Architectural Ambition: Sherborne Lodge

Raleigh’s architectural ambitions for the old medieval Sherborne Castle hit their limits, whether financial and/or practical, and he began to think again. He turned his attention to an early 16th-C hunting lodge[1] across from the castle in the deer park. He started the rebuilding of the lodge into a country house in circa 1593. Initially the design was a simple rectangle plan. However, this became an impressive house with three and a half stories over a basement and at least three large rooms on each floor.

In 1600, Simon Basil, who later became Surveyor-General of the King’s Works, prepared a plan that added hexagonal turrets in each of the four corners, large enough for retiring rooms.[2] Basil’s plan still survives and is at Hatfield.[3]Goodall makes the point that the design was inspired by artillery fortifications as the plan is annotated with lines of fire as would have been presented for a fort. A possible source that has been suggested is an engraved plan in a French treatise by Philibert de l’Orme, Premier tome de l’architecture (Paris, 1568).[4]

Sherborne Lodge, as it was called in Raleigh’s time (nowadays Sherborne Castle), is much larger today as the house was further developed by Sir John Digby in 1617, which more than doubled the accommodation by adding four wings and another four turrets.[5] From 1753 Capability Brown embarked on redesigning the gardens.

Figure 2: Sherborne Castle from the North – Raleigh’s lodge sits in the centre. The wings are later additions. Raleigh’s lodge consisted of the arrangement between and including the 4 inner polygonal turrets. The entrance was into the turret in the south-east corner (the turret is not visible in this picture but can be seen in Figure 1 on the left- the main blog photo). The entrance would have been disguised so as not to detract from the symmetry of the building. This turret also contained a winder service staircase that rose from the basement kitchen. The lodge had fairly limited accommodation. There is an oblong, well-plan staircase that rises to the upper floors at the west end of the house – an early surviving example of a form that would become the norm in the 17th C. John Aubrey (1626-1697) wrote of it ‘a delicate Lodge in the Park, of Brick, not big, but very convenient for its bignes, a place to retire from the Court in Summer time, and to contemplate, etc.’ [18]

Figure 3: Sherborne Castle – West Entrance (faces Old Sherborne Castle).

This Lodge had rendered exterior walls with Ham Hill stone dressings. The towers are four-storeyed and on the main block, which rises up with shaped gables, is a balustraded platform, running from the north to the south side. The windows are mainly restored, although Pevsner states this restoration is not faithful to the original mullion design. On the north-east wing there are survivals that show the windows were square-section mullions. On the second-floor level on Raleigh’s east front and at both main levels where Digby’s wings join Raleigh’s towers there were large, oriel windows.[6] The basement provided for a kitchen, bakehouse, beer cellar and fan-vaulted wine cellar. Springs in the nearby hills provided fresh water, which was pumped into the house.[7] In terms of entertainment and sport Raleigh’s lodge provided the height and window space for good views over the deer park and back to Old Sherborne Castle.

Figure 4: Looking across to Old Sherborne Castle from West of Sherborne New Castle (or Lodge as it was in Raleigh’s day).

Raleigh’s lodge certainly had a unique design. Airs points out that lodges developed at this period such as Sherborne and Cranborne in Dorset are characterised by their diversity in terms of unorthodox plan forms and unusual appearance. They demonstrate the builder’s willingness to experiment with new ideas of form and function. Robert Cecil, Earl of Salisbury, gained the manor of Cranborne in the late sixteenth century. Cecil decided to remodel the medieval hunting lodge to provide a residence that could be used during the summer months or to escape plagues in London. The loggias, motifs and the medieval ornamentation suggest an Arcadian fantasy palace. The house, its courts and ornamental gatehouse provided the potential for a masque, created for the arrival of James I in 1607.[8] For further information on Cranborne see my post: Cranborne Manor Arcadia in Dorset Part 1.

