Elton Hall, Huntingdonshire

Historical notes about Elton Hall in Elton in Huntingdonshire, UK


The First Elton Hall

It seems probable that Sir Richard Sapcote (d. 1477) was the first builder of Elton Hall. Presumably he built the house as three sides of a quadrangle with the hall on the north-west, the private apartments south-west and the kitchens north-east. On the south-east side of the courtyard stood the gateway tower, but the rest of this side was apparently inclosed only with fence walls. To this house, at a slightly later date, a large chapel was added at the south corner by Sir John Sapcote (d. 1501) and his wife Lady Elizabeth. It is described as being adorned with beautiful painted glass windows, (fn. 20) the arms in which were recorded by the herald in 1613. (fn. 21)

This house was surrounded by a moat, now long since filled up, indications of which, 13 feet deep, were found in 1894. (fn. 22)

Robert Sapcote, who died 4 January 1600/1, was probably the last of his family to live here, and in 1617 the property was sold, finally coming into the possession of Sir Thomas Proby.

Elton Hall

Elton Hall (circa 1911).

Elton Hall (circa 1911)


The Second Elton Hall

Sir Thomas seems to have found the house in a ruinous condition and pulled most of it down in 1665, (fn. 23) retaining only the chapel and the gateway tower. He built his new house in the form of a letter T, altering the chapel, adding an extension towards the south-west (perhaps in 1664–1666, when he and his family were residing at Conington, Cambs), and another long wing projecting at right angles from the centre towards the north-west and having the entrance door in the centre of its north-east side (perhaps in 1666–1667, when the family was residing at Elton). (fn. 24) He built a large semi-octagonal bay window on the south-east side of the chapel.

John Proby (d. 1710), brother and heir of Sir Thomas, seems to have built a block of rooms on the south-west side of the projecting wing.

Early in the 19th century, John Joshua, first Earl of Carysfort (1772–1828), made considerable alterations. He started by adding four buttresses with a gable between them on the side of Sir Thomas Proby's south-western extension. Then, between 1812 and 1814, he rebuilt the north-west wall of this extension, and in 1814 he lowered the floor and ceiling of the two western rooms on the principal floor and formed a story in the roof above, and raised the gable and formed a window in it. At the same time he built two circular towers at the end.

Probably about the same time, he built two rooms, one above the other, between the chapel and the gateway tower, incorporating in the upper room a bay window from the Drydens' house at Chesterton.

He removed the entrance from the north-east side of Sir Thomas Proby's projecting wing to the southwest side of John Proby's block, and refaced the whole of the south-west front with stucco, with wooden parapets and turrets, and built a porch there of similar construction. He also added a tower over the western extension just behind the gable and four buttresses; and built an additional block at the north-west end of the projecting wing.

Granville Leveson, third Earl of Carysfort (1855– 1868), stripped off the stucco and wooden parapets and turrets from the south-west front of the projecting wing, and refaced it with stone; pulled down the additional block at the north-west end and built a larger and better block, and remodelled the northeast front of Sir Thomas Proby's projecting wing, re-forming the entrance door on this side and erecting a new porch. He also built a new dining-room with a room on each side of it, and a new main staircase, all on the north-west side of the chapel and library.

Granville Leveson, fourth Earl of Carysfort (1868– 1872), built an embattled tower over one of the last mentioned rooms, and also a billiard-room and new kitchens on the north-east side of the ancient gateway tower.

William, fifth Earl (1872–1909), pulled down the tower built by the first Earl and formed a gable with two turrets in its place to screen the exposed end of John Proby's block.

The south-east, or principal garden front, consists of four sections: At the north-east end stands the 15th-century gateway tower, a rectangular building of stone with a bold projection in front. It consists of three stories divided by string-courses. In the lowest story is the main archway with a depressed four-centred arch and continuous moulded jambs grooved for the portcullis. In the side walls of the projection are small arches of 17th-century date. In the next stage is a two-light window under a square head, above which is a panel carved with the Sapcote arms, three dovecotes 2 and 1, and crest, a goat's head, together with a motto. (fn. 25) In the third stage is a twolight window similar to that below. The tower has clasping buttresses to the projecting part, and is heavily machicolated and finished with an embattled parapet.

The next section, faced with ashlar, was built in 1814 or soon afterwards. The lower story has a simple doorway, a two-light window, and a two-light window in the projecting bay. The upper story has a transomed bay window with a four-light in front and single-lights on the sides, which came from the Drydens' house at Chesterton, (fn. 26) pulled down in 1807.

The third section, also of ashlar, but partly plastered, is the 15th-century chapel, now the drawing-room, with its undercroft, and having a large projecting bay in the centre. The undercroft has a three-light window on one side of the bay, and two single-lights on the other side; the bay itself is obscured by a large flight of steps, but the south-western part is of 15th-century date and the north-eastern part is of the 17th century. On the first floor, the drawing room has five large single-light windows with two-centred heads and moulded jambs, apparently of the 17th century, but the two in the main wall probably occupy the positions of the original windows. The bay is wholly of the 17th-century date and its windows are similar to the other two except that the central one is a French casement. This building has diagonal buttresses at the angles, carried up as crocketed pinnacles, and is surmounted by an embattled parapet. The battlements are continued over the canted gables at each end; and in the north-eastern gable may still be seen the label moulding of the large east window of the chapel. A smaller window, now hidden by the adjoining roof, is in the south-western gable.

