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Practical Information:

We will be resident on-site in Peacock Cottage (no prizes for guessing how it got its name), Kirby Hall, NN17 3EN from Friday 29th June until Friday 6th July, including the weekend. Transport will be organised for both dates. The cottage sleeps 4 and has all the usual facilities, although not internet access. We will be cooking for ourselves, so a rota will be set up for shopping and cooking. The plan is to work on-site both during the day and in the evenings, perhaps working late on one or two occasions. We will also visit other buildings of the Jacobethan period in the locallity and may do some recording there as well.

You will need to equip yourselves with a hard-hat, hi-vis vest and safety boots to British Standard. Other things to bring are clothes suitable for working on site, so warm things might be advisable, alternative footwear for the cottage (no boots inside), any medications including contact lens solution, and if you have a camera and binoculars these would be useful.



The west range of Kirby Hall was built in the first phase of construction for Humphrey Stafford after 1570 as one of two lodgings’ ranges in the courtyard. The east face of the range was intended to be the principal facade, it is ashlar-faced and consists of a row of eight-light windows on each of two floors separated by giant fluted pilasters supporting a narrow frieze and a plain parapet. The design continues onto the south range of the courtyard where considerably larger windows were used to light the hall, and the south-west window is in the form of a massive bay, glazed on two sides. The junction between the ranges is effected within the last bay of the west range and the western roof will have fitted awkwardly against the highly decorated gable of the hall range, as it does on the east range where there is also a more obvious disjunction in the stone coursing on the wall beneath.

The Stafford device of a knot is depicted on the lintels of the four door frames of the west range, between the initials HS and the family crests of a boar’s head rising from a ducal coronet, and a swan rising from a torse, with a crescent for difference. Similar devices are used on the sculptured frieze between the two floor levels. The sculpture closely resembles that of the south range which is dated 1572 and 1575 and is most probably of the same date. The upper level was a single-space and was used as the Long Gallery.

The interior walling is of coursed rubble with stone-dressings to doorways and window reveals. Fragments of two fireplaces survive in a modified state on the west wall. There is evidence of disturbance at the south end of the range and of modification to the last two west-facing windows. The exterior of the west wall is also of coursed rubble with stone dressings and has an ornamental frieze above each level of windows. The windows resemble those of the courtyard side although they are not aligned with them, and the wall surface is articulated by broad chimney stacks rather than by pilasters. The windows of the north bay have been modified, presumably in the 17th century, and some lights of the other bays have been filled in with stone. Ornamented gables with heavy strapwork, regarded as an addition, are sited above the ashlar parapet between the upper parts of the chimney stacks.

The south end of the range is a complex series of rooms and staircases that provided the withdrawing rooms of the house and later modifications have affected the layout of some parts. The windows of the south end lack the super-mullions of the rest of the range, but the same design of frieze is continued across onto the building above the lower windows, probably inserted as part of a remodelling. Regular, shaped, quoins appear on the exterior corners of the south end instead of the more loosely-shaped blocks used for the rest of the range. The south-facing facade and its return to the east are both faced in ashlar. Architectural analysis of the suite of rooms at the south end suggests that parts of the first, 1570-5, range remain embedded in the later work, but that it mostly represents a new phase from later in the century. This in turn has had further changes made to the position of its windows and to some of its walls. The passage accessed from the Great Hall and from the Pallet Chamber has a complex history with evidence of more than one period of construction and blocked windows from two phases. Its exterior walls are of ashlar above coursed rubble on the east side. The interior walls are a mixture of ashlar and rubble, and there is a stone floor.

Masons’ Marks Recording

Preliminary investigation has shown that masons’ marks can be found on the dressed stone and windows of the west range, as well as on the stonework of the south end of the range. It is proposed that a complete survey be undertaken of all the dressed and carved stone of the west range at all levels to record the marks. Recording will consist of photographs, and where appropriate, rubbings of marks. Every occurrence of each mark will be recorded in a standard format on to recording sheets and given a unique site code. This will form the basic data set and will allow computer analysis of the range’s stonework to be undertaken. Using standard data-base software, the data will be analysed to reveal the distribution pattern of individual and groups of marks, enabling comparisons to be made between sections. Evidence of specialisation within the masons’ teams can also be sought. The extent of the remodelling of the west facade can also be determined more precisely, and comments made about the relative dates of the parts of the southern end of the range. The results will be presented both in tabular form within the final site report and also as raw data to form part of the site archive. It will be possible to add the masons’ marks to the photogrametric drawings when these become available, although that is not anticipated to form part of this project.

Interpretation and Presentation of Results

The master mason and quarry-owner Thomas Thorpe has been associated with Kirby Hall on the basis of a note appended to a plan in John Thorpe’s Book of Drawings in the Sir John Soane Museum. Work undertaken on the masons’ marks at a number of sites associated with Thomas Thorpe, such as Apethorpe Hall, has provided both a context for the marks at Kirby Hall, and has identified the families of masons working with him. It is now possible to identify, and in some cases, attach names to the masons who worked with Thomas Thorpe, and it will be possible to determine whether the same masons also worked at Kirby Hall. These issues will be addressed in the report, and will form the basis of subsequent publication. Three hard copies of the report will be submitted, plus a copy of the data on disc. The report will also be available in a digital, web-based version.