Friday 5 June 2015

Sledmere House - Rising from the Ashes

Sledmere House today (picture courtesy of Sledmere House) 
One of the largest and most interesting sets of plans in the Atkinson-Brierley collection is that relating to the rebuilding of Sledmere, a country house in East Yorkshire. The house was built in the 1751, and in the 1780s and 1790s underwent significant renovations. Like many grand Yorkshire houses in the period, it was updated with fashionable Adam-style interiors by Joseph Rose, a specialist in fine plasterwork, and the gardens were landscaped by the famous Capability Brown.

The Library at Sledmere House today (picture courtesy of Sledmere House)
However, disaster struck in 1911, when fire gutted the building. Though estate workers and local people did their best to rescue Sledmere’s treasures, the building required extensive repair. This is where Walter Brierley came in. Using Rose’s original plans and surviving photographs and drawings, Brierley and his team worked to restore the house to its previous glory, as required by the then owner Sir Tatton Sykes. The plans reveal the intricate detail of this work, including beautiful coloured  ketches of the parquet flooring and plasterwork which decorated the celebrated long library.

AB 7/1a Detail of  proposed design for parquet floor in
library, Borthwick Institute for Archives 
AB 7/1a Details of proposed design for parquet floor in library,
Borthwick Institute for Archives 

Meanwhile, the plans of the house exterior show how it was rebuilt and extended in sympathy with Georgian architectural fashions. Rebuilding continued through World War One, and by the late 1920s, Sledmere was once again a vibrant country estate. Thanks to the careful restoration of Brierley and his team, Sledmere survives today for visitors to discover elements of both Georgian and Edwardian aristocratic life. Here at the Borthwick Institute for Archives, the 181 Sledmere plans and archived correspondence tell the story behind his massive and marvellous restoration, newly cleaned and available for all to enjoy!

AB 7/1a: South West Elevation of Sledmere House, Borthwick Institute for Archives
Further reading:
Ruth Mather, Volunteer, Atkinson Brierley Conservation Project

You can read more about the Atkinson Brierley Project on the blog and on our website.

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