The fourth section, all faced with plaster, consists of two stories built by Sir Thomas Proby, about 1664–1666, but the upper story altered by the first Earl of Carysfort early in the 19th century and again in 1814, and with a story in the roof added in the latter year. The lower story has a modern French casement window, a 17th-century window with a two-centred head, and a square-headed two-light window. The upper story has a three-light window under a four-centred head, a wooden oriel window (lowered in 1814), and a two-light window under a four-centred head, all of c. 1814. This section is divided into three by four buttresses, grouped two and two, carried up as pinnacles, and having a gable between them in which is a large modern window under a four-centred head. The whole is surmounted by an embattled parapet.

The south-west end of this extension has two round towers built of rubble, at the angles, that at the western corner inclosing a circular newel staircase of oak. The wall between them has three tiers of square-headed three-light windows and is finished with an embattled parapet. The whole of this front dates from 1814.

The north-west side of the extension, faced with stone, has three loops in the lower story, and a square-headed two-light window between two pointed two-lights above. It was built chiefly between 1812 and 1814, and has an embattled parapet raised in the latter year.

Victorian Additions and Alterations to Elton Hall

The south-west front of the projecting wing has been refaced with ashlar, in 1855–60, and has two stories and an attic. In each story are nine sash windows with simple classic architraves. Above is a dentilled cornice, above which are seven large dormer windows. The cornice does not extend to the extreme south end, which is carried up as an extra story instead of having dormers. The return end of this upper part has a stepped gable between two octagonal turrets, erected when the first Earl's tower was pulled down in 1882.

The modern addition (1855–60) at the north-west end of the projecting wing is faced with ashlar, and has, in all three walls, windows similar to those just described, but, instead of the dormer windows, the cornice is surmounted by a stone balustraded parapet.

The north-east front of the projecting wing is a 17th-century ashlar-faced wall built by Sir Thomas Proby, but its features all date from 1855–60, and consist of sash-windows, cornice and dormers as on the other side. The modern porch, 1855–60, has stone columns, entablature and balustraded parapet of classic design. The original doorway was farther south than at present, and the walling round the window next to the porch shows signs of the alteration.

The north-west front of the main part of the house is wholly of 1855–60, and faced with stone. It consists of three sections. The first section is a tower having two square-headed three-light windows on the ground floor, two square-headed two-light windows with tracery on the principal floor, and one three-light and one single-light on the next floor. Above this is a string-course, and the next stage has a two-light window and a single-light, and above this is a two-light window. The whole is surmounted by an embattled parapet.

The next section of this front consists of the dining room, with three large gothic three-light windows with tracery in two-centred heads. The whole stands over an open passage with three segmental-headed openings. Beyond this is the third section, having a square-headed two-light window on the principal floor.

The north side, or back, of the ancient tower has a large archway with a segmental-pointed head on the ground floor, now filled in and having a three-light window under it. In the next stage are two square-headed two-light windows; and there is another similar window in the stage above. The whole is finished with machicolations and parapet carried round from the front. At the west corner an octagonal embattled stair-turret rises up behind the parapet; it is lit, at the various stages, by small square-headed lights.

To the north-east of the gateway tower is a block of low buildings containing a billiard-room and kitchens, faced with hammer-dressed stone, built by the fourth Earl c. 1870.

Inside, the house has been so much modernised that little of archaeological interest remains. The gateway tower is vaulted on the ground floor with simple quadripartite vaulting; and the room to the northeast of it has a four-centred barrel-vault with three hollow-chamfered ribs and wall-ribs. The doorway to the turret-staircase on the second floor has a two-centred head and continuous moulded jambs.

Bridges (1791) speaks of the chapel as still remaining, and says that there was 'on each side of the altar a niche for a statue of large size,' and 'the ceiling and gallery are of old oak wainscot.' Old pictures of the house up to 1850 show the north-western side of the chapel with three three-light windows with tracery under two-centred heads; these are now hidden by the dining-room built in 1855–60, but it is possible that parts of them remain bedded in the wall.

The undercroft of the chapel is divided into two by a thick cross-wall, and each half is vaulted in two bays having chamfered ribs carried down to the floor as responds. The 15th-century projectimg bay has a four-centred barrel-vault with four hollow-chamfered ribs and wall-ribs.

The undercroft of Sir Thomas Proby's projecting wing is divided into three parts by original walls. The two end parts are each of two bays, and the central part is of three bays. Each bay is divided into two and is vaulted with plain brick vaulting carried on the walls and on plain square brick piers having hollow-chamfered imposts and chamfered plinths.
The present entrance hall, which has been much modernised, is lined with Dutch panelling of c. 1600, brought here from Glenart Castle a few years ago.

The stable buildings, which stand some distance to the east from the gateway tower, consist of two quadrangles. That to the south-west is of c. 1700; and that to the north-east c. 1870, and bears the arms of the fourth Earl of Carysfort and his Countess over the entrance archway.

Victoria County History - Published 1932