The impressive mansions of the west country that were built in the 16th C such as Longleat in Wiltshire, Orchard Portman near Taunton, and the grand architectural ambitions of Edward Seymour at Berry Pomeroy in Devon must have been known to Raleigh. Architectural drawings were beginning to be shared at court and the gentry operated their own social network. Architecture was a statement of education, gentrification and status. His nearby neighbours, Sir Edward Phelips began building a country house circa the late 1590s near his ancestral land at Montacute in Somerset. The building incorporated designs taken from the latest Flemish and Serlio engravings that were coming into the country. Raleigh’s near neighbour at Clifton Maybank, Sir Ralph Horsey, was at around the same time updating his inherited medieval manor and building an impressive gatehouse. The ambitions of courtiers and the aspirational gentry was to demonstrate status and power in architecture.

The Antiquarian The Reverend John Hutchins (1698-1773) wrote in The History And Antiquities of the County of Dorset Volume IV:

‘Mr. Coker says, that “Sir Walter Raleigh began very fairly to repair the castle; but, altering his purpose, he built in the park adjoining to it from the ground a most fine house, which he beautified with orchards, gardens, and groves, of such variety and delight, that whether you consider the goodness of the soil, the pleasantness of the seat, and other delicacies belonging to it, it is unparalleled by any in these parts.”[9]

Adrian Gilbert, Raleigh’s half-brother, was for around 30 years his agent. Raleigh owned a ship called the Adrian. He also employed Gilbert at Sherborne from 1595 to 1603 where he was possibly involved in the design and build of the new lodge and its grounds. Gilbert quarrelled with the bailiff at Old Sherborne Castle, John Meere, who referred to Gilbert as being aged and corpulent and behaved with ‘great fury’ and ‘savage cruelty’. It was said that ‘he should not live with a nose in his face in Sherborne that durst find fault with anything that he [Gilbert] did there’.[10] However Gilbert must have had some ability as in 1602 Robert Cecil employed him to construct a water course at Theobalds.[11]

Gilbert would have been about 54 in 1595, some 13 years older than Raleigh. He had interests in commerce and voyages of exploration. When his elder brother, and another of Raleigh’s half-brothers, Sir Humphrey Gilbert was lost returning from the Americas in a storm off the Azores, Gilbert and John Dee took over the rights of his patent (which had entitled Sir Humphrey to search out and claim ‘remote, heathen and barbarous lands … not actually possessed of any Christian Prince’[12]). They were backed by Raleigh, Walsingham and John Peryam.

Besides having a reputation for being a landscape gardener, Gilbert also had a reputation for being an alchemist. Clearly, Gilbert knew John Dee, who had been a visitor at Raleigh’s Durham House.[13] Gilbert became the laboratory assistant of Mary, Countess of Pembroke (Wilton House) at some point after 1602/3, sharing her great interest in alchemy.[14]

Raleigh obtained the freehold title to the Sherborne estate in 1599 from the Queen. When Queen Elizabeth died in 1603, Raleigh was not going to be part of the new order under James. In the two years before the Queen’s death he and Robert Cecil had disagreements and a rift between the two men occurred, which effectively froze Raleigh out of James’s circle. Then in July 1603 Raleigh found himself placed under house arrest as he was implicated in the Main Plot which sort to replace James with Arabella Stewart. He ended up in the Bloody Tower where he was allowed two rooms, a garden, books, a laboratory (‘stilhows’ – he experimented with chemistry and medicines), and visitors.[15]

His wife moved into a house on Tower Hill. His third son, Carew, was baptised at the church of St Peter ad Vincular in the Tower on 15 February 1605. Raleigh was imprisoned from 1603 to 1616. He also wrote during his time in the Tower, his major work being The History of the World.[16]

Sherborne was lost to Raleigh in 1609. He had set Sherborne in trust for his son in the months before Elizabeth I’s death. However, the clerk who had copied it from the draft left out ten crucial words, rendering the document invalid.This meant that Raleigh owned the freehold of Sherborne still and it was therefore subject to forfeit to James, as Raleigh was a traitor. Sir Robert Carr, a favourite of James I wanted Sherborne and James took it back in 1609 and gave it to him. James then purchased it from Carr for his eldest son Henry, Prince of Wales in February 1610. Later, after the death of Prince Henry in 1612, Carr repurchased the estate.[17]

 

NOTES

[1] Peter White, Sherborne Old Castle (London: English Heritage, 2016), p. 35.

