Norman Court (Norman Court Preparatory School)

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HCC Site ID: 1493 Parish: West Tytherley
Designations: House LB II*, garden house, walls, &
walls around vineyard all LBII; SSSI
Area: 212 acres reduced to 28
Access: Access to School Ownership:

Location and Site

Lies to the NW of West Tytherley village and to the east of densely wooded copses. The Wayfarers Way lies to the north. The land is gently hilly and provides good views.

Historic Development 

The manor consisting only of about 120 acres in the 13th century was gradually enlarged over time. By the 14th century it was owned by Roger Norman, hence the name Norman Court. The Whitehead family were the owners in the 15th century and later Celia Fiennes’ grandfather, a Roundhead officer, lived there. The ancient manor house was pulled down about 1752 (Notes to the Prosser Engraving) and a new one consisting of a modest centre block with courtyards on NE and NW corners, with stables and a coachhouse, was built on a more elevated site. Taylor’s map of 1759 shows an avenue of trees due north of the house and Milne’s map, 1791, shows the park enclosed by a fence of vertical pales.

Sales particulars of 1806 describe 212 acres of ‘Gardens, pleasure grounds, Park and Lands, of which house, offices, gardens, paddocks and park pasture comprises 142 acres.’ There was also a walled kitchen garden on the S edge of the park. Charles Wall bought the estate and had a survey drawn showing extensive parkland. There is no sign of the northern avenue but there is possibly a vista cut through trees. The house was flanked by two large courtyards with simple formal gardens symmetrically east and west, south of the two courtyards. Each garden had a central path with linear beds on either side. Plans prepared by Charles Dance and Humphrey and John Repton for Charles Wall were probably not implemented and Wall died in 1815. His son, Charles Baring Wall carried out improvements between 1818 and 1820 using Henry Harrison as architect. The central block was extended east and west and the main entrance moved to the eastern side of the house. A conservatory was built west of the house connected to it by a glazed passage all shown on the Prosser engraving also showing lawns interrupted by informal beds but with a still natural landform. The parkland would have been grazed and the animals kept out of the gardens probably by a sunken fence to maintain the views. An account by William Sanders, in ‘Gardens in England 1832’, describes ‘some very romantic walks leading through the woods’. The woodland was probably planted at the time of the remodelling by Charles Baring Wall to provide shelter for the ornamental gardens and the conservatory.

Estate accounts of the 1840s give glimpses of the development of the gardens – chain fence, gates, building walls, Portland stone; an icehouse, a boiler to heat the conservatory passage, supplies of fruit trees etc. The principal entrance was probably returned to the north around this time. Charles Baring Wall died in 1853 and the estate passed to a relative, Thomas Baring, and thence in 1873 to his cousin William Henry Baring. The 1870 1st ed OS map shows a belt of trees and shrubs to the north blocking views, woodland to the west, open parkland with substantial tree clumps to the south. Gardening World, 1884, describes the east garden as principal flower garden and an extensive kitchen garden. In 1906 Francis Baring sold the estate to Washington Singer, the sewing machine magnate. A lawn tennis ground is named in the Sales Particulars and the 3rd ed OS map, 1909, suggests that the east flower garden might have been sacrificed for it. From 1925 Singer made significant changes replacing the conservatory with an enlarged Winter Garden, possibly built 1908. He added wide terraces with balustrades. Grant Singer, the next owner, died in 1942 and in 1946 the estate was put up for sale in 55 lots. The house was sold with 260 acres and sold again in 1949 with only 48 acres. The Sales details of 1946 refer to a sunken garden, which would have been the chalk pit of earlier maps to the SW.

Current Description

Northaw School moved to Norman Court in 1952, the 48 acres reduced to 28 acres now occupied by Norman Court Preparatory School. The historical line of the main approach and drive remains with the view to the east façade recently opened up again. The north forecourt is the main entrance with some not very elegant buildings including a 20th century squash court, Blake Hall and some recent temporary cabins sited nearby. Playing fields, tennis courts, parking and a modern Pre-Preparatory building have been built in the north parkland area, screened by a few trees and hedges. A small, new commemorative bed has been created the school side of the hedges. A listed Game Larder about 1800, overshadowed by a yew tree, sits uncomfortably between the temporary cabins and Blake Hall. Mentioned for the first time in the Sales Particulars of 1906 it was possibly imported from another property. The overall shape of much of the north parkland appears unchanged but its southern quarter has been lost due to expansion of the school.

Much of the west woodland, planted around 180 years ago, remains though badly overgrown with laurel and the ‘romantic’ walks no longer defined. To the south, some old features remain, including a terrace, walls though only a small part of the south parkland is in the school hands. The eastern terrace is balustraded (reasonable condition) and has two gravel beds. Steps lead down to what in the early 19th century was the main entrance court and later became the main flower garden surrounded by a brick wall probably also dating back to the same period. Later it contained a tennis court as well as the first swimming pool. It now has a football pitch and is well used as a play area.

There are various specimen trees, including an Araucaria (in not very good shape) between the east garden and the approach drive. The estate had a reputation for horticultural excellence in the 19th century rather than for historical design but there are surviving historic features of significance and value. In a Landscape Appraisal, 1998, Sybil Wade suggested that there was scope for creative new design. By 2006 some areas had been tidied but such new design is still to be implemented.
Norman Court Preparatory School went into voluntary liquidation July 2012. A Montessori school open (2013).

Summary

An ancient manor house, replaced in 1752; enlarged in early 19th century for Charles Baring Wall. Plans by Charles Dance and Humphrey and John Repton probably not implemented. Parkland and gardens of 212 acres reduced to 28 acres with a few significant surviving historic features; a school since 1952 until 2012 when the site was sold.

Information and visit: November 2006 updated on status 2013.


Our address

Address:
West Tytherley Access to school Click for Disclaimer & copyright
GPS:
51.0772497207119, -1.6231294866884127

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