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Northwold Manor Reborn (Hardback)

Architecture, archaeology and restoration of a derelict Norfolk house

P&S History > Archaeology > British Archaeology

Imprint: Oxbow Books
Pages: 400
Illustrations: 400 color and B/W illustrations
ISBN: 9798888571347
Published: 15th June 2024
Casemate UK Academic

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Northwold Manor is a multi-period listed building (grade II*), about which almost nothing was known. Uninhabited since 1955, it had fallen into a state of extreme dereliction, and was beyond economic repair when the author purchased the property in 2014. He and his wife, Diane Gibbs, embarked on a major restoration that ran for nine years.

The restoration was carried out as a quasi-archaeological operation, revealing that the building complex had Tudor origins, followed by the construction of a Stuart house, with Georgian improvements, and a new entertaining suite added in 1814. The Manor, with its fine drawing room, ballroom and orangery, was the grandest house in Northwold, and research into the families that occupied it revealed unexpected connections to the French Bourbon Court. From the 17th to the 20th century, the Carters were the principal owners, and a local branch of the family included Howard Carter, discoverer of Tutankhamen’s tomb.

This account begins with a topographical study of Northwold and its three medieval manors, followed by an exploration of the decline of the Carter family in the late 19th century. That triggered the break-up of the Northwold Estate in 1919. Passing through several ownerships, the Manor was earmarked for demolition in 1961; reprieved, it became a furniture store in the 1970s, and every room was solidly packed. As the roofs failed and water poured in, ceilings and floors collapsed, carrying with them the stacks of rotting furniture. By the late 1990s, walls and gables were collapsing too, and the local authority attempted to intervene. A long struggle to save the Manor ensued, finally ending with compulsory purchase in 2013.

Although manor houses occur in most English parishes, they have received surprisingly little archaeological study. Every year, hundreds are restored or altered, but rarely accompanied by detailed recording or scholarly research; and popular television programs reveal the shameful level of destruction that takes place in the name of ‘restoration’. This is a book like no other: the holistic approach to the rehabilitation of Northwold’s derelict manor house – involving history, archaeology, architecture and genealogy – demonstrates how much can be learned about a building that had never before been studied. The project has received several awards.

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