[2] Andor Gomme and Alison Maguire, Design and Plan in the Country House: From Castle Donjon to Palladian Boxes, (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2008), p. 59-60.

[3] ‘Castleton’, in An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Dorset, Volume 1, West (London, 1952), pp. 63-70. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/rchme/dorset/vol1/pp63-70 [accessed 28 April 2019].

[4] John Goodall, The English Castle (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2011), p. 447.

[5] Gomme, p. 59-60.

[6] John Newman and Nikolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Dorset (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2002), pp. 388-389.

[7] Anna Beer, Patriot or Traitor: The Life and Death of Sir Walter Ralegh (London: Oneworld, 2018), p. 33.

[8] Girouard, Elizabethan Architecture: Its Rise and Fall, 1540-1640 (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2009), pp. 395-400.

[9] John Hutchins, The History And Antiquities of the County of Dorset, 3rd edn: Corrected, Augmented, and Improved by William Shipp and James Whitworth Hodson, 4 vols (London: John Bowyer Nichols, 1873), IV, p. 275.

[10] P. W. Hasler, ‘Gilbert, Adrian (c. 1541-1628), of Sandridge, Dartmouth, Devon.’, The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, 1981, < https://www.historyofparliamentonline.org/volume/1558-1603/member/gilbert-adrian-1541-1628> [accessed 26 April 2019]

[11] P. W. Hasler, ‘Gilbert, Adrian (c. 1541-1628), of Sandridge, Dartmouth, Devon.’.

[12] Mark Nicholls and Penry Williams, ‘Ralegh, Sir Walter (1554-1618)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn. Sept 2015, <https://doi.org/10.1093/ref:odnb/23039> [accessed: 5 May 2019].

[13] Beer, 117.

[14] P. W. Hasler, ‘Gilbert, Adrian (c. 1541-1628), of Sandridge, Dartmouth, Devon.’.

[15] Mark Nicholls and Penry Williams, ‘Ralegh, Sir Walter (1554-1618)’

[16] Mark Nicholls and Penry Williams, ‘Ralegh, Sir Walter (1554-1618)’.

[17] Mark Nicholls and Penry Williams, ‘Ralegh, Sir Walter (1554-1618)’.

[18] Nicholas Cooper, Houses of the Gentry 1480-1680 (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1999), p. 121.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Beer, Anna, Patriot or Traitor: The Life and Death of Sir Walter Ralegh (London: One world, 2018)

‘Castleton’, in An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Dorset, Volume 1, West (London, 1952), pp. 63-70. British History Online <http://www.british-history.ac.uk/rchme/dorset/vol1/pp63-70> [accessed 28 April 2019]

Cooper, Nicholas, Houses of the Gentry 1480-1680 (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1999)

Girouard, Mark, Elizabethan Architecture: Its Rise and Fall, 1540-1640 (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2009)

Gomme, Andor and Alison Maguire, Design and Plan in the Country House: From Castle Donjon to Palladian Boxes, (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2008)

Hasler, P. W., ‘Gilbert, Adrian (c. 1541-1628), of Sandridge, Dartmouth, Devon.’, The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, 1981, < https://www.historyofparliamentonline.org/volume/1558-1603/member/gilbert-adrian-1541-1628> [accessed 26 April 2019]

Hutchins, John, The History And Antiquities of the County of Dorset, 3rd edn: Corrected, Augmented, and Improved by William Shipp and James Whitworth Hodson, 4 vols (London: John Bowyer Nichols, 1870), IV

Newman, John and Nikolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Dorset (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2002)

Nicholls, Mark and Penry Williams, ‘Ralegh, Sir Walter (1554-1618)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn. Sept 2015, <https://doi.org/10.1093/ref:odnb/23039> [accessed: 5 May 2019]

White, Peter, Sherborne Old Castle (London: English Heritage, 2016)