Saturday, 24 June 2017

Spalding III: Ayscoughfee Hall and gardens

Adjacent to the parish church is Ayscoughee Hall, a late medieval house started in 1429 and added to and altered over the years.  It now belongs to South Holland District Council who run it as a museum, and is open to the public everyday except Tuesdays - Market Day in Spalding, along with Saturday.
Built of dark red brick with stone dressings, and although a little municipal in feel, the Hall is a discreetly attractive, picturesque building - a mixture of 'genuine' Medieval Gothic, Georgian and Early Victorian Gothic and the classical; at times formal at others domestic. Sprawling.  The interior is fun but a little chill.  A sense that it was a bit of a challenge to fill the spaces.  As I have mentioned before one of the upstairs rooms was floor to ceiling with glass cases of stuffed birds.  All flown, alas. Period furniture and decor would certainly help warm the place u a bit.  The best spaces are the entrance hall, - a neo-classical refit of the original great hall - and the the warmly, Victorian, panelled library.  I could spend many happy hours there.  The great hall retains its original medieval roof, and and bay window.  In the early eighteenth century Ayscoughfee was the home to Maurice Johnson the founder of the Spalding Gentleman's Society, an example of thriving provincial cultural life.  Its members included Pope, Addison, Sir Hans Sloane and the Lincolnshire antiquary William Stukeley.
The hall stands in the remains of a formal, walled garden of c1730, which contains the the only building in Lincolnshire to be designed by the great Sir Edwin Lutyens - the town War Memorial of 1925.  In addition there are a number of sixties additions: a cafe and an aviary.  The 'Buildings of England' suggests that the designer of the gardens was the local architect William Sands.  The yew hedges have long since escaped their original bounds and now form huge billowing cloud-shapes.  It would be a shame to loose them in a full restoration of the garden, but certain features, like the enormous, and missing, gate pier at the back of the house could be put back to match the surviving pier and that would add hugely to the romance of the place.

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