highest surveyor's, never once is the architect mentioned. A 1695 engraving shows a very similar house to Winslow existed at Sarsden in Oxfordshire. It is possible similar plans were copied by a local draughtsman, and Wren kept an eye on the work and the books. It is doubtful three hundred years later that proof will be found either way. Without stronger evidence, while it is probable Wren was involved, Winslow Hall can only be attributed to Sir Christopher Wren. It is fascinating to note, though, the same book records the builders used in all 111 oak trees which cost a total of £221:19s:2d. The bill for cutting "Mr Lowndes name and the date of the year over the door" ('1700', and visible from the road today) was £5. The total cost of building the house was £6,585:10shillings and 2.25pence.
The design concept is extreme symmetry, pushed to the utmost extent. The original plan of the house was very simple, a main rectangular block, three floors high, 7 bays long, 5 bays wide. The fenestration is of symmetrically placed sash windows. The three bayed central section is crowned on both principal facades by a pediment containing a round window. The central front door led to a narrow passage the width of the house ending with a door onto the garden at the rear. To the right at the front was the dining room, to the left the hall. Passing along the passage, towards the gardens, were on the right the library and on the left the withdrawing room. Symmetrically placed in the centre of each end wall of the house were staircases. Flanking the house were two wings, on the west a large kitchen and service range and on the east connected by a covered way a brew-house and laundry. These two wings have now been altered and in one case removed. The interiors of the house have too been altered over the centuries, however much original panelling remains.
The gardens to the rear (south) have been improved by the present owner, who has a passion for specimen trees and shrubs. The North (entrance front) faces the main road from Whitchurch to Buckingham and is clearly visible and close to the road, something very rare in an English country house, one other instance where this happens is Aynhoe Park in Oxfordshire. Hence Winslow Hall is almost unique as both a town and a country house. Thus it is even more remarkable that it has survived largely unaltered, escaped conversion to institutional or office use, and remains today in 2004 a much loved private house.
Further reading on architect of Winslow Hall: Records of Buckinghamshire, Vol. XI - No 7; published G T de Fraine, Aylesbury 1926.
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