The English Heritage repair programme has offered a rare chance to study Apethorpe Hall: not just the house, but also its gardens, and the surrounding landscape.
To make the most of this opportunity, an Apethorpe Hall Research Project Team was created. The Team brought together archaeologists, architectural historians and other specialists who work for English Heritage, but also drew on the skills and knowledge of independent experts outside the organisation. This has encouraged a multi-disciplinary approach which has cut across the boundaries of our normal fields of study, encouraging a fertile exchange of ideas.
As a result, many new discoveries and insights were made, all of which help to inform the conservation and repair of the site.
Excavation in the main courtyard has uncovered walls suggesting that the site is much older than we previously believed.
Dendrochronology has shown that the roofs of the cross-wing, parlour wing and west range were built by Sir Guy Wolston around 1480. Investigation of the house, however, suggests that parts of the building may be even earlier than this.
Investigation has shown that enclosed garden courts existed behind the hall in the late medieval period. Several windows which looked out into these spaces have been discovered.
Mullion windows belonging to Sir Walter Mildmay’s state apartment of the 1560s have been uncovered, showing that these rooms looked south, over a garden.
Several doorways of the 1620s state apartment have been found, helping us to reconstruct the circulation pattern through these important rooms.
An analysis of the masons’ marks has shown that the master mason who built the 1620s state apartment and long gallery ranges was Thomas Thorpe of King’s Cliffe.
The original plasterwork friezes of two 17th century ceilings have been discovered beneath the attic floors. They had survived behind coving, inserted in the 1740s.
Analysis of the 1740s alterations has allowed us to reconstruct the 7th Earl’s ambitious plans - never fulfilled - to rebuild the house as a domed Palladian palace.
Some of these findings are described in the English Heritage research newsletter 'Research News, No 5, Winter 2006-2007', a copy of which can be downloaded from the bottom of the page. The team has begun work on a book, to be published in 2010, telling the story of how the history of Apethorpe Hall has been unravelled.
The following Apethorpe CD is now available for purchase:
'Apethorpe Hall, Apethorpe, Northamptonshire: Survey, Research and Analysis’ 2 vols, Research Department Report Series no.86/2006, ISSN 1749-8775.
If you wish to order a copy, please send a cheque for £5 made payable to 'English Heritage' to Amanda Atton, Administrative Officer, Research Department, English Heritage, 24 Brooklands Avenue, Cambridge, CB2 8BU.